A Proper Farewell

We are preparing to leave the church building that has been our spiritual home for many years, and just like leaving any home, we will take the time to honor the time we have spent within these sacred walls. In many ways, this physical place has helped form us into the people we have become; it’s only right that we pause and give thanks for all of the blessings even as we grieve the process of moving on.

When we move from one residence to another, we often get so caught up in the forward thrust of where we are going that we forget to properly say goodbye to the home we are leaving behind. Yet saying goodbye is an important part of moving forward. It gives us a sense of completion so that we are able to fully inhabit our new space, having left nothing of ourselves in the old one. In this way, we honor the space that has held and nurtured us. At the same time, we empty it so that the new residents can make this space their own.

This may sound weird to some, but I have generally tried to do a final walk through of all the places I’ve ever lived in a ritual of my own devising. For me, this has always been done alone, and I purposefully walk through the front door in a mindful, quiet inner space. I’ve tended to prepare myself mentally and spiritually so that I can be as present as I can possibly be, and as I enter the house, I greeted the place in my mind with words like, “I have come to thank you for being my home and to say goodbye.” I have touched the walls with my hands as I moved through my home, remembering with chuckles and tears all the events that come to mind. I have stood in each room, examined each wall and closet, sending up a prayers of gratitude for the years of safety and love I experienced there. I also say a prayer for the next tenants as I do this, praying that God will reveal Himself to them, and that they will always feel safe, secure and loved in the space. If I had used the yard for plantings or growing vegetables, I also make a quick trip around the house, remembering, blessing, and interceding for all those who will come after me.  

Making my way again to the front door, knowing that I have completed my final journey through my home, having prayed for those who will soon fill the space with their own dreams and struggles, I mark the sign of the cross above the front door with my finger, closing the door one last time. The future is always unknown, but as a man cursed with terminal hopefulness, I leave the past behind and ready myself to embrace my new home, where I am sure new blessings and challenges await. The God who had blessed me in the old home is the one constant in my life, the One who will someday bring me home for good. And therein lies the basis of everything I think, feel and do. It’s all good, because it’s all God.

I recommend this simple ritual to all of you who have lived, laughed, cried and loved in our church over the years. Having said our own goodbyes individually, we will then gather on August 25 for a family farewell service and dinner. God has blessed us, is blessing us, and will continue to bless us always.

Fr. Michel   �6��א

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Overcoming Life’s Challenges

It’s been a month now since I lost my second son. In some ways it’s still not real to me and there are times when the reality of his death hits me and knocks me down. There have been whole days when I’ve sat staring at the television for hours, and it hasn’t even been turned on. At this point I’m not taking any medication because it wasn’t really doing anything for me except making me even more lethargic. It’s part of the process of grief, and I accept that for what it is. What I also know, though, is that there will be a solution to my current struggles. And somehow I will overcome and find a way to use this loss to help someone else in the future. It always works that way.

Each of us on the journey through this world is touched by many joys and innumerable losses. When we encounter adversity, the stress we feel can erode our optimistic trust in God, eventually convincing us that the issues we face cannot be overcome. In truth, there is no situation so dire, no challenge so great, and no loss so overwhelming that it cannot be overcome. Though we may believe that all avenues have been closed to us or that our most conscientious efforts will fail us, we are never without choices. The best way forward may well be veiled in tearful doubt, but it is still there. When we are honest with ourselves and open enough to accepting life on life’s terms, we can again triumph because we know we will always be attentive to solutions as God presents them to us. 

Trust in God and trust in our highest self becomes the antidote to adversity’s tendency to drag us into the mire of self-pity and disillusionment. As difficult as the obstacle may seem, it is no match for the love of Our God that has been a daily part of our lives since the day we were born—and that also means it will carry us forward forever. Fears and losses can misguide us into thinking that some problems cannot be overcome. But if we remember all the God has done for us and we also trust in our own capabilities, we can simply rest in the silence of acceptance, knowing that somehow paths we thought closed will open miraculously to us. Even making the choice to embrace hope, with no evidence at hand, can help us transform our perspective and make us able to see the miracles that always and everywhere surround us.  

Remember Our Savior’s words that salvation is now, in the present moment. The heaven we seek in the next world can be ours today, should we choose to create it. Even when it seems we have nowhere to turn, God is always presenting us with a solution.  The only insurmountable obstacles are the ones we create in our own mind–and these have power over us only if we allow them. Uncertainty and suffering will always be a part of our existence, but perseverance and mindful trust will never fail to see us through to the other side, where joy can thrive once more.

Again, I thank you for your thoughts, prayers, and the many messages I continue to receive daily from so many of you. I’m well aware that I’ve not been 100% myself lately, so I appreciate your understanding as well.

