What is a Godparent?

Jonathan and Marianne
Jonathan and Marianne

I joke with my friends Jonathan and Marianne who are expecting their second child often about the fact that they “owe” me because they met on one of my BustedHalo Retreats many years ago. In fact, the first time I met their son, Aiden, he looked deeply at me and this little wry smile came across his face.

I looked to his parents and said, “He knows!  And you’re welcome. I’m glad I could be a small part of you being here, Aiden!”

So, Marion and I were recently asked to be the Godparents of their soon-to-be-born child (any day now).  And we’re over-the-moon excited. Neither of us have ever been asked to be Godparents in a situation where it would be appropriate for us to do so.  We’re a bit on the young side for our cousins to have asked and our nieces and nephew are not Catholic, so we wouldn’t have had the opportunity there.  But Jonathan and Marianne are good friends and we’ve really enjoyed their company.

But it occurred to me, that none of this would be happening if it were not for Christ.

A retreat brought Jonathan and Mare together.  A retreat that Christ inspired us to start so many years ago.  A retreat where God’s love and grace allowed others to share openly, at deeper levels and brought them into a greater awareness of that love through each other.

And that love now gives new life, literally, to all of us and in many other ways as well.  It gives a new child to a loving couple, it gives a new experience to my wife and me and it gives new life to a community who witnesses it all.

Sometimes I am sad over the prospect of not having children of our own.  But I also know that God had and has other plans for me to be life giving.  He gives that opportunity to so many of us, including our priests and women religious.  Spiritual directees, students, retreatents, caring for parents and siblings, loving my nieces and nephew…all different experiences of giving life to another.

And it is more than enough.

It seems to me, that this is what a Godparent does best.  A Godparent points to the presence of God and takes responsibility for making sure that this actually happens in partnership with their parents who always have a lead role. The parents, you see, need to also have the maturity, do be the primary givers of faith.  It is the parents who choose to Baptize their child.  The Godparents, merely say “Amen” to what the parents wish FOR the child and promise to keep that kid true to try to honor the promises made on their behalf.  These parents are already good at this and treasure their faith.  Grandpa is also a Deacon, so this is an easy job for all of us.

As I pray today for the coming of Jonathan and Marianne’s new baby, may that child be filled with the love of Christ and may God continue to show me that indeed I am a giver of life in so many ways.

And a huge amount of gratitude to Jonathan and Marianne for honoring us so.

Desolation, Robin Williams and St. Ignatius

Desolation is the feeling that nothing matters, nothing can ever be set right again. God has no redemptive power and the world is meaningless. Desolation is the great abyss and Ignatius knew that we will all face it.

Sometimes desolation is so severe that it takes over our minds to the point that we cannot push it away. We need others during these times to remind us of the light, to remind us of our consolations. Ignatius reminds us that during our consoling moments we should really relish them, to prepare ourselves for desolation.

As one Jesuit, quipped, “He must have been a joy to live in community with!”

But Ignatius wasn’t being a killjoy. He’s on the mark when he claims that consolation is the only thing that helps us avoid desolation. God points and pushes us towards our consolations, those times we were really feeling alive and charged with the power of God’s creative energy in our lives.

Robin Williams somehow lost sight of that consolation–be it because of biological chemical imbalances, addictions or simply hopelessness that springs from any variety of factors, consolation eluded him and led him into the darkness of despair.

We know that when it comes to suicide, that people aren’t in control of their actions. The finality of suicide is not realized by the one in too much pain to see clearly. God now redeems the suffering that they could not face, could not get past. Cradling the hurt one in His arms God entrusts mercy and redemption to those most in need.

I think it’s a bit like this:

I wish that Robin Williams, who often made me laugh, cry and resonate with his characters deeply could have been embraced by another in the same way he did here in this movie.

The older I get, the more I realize that evil does exist in the world and it longs to keep consolation at bay. To make the problems we face irredeemable and everything ultimately “our fault.” Ignatius knew that evil’s power was enough to drive any one of us to suicide, if we but allow that call to embed in our consciousness too deeply.

