Friday, September 17, 2010

Who am I, really?

I was just thinking today about my former spiritual director, Father Jim. I met him a few years ago when I was discerning the diaconate; all inquirers were mandated to begin spiritual direction. After a year of sessions with Father, it became clear that I wasn't supposed to be a deacon (at least not in the near future). However, I continued the sessions with Father Jim because he challenged where I was going with my faith, where I was going as a writer, and most importantly where I was going as a husband and father. Jim became more than a spiritual director, he became my friend and confidante; what the Irish call Anam Cara or soul friend. He moved to a parish out east and we sort of lost touch (really ought to call him).

Fr. Jim once presented me with a small framed quote; it said simply REMEMBER WHO YOU ARE. He asked me to take it home and consider its meaning, and that we'd discuss it during our next session.

OK, so...Who am I, and why do I have to remember? I figured it would be relatively easy to come up with the right answer, doll it all up in spiritual "lingo" and present it for Fr. Jim. In fact, it was MORE than easy. I wrote a whole essay on who I was, who I saw myself to be, where I was going, etc. I was a little stuck on the whole "remembering" thing, but hell, how could I forget who I was? I had a couple of pages worth!

I went down the list with Fr. Jim the following month.

I'm a husband!
I'm a dad!
I'm a brother!
I'm a son!
I'm a friend!
I'm a religion teacher!
I'm a banker!

I went through this little exercise with confidence, embellishing each title with how important each was to myself and the people I touched.

He listened, smiling has he did so, nodding throughout. Then he broke the news,

"Tom, all those things are true. But they are not who you truly are. There is something you are that you've forgotten, in fact most of us have forgotten. It is something you have always been, something you were before you were born, something you are now, something you will always be."

I waited, puzzled...and a little hurt that I had obviously failed my assignment.

"What you need to remember...before everything, during everything, and after everything...You are the Beloved of God."

OK, so let's just break this down. When I goof off at work, I am Beloved of God? When I yell at my kids I am Beloved of God? When I enjoy some gossip about someone who doesn't deserve it, I am Beloved of God? He could love me in the rain, he could love me on the...Oh, I could go on with all of this, and the answer will be the same; Yes.

God's love for me and indeed all of us is profound as the Father's love for the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32). The son screws up...big time. He squanders his inheritance (indeed in 1st century Judea, it was an insult of the highest order to request your inheritance before your father's passing) going to prostitutes, and money lenders until he winds up as a penniless working on a pig farm (another big time no-no for a Jew). He decides to go home, and beg his Father to let him stay on as a servant.

However, the son is his Father's Beloved. The Father sees him from far off...and bounds off the porch to meet him with a tender embrace. The son took a step towards his Father...and his Father rushed to meet him.

I am Beloved of God. I pretty much have not forgotten since then. Thank you Father Jim for helping me to Remember.

Feast of the Stigmata of St. Francis
Daily Mass Readings
1 Corinthians 15:12-20
Psalm 17:1,6-8,15
Luke 8:1-3

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

On the EASE of Writing

Ah yes, the blog. The Lazy Man's Novel.

I've had the desire to write something a bit longer than a blog entry for awhile. I've written a few short stories, tried (and failed) to consolidate a couple of decades worth of journals into publishable form. I can say without exception, these 18 Easy Steps to Becoming a Writer is something I've gone through in each an every instance I've made an attempt. From WRITERS DIGEST:

Step One: Decide you're going to write a story.

Step Two: Decide it's going to be brilliant. Imagine the response of your [teacher, classmates, reading group, agent] and how it will completely change the way they look at you.

Step Three: Open up Microsoft Word.

Step Four: Stare at the blank white screen stretching on into infinity until your eyes begin to burn and your brain hurts from the sheer emptiness of it all.

Step Five: Check your e-mail. If writing a novel, research agents for a couple of hours.

Step Six: Stare at the blank Word document again.

Step Seven: Realize you need music. Spend the next hour finding the perfect "mood" music for what you want to write.

Step Eight: Inspired by [insert perfect music here], click back over to Word document.

Step Nine: Change Facebook status to: [Your name here] is WRITING!!! Realize you aren't on Twitter, and that anyone who is anyone is networking/wasting time on Twitter. Sign up for an account and spend the next two hours figuring out how it works and what the crap # means.

Step Ten: Stare at blank Word document. Decide you need a title. Brainstorm for the next hour.

Step Eleven: Come up with a GENIUS title. Proudly type "The Scent of Green Papayas" at the top of the document, followed by your name. Happily consider how easily a story will come now that you have such an amazing, literary title.

Step Twelve: Take a four-hour break for snacks and naptime.

Step Thirteen: Refreshed, sit down and toy around with pen names for a while.

Step Fourteen: Realize to your horror that your genius title is actually the name of a Vietnamese foreign film you saw seven years ago.

Step Fifteen: Erase the title, pressing Backspace much harder than necessary.

Step Sixteen: Stare at the blank Word document until your eyes bleed.

Step Seventeen: Check Facebook. See that fourteen people have commented on your status, asking what you are writing. Feel both guilty and annoyed.

Step Eighteen: Slam your laptop shut and go to the movies. Tomorrow's a better day for writing, anyhow.

See? You never knew writing was so easy!

I'll get there one of these days.

Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross
Daily Mass Readings
Numbers 21:4-9
Psalm 78:1,2,34-38
Philippians 2:6-11
John 3:13-17