Fr. Michel

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In the Divine Flow

The essence of all being is energy, and energy, as explained to us in elementary school, is neither created nor destroyed.  This suggests to me that every created thing shares in the infinite and eternal essence of God Himself.  Our physical, mental, and spiritual selves, by God’s design, depend on the unrestricted flow of life energy that is the source of wholeness and wellness. Though the channels through which this energy flows are open systems and influenced by factors outside our control, we have the power to choose how this energy works in our lives. As a healing touch practitioner, I know the reality of blocked energy fields and the importance of keeping them open for maximum flow. Every one of us absorbs some of the energy emitted by those around us and by our environment, but that does not undo the amazing power of God’s energy as it grounds and sustains us. Because this divine energy exists, we can choose to cope constructively with loss and stress; we are never hapless pawns tossed about by the negativity we sometimes encounter. When we keep the energy in and around us flowing freely, when we remember God as Source and work to stay in the divine flow from an intentional stance, we become more healthy and whole. 

God’s divine energy flows through us like a swift stream when there is nothing to obstruct it, but various forces such as trauma, loss and disappointment can create dams in the current. If we allow these things to divert or block the flow, we become ill (physically and spiritually) and we flounder in listlessness. On the other hand, when we take the time to discern the nature of the blockage and surrender them to God, power can then be restored in our lives. When we cultivate simple practices such as meditation, breathing exercises, praying with the Scriptures, we protect ourselves from outside influences that might otherwise impede our journey to wholeness. I see evidence of this every day as I work with addicts: when they can identify the attachments that block the flow of divine energy they also learn to release trauma from the past and a host of negative, limiting emotions.  

For some, this may sound a little like New Age nonsense, but these ideas derive solidly from our understandings of science and solid theology. God’s energy, as source of all that is, creates, recreates, and sustains all of creation at every moment. Choosing to consciously embrace this flow and surrendering to wherever God wills to take us in the strong currents, will paradoxically empower us to take a more active role in co-creating ourselves anew.  The steps are simple enough: identify the blocks, release or correct them, embrace the resulting flow. And as is true in every area of life, fear is almost always the culprit: fear of letting go, fear of reliving the past, fear of releasing comfortable pain. Letting go may be challenging, but the resultant joy that comes when we restore our connection to Source and the divine flow is always a blessing.

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Choices

Every day we make a hundred decisions, most are small and not that significant on the face of it, even though we may realize later that some of them had a deep impact on our lives. Other choices touch us to our very core, awakening poignant feelings within us. It’s not always clear at the moment of decision what the ripple effects will be because sometimes a simple choice proves to be confusing and complex. In my experience, I make my best decisions when I approach the decision-making process from a balanced spiritual, intellectual and emotional foundation. When I manage to find some equilibrium in our heart and mind, I can see both sides of an issue or choice. Likewise, I can more easily accept compromise as a natural fact of life. Instead of relying solely on my feelings or my rational mind, I can utilize both in equal measure, empowering myself to come to a life-affirming and balanced conclusion. 

Balance within and balance without go hand in hand. When we are called upon to choose between two or more options, whether they are attractive or distasteful, we need to understand everything we can about the choices before moving forward. If we do not come to the decision from a place of balance, we risk making choices that are irrational and overly emotional or are wholly logical and don’t take our faith into account. In bringing our spirituality, thoughts and emotions together during the decision-making process, we better ensure that we are taking everything possible into account before moving forward. Nothing is left up to chance, and we have ample opportunity to determine which options are in accordance with our values. 

Though some major decisions may oblige us to act and react quickly, most will allow us an abundance of time in which to prayerfully mull over our choices. If we doubt our ability to approach our options in a balanced fashion, it’s okay to hit the pause button and reflect before making a decision. This is where the true power of prayer is found because above all, praying changes the one doing the praying. Taking some prayerful time out will give us the interlude we need to make certain that our core beliefs, thoughts and feelings are in equilibrium. It’s about finding the balance and choosing the option that is in our highest good. As we take time to practice achieving balance, we will ultimately reach a state of consciousness in which we can easily make decisions that honor every aspect of our best selves.