It’s tough for individuals who suffer from mental illness to sometimes rely solely on self-care. Especially, when medication is something they need and they cannot bring themselves to find chemical therapy palatable. Some enjoy mania so much that they refuse meds. Others wallow in depression so deeply, that they don’t believe meds can help, because in their mind nothing can cure them. This is evil’s big hand and the deck is stacked and it becomes up to communities to care immensely for those most in harm’s way. We, as community, need to take on suicide like a prize fighter behind on the cards with only a round or two left. We need to come out swinging.

And we need to point people towards consolation. As a spiritual director, it is all too easy for people to throw all their consolations away when they head towards desolation. And that’s just “headed” towards desolation. When one is actually in desolation, those consolations are not just thrown away, they become illusions, just a ruse, not even consoling anymore. My job is awaken people to their own truth of being in union with God in the precious times of their life and to remind them that a loving God is not far off and if we but look for God, even in the rough times, desolation is sure to subside and consolation will allow us to lift the sun back up into the air for a final day of summer–or perhaps the truth is that even in the rain, one can find something beautiful.

We need to help others discover consolation and desolation and the circuitous path we find on the way towards these extremes. Most of the time, I don’t lean one way or the other, rather I find myself not in complete consolation, but also not close to desolation even though I hear it’s call. Like when I do something great at work I can feel good about my achievement, but then I can hear the negative “Well, it wasn’t all that good.” Get behind me, Satan! I will not let you talk me out of owning my achievement. I will look self-critically, smoothing rough edges at times, and I know mistakes will be made, but that doesn’t mean that my mistakes and flaws own me and capture me in desolation’s grip. For those with chemical imbalances that work hard to find a good balance of meds along with talk therapy, you will simply need help in finding this balance. A good therapist, group therapy or support groups are essential, not optional. Those fighting addictions need 12 step programs, detox and rehab. One day at a time is still another day sober and we cannot rush into years of sobriety–it takes work. For those of us who drift into milder depressions from time to time, a good therapist or even a spiritual director can help us find our way back to the border line.

The truth is that we probably all need a little help (a lot?). And we need to take it. For some, all the help in the world is not enough. Evil has used desolation to keep them hopeless. Our prayers tonight are for people who have given up trying to find help, that they may find it and be healthy again, embraced by God’s love.

Amen.

If you are someone who a feeling depressed or anxious, please know there is help. If you’re on campus the counseling center, campus ministry and a host of others are there to help or call Suicide Prevention at 1-800-273-8255.

Can We Heal Wounds?

When the horror of September 11th came upon the United States my friends with children fought vigorously to keep their children away from the television screen. Others even fought to keep themselves away from the images we know all too well from that day. Many wondered what to tell their kids when they returned home from school and some even hoped that their teachers hadn’t spilled the beans.

I wondered to myself if this were a healthy approach? It makes sense that we don’t want people, never mind children to be exposed to horrible images that could have traumatic effects on their psyche. But what about telling them about what happened? It seems that many of my friends tried to seal the information from their kids for at least some time, usually before one of their friends remarked about the dreadful news.

I started to think about other things that people don’t tell their kids because they don’t want them to worry. Finances are hard. Mom’s got cancer. There was an accident. Your dog went to heaven. It seems anything that is bad is taboo for children at times and people only tell them things that they need to, only when absolutely necessary.

Slate had a great article today that got me thinking about this. They claim three real reasons that college students (and the rest of us, they claim) are more stressed out than ever before. I’ll riff on each here and add a fourth that stems from them and will add some thoughts about what I see amongst my own students and colleagues.

The first is a lack of community. One colleague of mine said: “I knew there was trouble when I found two student residents in their room arguing with one another–but they weren’t yelling at each other, they were TEXTING and IMing while in the same room! I put a stop to that and made them hash it out.”

