A few weeks ago, I attended a prayer and fellowship meeting of our local “cursillistas” (people who have participated in a “Cursillo” weekend retreat). Since it was a November meeting, the theme was “thanksgiving”. We took turns sharing something for which we are thankful. That really got me thinking.
I have plenty of reasons to give thanks to God, as we all do. Some of them are habitual reasons for giving thanks: the fact that I am alive, in general good health, employed, clothed, housed, etc. However, at that meeting, I realized that I am really thankful for the major shakeup has happened in my life over the past few years.
My regular listeners/readers know the story. I am a member of the Legionaries of Christ, and over the past few years, we discovered that the founder was actually in many ways the antithesis of the holy man of God we believed him to be. It became clear, with the help of the Vatican, that there needed to be some important changes in the life and culture of the congregation. I, along with a significant number of other members, found my whole world-view shaken up, and for various reasons came to the conclusion that God did not want me to remain in the community of the Legion of Christ.
After exploring a couple of options, I ended up where I am today, seeking incardination in the archdiocese of Boston. It is a huge adjustment to move from religious life in the Legion of Christ to life in a diocese. It would be a challenge for me under any circumstances; it’s that much more of a challenge when I am also trying to deal with the multi-faceted fallout of having my world view turned upside down. I am getting help in all of this from a good spiritual director and other lay people and clergy. In some ways, I am having to rediscover and redefine myself, and discern what God wants me to do with my life.
So, why am I thankful for going through this difficult period of me life?
First of all, I have been blessed with the support and love of my family, and of friends new and old. Plus, I have been blessed to be working through these difficulties in truly wonderful places. I spent a year in Newburgh, NY, in a parish with great fellow clergy and a very welcoming and loving lay community, in a glorious geographic location (the Hudson Valley). Now I am on Cape Ann, in historic and beautiful sea-coast surroundings, once again with truly edifying and loving/lovable clergy and laity, and a rich cultural life. If you’re going to have any kind of mid-life crisis, these are great places for it!
But more importantly, this situation is helping me to grow as a person. I am confronting “big questions” and difficult truths about myself, my faith, my vocation, and the world in general. To borrow Thomas Kuhn’s terminology, I am still in the phase between paradigms. I have not yet fully worked out a new, coherent and functional personal paradigm that integrates and explains my new experiences and realizations; a new framework that gives a more solid answer to my own “big questions” and that will allow me to direct and focus my energy to addressing the present and the future with greater tranquility and joy. I am not there yet but I think I am getting closer.
Hopefully, I will grow in wisdom, self-knowledge, integrity, patience, forgiveness, compassion, etc. This whole business is helping me to understand much better the situations faced by many of the people to whom I am called to minister. In short, I hope this will help me to be more fully the person God wants me to be, in a way that would not be possible if I hadn’t had these experiences. God has brought me this far, and will continue to help me along. That is certainly something to be thankful for.
[P.S. I would like to add to this, that at this point I would much rather face uncomfortable truths than live in illusion. I am thankful that my eyes were opened to the truth about Fr. Maciel and the ramifications of his behavior, even if it has been painful.]