Human contact and kinship help alleviate anxiety (our evolutionary ancestors, of course, were always safer in numbers), yet as we leave family behind to migrate all over the country, often settling in insular suburbs where our closest pal is our plasma-screen TV, we miss out on this all-important element of in-person connection. As fear researcher Michael Davis of Emory University told me: “If you’ve lost the extended family and lost the sense of community, you’re going to have fewer people you can depend on, and therefore you’ll be more anxious. Other cultures have much more social support and are better off psychologically because of it.” Another factor that adds to this problem—especially among young people—is our growing reliance on texting and social media for community, which many psychologists say is no substitute for real human interaction. When you’re feeling most dreadful, you don’t run to your Facebook profile for consolation; you run to a flesh-and-blood friend.

I think about my own students with this one. One of the most popular clubs on campus is our Christian Life Communities, a weekly prayer group of sorts that invites people to do a short form of the Ignatian examen in community. We discuss the highs and lows of the week and provide a meditation and a time for affirmations and prayer requests. It’s one of the times in my week that I feel I can really connect with our students and I start to hear just what people are carrying around with them. This is safe space and sometimes when I hear what people are dealing with I’m surprised they are walking and talking, never mind getting a degree. I feel the same way about the students I’ve seen in spiritual direction. And I often feel that they are unprepared for all that life is offering them and impressed that somehow they are still able to function at such high levels.

Professionally, I notice the texting more amongst outside younger colleagues than amongst my students at Canisius. I communicate with many people via text. And sometimes it’s inappropriate. There are some who try to conduct business via text when it would be faster and easier to call and have a conversation. Indeed texting is somehow more efficient but then again, it can lead to problems. My staff does this well. We text when necessary. When we need to get a message to someone quickly and think they are in a meeting or can’t talk. Or when the message is a quick one that requires some kind of action “Can you grab cider for the meeting?” would be an example.

The second is information overload which I discuss at length in my book, Googling God. There’s so much information out there that you can’t possibly consume it all. Our students often ask for bullet points and other quick soundbytes of information and I often give it to them because they just don’t need one more thing to read and information is bombarding them at high rates all the time. I don’t ever not recommend reading and I give them plenty to chew on when I think there’s a book or an article that is worth their time, but I also try to encourage that there’s not a rush to consume this information–to savor the reading process and to enjoy reading and gaining information. I often feel that college would be more enjoyable if we just let students finish when they finish. Now that’s an impossible business model to sustain, but from my own perspective I was able to work and do two graduate classes per semester and I enjoyed that immensely. I found it difficult to take 5 undergraduate classes and hold all that information together while working at the radio station and socializing and all of my campus ministry involvement.

I find my present students are great at balancing their time. Many are involved in much and have heavy duty science majors or are working on a big time business degree. I never knew how the medical students kept up at UB and the pre-meds are just as impressive at Canisius. But I do notice their anxiety. I do notice that it is not easy for them. And I do see them when they get overwhelmed by their to-do lists and the pressure of being good students and having a social life and trying to figure out what they would most like to be and do with their lives.

Some are brilliant: They’ve realized that they are never going to know everything that someone else thinks they should know. It took me years to get that idea through my thick skull.

Finally here’s the last major point:

Put simply, Americans have developed habits for dealing with anxiety and stress that actually make them far worse. We vilify our aversive emotions and fight them, rather than letting them run their own course. We avoid situations that make us nervous. We try to bury uncomfortable feelings like anxiety and stress with alcohol or entertainment or shopping sprees. Psychologist Steven Hayes, creator of a highly effective anxiety treatment formula called acceptance and commitment therapy, told me that we’ve fallen victim to “feel-goodism,” the false idea that “bad” feelings ought to be annihilated, controlled, or erased by a pill. This intolerance toward emotional pain puts us at loggerheads with a basic truth about being human: Sometimes we just feel bad, and there’s nothing wrong with that—which is why struggling too hard to control our anxiety and stress only makes things more difficult.

Amen! We protect ourselves way too much. And we protect others from our sadness and what we perceive is their sadness way too much.

Interestingly enough, comedian Louis CK hits the nail on the head with this: (warning: vulgar at times).

Perhaps our call is not to remove our student’s sadness or stress, but to help them more appropriately deal with that. We often do this in community on retreats, prayer groups, spiritual direction and on more than a few occasions by collaborating with our counseling center.

Our students need us and more importantly, they need community, they need time to chill to detox from information and they need to share their fears in a safe space where they can actually feel their emotions and be supported by peers and ministers.

In a world that is marked by terrorism all too often, anxiety is ever present globally and we have fewer resources to turn to because everyone is so busy that we have a hard time paying attention to those who need us. Older Americans might note that they were afraid of the Russians or of the bomb–but their community structure was much more intertwined with one another than our students’ lives are today.

This is our call as higher ed professionals and as Catholic Campus Ministers. As Pope Francis put it in the recent interview in America Magazine:

“I see clearly that the thing the church needs most today is the ability to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful; it needs nearness, proximity. I see the church as a field hospital after battle. It is useless to ask a seriously injured person if he has high cholesterol and about the level of his blood sugars! You have to heal his wounds. Then we can talk about everything else. Heal the wounds, heal the wounds…. And you have to start from the ground up.”

Heal the wounds… the wounds that are felt deeply and all too easily pushed away. Help people to feel their wounds and then to not be afraid to place your hands in the wounds of Jesus, like Thomas and allow the healing that God has to offer to take place through you, even in small and simple ways. This is ministry.

And it is where we always encounter God waiting for us and asking us to heal wounds.

First Day at School Memories

While many of my friends are sending their kids off to their first day of school and my wife heads in to her first day as the new after-school coordinator at her school, I’m filled with first day of school memories.

Of course, there’s nothing like that first day of school, for the first time. Mine was Kindergarten and my mother walked me to school which was one block from my house. We unexpectedly found my teacher in the hallway and my mother introduced me to her. Miss Suess took me by the hand and we walked to our classroom together and Mom went away. I was excited and anxious at the same time. What was going to happen next?

It was only a half day and I was in the afternoon class. I got switched to the morning class for some reason half way through the year and learned about getting up early.

Each year, we went school clothes shopping and I struggled to cover my books on that first day.

That first day though may very well have been my favorite memory of a first day at school, equalled only by a return to college each year.

Two worse first day memories come to mind:

The first was high school. I walked into my school and was excited. I was off to find my homeroom and was there pretty early. As I past the cafeteria smiling, I saw a group of Seniors sitting at a table. I sighed as I walked past and then I heard them:

“Duh…let’s see who I can make friends with! Stupid, freshman.”

Clearly high school was going to be a problem.

The second was middle school. I was coming into our parish school after going to public school from kindergarten until 6th grade. It started out well. I had come in three days late after a bout with some kind of illness. Mrs. Wasp my teacher, introduced herself and then looked to find me a seat.

Clearly, I was the new guy, but I was known to some in the school because I was an altar boy in the parish. One guy, Claudio, had began spreading rumors about me early and often. We had gotten into an altercation once after a bit of name calling. Apparently, he objected to me bringing up his mother in a foul way and this was his revenge.

Recess came and we played punchball–a kind of baseball game. Someone launched one far down the third base line and I raced over but it was well past me. The ball crawled under the fence before I could get to it. We weren’t allowed to climb over.

“HAYES!” Claudio yelled. “YOU OWE ME A NEW BALL!” He may have pushed me after that. What was worse was that he told all the girls that I stupidly let the ball roll under the fence. I saw someone passing by and got their attention and they retrieved the ball for us which Claudio took credit for later. But damage done. Worst two years of my life was that school and I didn’t look forward to a single day there.

But as I look to our freshman and see their excitement and yes, the jitters that still come with a new place, I recall my own college years as amazing. It fills me with much joy to be a small part of their experience and I hope that these years are a blessing to them.

Today, let’s be grateful for first day experiences, both good and bad. For even the bad ones make us more sensitive to others who may be struggling. The start of something new reminds me of God’s continual wiping away the slate of our sins and giving us a renewed chance to start again.

So as you start again…be grateful for the chance to start over and to make all that you can out of this, nothing more, but more importantly, nothing less. Amen.

Dancing Through College

So in the past few years, I have noticed an interesting phenomenon amongst millennials and I’d like to contrast it with my own college experience.

So yes, this is going to be one of those “When I was your age” moments.

Don’t worry millennials, you come out looking good in this one.

But let’s go back even further…to high school and I can remember my first high school dance.

I was terrified. Not of asking anyone to dance, but simply of dancing. I didn’t know how to dance really. My parents were older and they didn’t know any of the latest moves. I could certainly slow dance with a girl, but first I had to get a girl to like me and I was having a bit of trouble doing that. I spent that first dance pacing around the outskirts of the dance floor, under-confident and disappointed. For the next four years, I never really got dancing down, but I at least had the guts to get out there with friends and move a bit. One of our teachers, Mr. Campbell was a great dancer and he showed all of us a few classic moves.

Advance to college…dancing was still not high on my list. At the end of freshman orientation there was a semi-formal dance and when the music started, two Jesuits got out on the floor with two freshmen and started the dancing off. It was marvelous to see all of us just jump out onto the dance floor together. No partners, no pressure–just a bunch of freshmen dancing.

My college roommate then, was a fantastic dancer and had a way with the ladies. I remember him telling me that a bunch of girls out on the dance floor came over to him and said “Hey are you going out tonight?” and he would politely decline. Cool as a cucumber. I sort of danced around and one young woman and I locked eyes at one point and danced together for a bit. It didn’t turn into a relationship or anything but freshman year was off to an OK start for a shy guy who couldn’t dance too well.

Fast forward to today. I would say I’m a “passable” dancer. But something happens to me when I dance with my Marion. Everyone says it. There’s an intimacy between us that is hard to describe. Together we are pretty good swing dancers and we enjoy it. Not bad for a guy who has gained too much weight and doesn’t have the best knees anymore.

Back to our college students. I’ve noticed that dancing is different for them. There was a bit of a pecking order in my day with dancing, a kind of survival of the fittest. If you couldn’t dance, you just got left out.

But for college students today, dancing is a bit more of a communal practice. Sure people show off their moves and there are “dance battles” and some move better than others and get a bit more attention for it, but then something happens.

“Hey everyone, let’s do the wobble!”

Line dancing has a new place with this generation. And there’s a bunch of experts that will say this is because they have grown up in an over-programmed way, to the point that they can’t just get out there and boogie on their own. They need some kind of organizing mechanism to enable them to even dance.

I ain’t buying it.

The truth is that this is about inclusiveness. Milennials have a tendency to try to include everyone, to get everyone involved. I noticed this at our bonfire at Canisius the other night that when they did some kind of line dance everyone got out there and danced and when they didn’t, a good deal of people left the floor.

And then …

Cha cha slide gets everyone up again. I’ve even seen this one at the ballgame.

So I brought up my observation with my colleagues who confirmed my suspicions and then I asked some of my students about it.

“It’s the only kind of dancing we do.” That line was repeated to me many times, by many different kinds of students. One also noted that “Well, once you learn the steps, that’s all you need to know to be part of the dance. And you can learn by doing..it doesn’t take much to learn.”

True enough. It’s very inclusive and seems to be a way that even someone who can’t really dance is able to dance without fear. The dances are easy enough to do.

So you go, students. Keep dancing together.

And They Returned Rejoicing

So our Canisius Students returned home from Rio after spending a few weeks with the Magis Program and then of course with the world’s most famous Jesuit, Papa Francisco.

Look at the energy that they returned with!

A good time had by one and all. And they got a great glimpse of the Pope:

It seems that the infectious nature of the Pope has gotten into the spirit of the students here. We’ll build on that as we go.

Scott Paeplow, who you saw in the first video, led the students on the trip as their Campus Minister. He is also leaving us for graduate school at Dayton. He’ll be sorely missed, but he really brought much energy not just to the campus, but to this final trip for him and for a few of our seniors. I have told my sources in Dayton that they are to educate me and then hand him a cell phone when he gets off the graduation line to discuss where he’ll be off to next and to not get any funny ideas about stealing him from the great city of Buffalo. Nice job, sir! You lived the MAGIS!

A final note. I’m officially old. Alice Zicari is the daughter of my very own college classmates, Dan and Marcy Zicari who readers will remember fondly from this old post. I held her in my arms as an infant and now here she is all grown up as a graduate of Canisius and a leader on this trip.

This “Pope as Rock Star Celebration” continues to bring young people to the faith. And I’ll say this….This Pope seems to be the biggest “rock star” of them all.

Welcome home, folks! See ya around campus!

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This Might Be the Most Quotable Pope in Decades

The esteemed Dave Sampson from our diocese passed this on to me moments ago.

“We need saints without cassocks, without veils. We need saints with jeans and tennis shoes. We need saints that go to the movies, that listen to music, that hang out with friends.

We need saints who put God in first place, ahead of succeeding in any career. We need saints who look for time to pray every day and who know how to be in love with purity, chastity, and all good things. We need saints, Saints of the 21st century with a spirituality appropriate to our new time.

We need saints that have a commitment to helping the poor and to make the needed social change. We need saints to live in the world, to sanctify the world and to not be afraid of living in the world by their presence in it.

We need saints that drink Coca-Cola, that eat hot dogs, that surf the internet and that listen to their iPods. We need saints that love the Eucharist, that are not afraid or embarrassed to eat a pizza or drink a beer with their friends.

We need saints who love the movies, dance, sports, theater. We need saints that are open, sociable, normal, happy companions. We need saints who are in this world and who know how to enjoy the best in this world without being callous or mundane. We need saints.

–Pope Francis, World Youth Day 2013, Rio

All I can say is “Amen.”

Well…maybe that’s not all I can say. This is a very Ignatian moment for the Pope talking clearly about finding God in all things. I’m not sure if I’ve heard anyone say this more simply nor more eloquently than Papa Francisco.

I hope the Canisius students are finding these messages as uplifting as I am finding it and that they see the clear Jesuit connection from the Holy Father.

For All That I Am, Lord

Written at the Collegeville Institute as our prayer to describe where the spirit is moving in our communities with regards to their own vocation:

Thank you God for calling me into this place
For the courage to be who you have made me to be
For the gifts I have that have gotten me to answer this call
For the strength to go on when I feel I cannot
And for those around me in this place
Who gather me up when I cannot move for myself.

Rekindle my soul; restore my enthusiasm
So I do not find my self saying
Who the hell signed me up for this?

When I am cranky and squeal like a first grader
Remind me of my first call
And place the cry of the psalmist on my lips
So I remember to call out to you in my deepest fears and lamentations
When I think even the dogs get the scraps that fall from the table
but here I feeling empty and alone.
In those dark times
Rekindle my passion and renew me into the person
You want me to become.

Finally, come Holy Spirit
Make me listen to the stirrings of my heart
call me into being while I am doing
And doing in my being
So that I might serve the world with all that I am
And be aware of the gift I am
Because of who you have made me to be.

Amen

To Find the Sunrise Amidst the Rain

So I just spent two glorious days at the Collegeville Institute in Minnesota, which is one of my all time favorite places. Whether the lovely setting, the St. John’s Abbey, the St. John’s Bible, the amazing people who work there and the groups they gathered to talk about Vocation in Communities, I can’t pick just one great experience.

We discuss how we are helping people discern their vocation in community during these conferences. I do this for instance with a small group of young adults and then some people individually and it’s what brings me life the most in my ministry.

Each time this group gathers to talk about projects we might consider doing in our parishes and communities I get very excited and see dozens of possibilities. Our group, an ecumenical one, meaning a diverse group of different Christian denominations, are simply a group of pastoral people who like to think about these things.

But it also leads us into deeper discernment as well for ourselves. One female Anglican priest was moving from full time to part time status, another person was simply questioning where her community was heading, another was preparing for ordination.

And I’m always considering what it is that I do and how I’m doing it and how I might do it better.

And so I decided to get up early and pray in the St John’s Abbey with the monks. But I also got up earlier because I wanted to see the sun rise over the abbey. In fact, when I woke up I had a strong desire and felt called to go see the sunrise. This has happened to me before on retreats and it has never disappointed.

If you’ve never seen St. John’s Abbey:

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Now imagine what it looks like when the sun hits the honeycombs on the wall! I can only imagine it because it rained this morning and there was no sun to be seen.

And so rather than wallow in disappointment in the rain-soaked morning I had dragged my behind out of bed for, I decided to take a moment of opportunity for silence inside the abbey, one of the most beautiful places I know.

The starkness of the Abbey always moves me into a deeper place of contemplation and today was no different. The small lighted altar gave me a perfect setting in the darkness of the morning:

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After about 15 minutes of silent prayer, i asked God to more intimately remind me of the times in my life this year where I really felt like I was engaged with my vocation. All of these moments involved working with students and young adults on questions of vocation. Whether in spiritual direction or a small group or an alternative break experience or even in the Medical School’s simulation center, I found myself deeply engaged with others talking about who they hope to become.

And when that clarity hit me, I felt much gratitude. And then this happened:

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Coincidence? Perhaps, but I remembered that I had longed to get up and see the sunlight—and here was a much more glorious picture than I had imagined. God always gives us what we need—not always what we expect.

And then…when I thought I could not find any more beauty in this:

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These monks really thought about this place. If you look closely, the lights hit the tiny wires they have attached and it looks like sunbeams emerging from the altar of God! God stretching Himself farther than I asked for to show me just a bit more of what God wants from me in my life, that is simply to be myself, nothing more, but most importantly nothing less.

As we prayed with the Monks I was introduced to a new favorite Psalm:

Psalm 143
Lord, hear my prayer,
listen to my cry for mercy;
in your faithfulness and righteousness
come to my relief.
2 Do not bring your servant into judgment,
for no one living is righteous before you.
3 The enemy pursues me,
he crushes me to the ground;
he makes me dwell in the darkness
like those long dead.
4 So my spirit grows faint within me;
my heart within me is dismayed.
5 I remember the days of long ago;
I meditate on all your works
and consider what your hands have done.
6 I spread out my hands to you;
I thirst for you like a parched land.[a]
7 Answer me quickly, Lord;
my spirit fails.
Do not hide your face from me
or I will be like those who go down to the pit.
8 Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love,
for I have put my trust in you.
Show me the way I should go,
for to you I entrust my life.
9 Rescue me from my enemies, Lord,
for I hide myself in you.
10 Teach me to do your will,
for you are my God;
may your good Spirit
lead me on level ground.
11 For your name’s sake, Lord, preserve my life;
in your righteousness, bring me out of trouble.
12 In your unfailing love, silence my enemies;
destroy all my foes,
for I am your servant.

I began the trek back from the Abbey to the Institute fully refreshed for the day ahead. But mostly, grateful for the opportunity to hear God’s voice speaking to me loudly in the silence of the Abbey, leading me to a deeper sense of my own vocation where I work with people in discernment. People who have deep decisions to make often turn to me to companion them. And that’s a special gift that I have for allowing people to more intimately see who they are becoming and who God has already made them to be.

And that is worth everything.

For God has made it so.