Praying with you this week that together we might manifest the Reign of God,

Fr. Michel

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The Last Breath

Last week I buried my second son, having lost him to suicide, and I find myself still struggling to believe it. Over the past year or so, as he down-spiraled into amphetamine psychosis, our exchanges became increasingly confrontational. The cause of his psychosis, his medically approved use of Adderol, wasn’t discovered until it was too late, and as a result, everyone who knew him and loved him is left carrying more questions than answers. And that, it seems to me, cuts to the core of this mystery we call life.
Procrastination is an almost universal human tendency, one that creeps into many aspects of our lives. Post-modern living is complicated, and we have so many things to accomplish that we have to set some things aside for later. We know what is important, but we tend to allow everyday stresses lead us astray. To get back on track, however, we need only take a moment to consider where our thoughts will be as we take our last breath on this earth. Clearly, we will not be thinking of our careers, disagreements, mortgage payments or other mundane elements of our lives. Instead we will have thoughts of our loved ones and the impact we had on the world into which we were born. Whatever we imagine ourselves thinking about at that last moment are the things that truly matter to us.  There is a simple Buddhist practice that is based on this awareness of our own limited time, and it can bring us to a better way of thinking. While our attention is drawn momentarily to the end of life, our observations can serve to point out that we are masters of our own choices and, consequently, our own existence. There is nothing preventing us from shifting our focus right now to those things we expect to consider in our final moments.  We can choose to spend more of our time and energy on what gives our lives meaning. We can spend more time with loved ones and give more service to those who are sent to us by divine appointment. Doing so may not always prove easy, and there will inevitably be times when circumstances interfere with our resolution, yet we do not have to regard this as an indication that our priorities are not in alignment with who God has created us to be.  Maybe the only way we can see life’s beauty is by accepting reminders that all of this is finite. The Gospel reminds us that faith and hope will not endure, but our loving actions will live long after we are gone. As I listened to the many people speak about my son’s influence in their lives at his funeral, I felt proud to have been his dad. He was a hard worker, dedicated to his wife and family, and he was a generous friend and co-worker. The way he made people feel is the gift that we will all leave behind. It seems clear to me that this life is not about dwelling on the losses and the tears, rather it’s about experiencing all the amazing gifts and potent graces that God offers us at every turn, even in our sorrow.
Thank you for your continuing prayers for myself and for my family. God is good, all the time.
Fr. Michel

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More Than One Way to Love

The ways we choose to love are as unique as the way we choose to make a living, maintain our health, or entertain ourselves. Some choose to seek out a spouse or partner enter into a shared life with a special someone, while others find great satisfaction in remaining single. There is no right or wrong way to be in our life when it comes to deciding whether or not to be in a relationship, even though society tends to put an emphasis on romantic partnerships. Whether we choose to go through life as part of a romantic relationship or live as a single unit, there are benefits and challenges to both.  

Choosing to be single can be a grace-filled way to spend time discovering who you really are. Single people have more time and space to determine what and how they want their life to be, without having to keep someone else’s priorities in mind. Being single gives them the freedom to do what they want at a moment’s notice and the pride that comes with facing life on their own terms. Companionship, support, and affection can be found while spending quality time with friends, colleagues, and relatives. There is also the fun that comes with being able to date many different people without having to make a commitment.

 Choosing to have a mate, on the other hand, brings with it an opportunity to share our life with another person. There is comfort in the knowledge that we are facing the world with someone as a united front. When life is challenging, we are in a position to strengthen each other; there is also the possibility of transforming oneself that comes from allowing another person to so intimately be a part of our life. 

Growing up as a North American Catholic, I was presented with a false narrative and equally false hierarchy of relationships. Celibate priesthood or chaste religious vows topped the list as the most superior way to love. Married life, with its regrettable acquiescence of sexual expression (allowed only because children can only come from sexual union) was the next level.  And below that was the single life, which as I understood it, was the booby prize when it came to God’s handing out vocations. It didn’t help that the priests were always expecting gifts and free dinners and housekeepers and new cars as part of their compensation package for not using their naughty parts for the sake of the Kingdom. Even now this clericalism is rampant in the Roman Church and even among some in the Independent Sacramental Movement—a simple observing of how much lace and silk and rich brocades reveals more than the wearers imagine!

Here’s the thing: we are ALL the Church and we are ALL the Body of Christ. There is no one size fits all vocation and there is no one right way to love in this life. This Sunday’s feast stands as a reminder that the one love we all share is the love of our God. Our one shared vocation is to love this God in return as the Presence of Christ in this time and place. How we choose to love isn’t the point. Choosing to love unselfishly is. What is right for one person may not be right for another, and people can transition between wanting to be with another person and wanting to be alone. They can change their minds as they follow the path of their life. Regardless of our choice, we are all called to be faithful to the ones we have chosen to love. Whether it’s the monogamous choice of married couples or the choice to remain single in service to God, we all need to fully embrace our choices so that the would may be as nurtured by our choice as we ourselves are.

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Layers of Truth

Although we humans in First World countries seem to distance ourselves more and more from the natural world, in reality we cannot help but interact with it despite our busyness. We have an innate tendency to seek and to ascribe meaning to all that we experience. The significance we perceive in our experiences is rooted in our observation of patterns as they relate to ourselves. One situation has the power to teach us about life because it exposes us to something unfamiliar. Another touches our emotions deeply by enabling us to see how fortunate we are. And still another serves to mitigate the Presence of God through instilling in us a sense of mystery and awe. Despite our initial impressions, a given experience may not fully reveal the true significance of a particular occurrence because our full response to an experience is like an onion with many layers that all have disparate meanings. A sunrise, for example, may simultaneously evoke childhood memories as well as remind us that God recreates us anew every day.  

If we take the time to examine our experiences closely, we will discover that our original impressions may only be a part of a larger story of significance. Peeling away the layers of an event or incident can be an interesting and deeply spiritual process if we choose to allow it. We can begin by trying to relive our experiences internally from as many perspectives as possible. Our interpretation of any situation is based not only on direct observations, but also on feelings, beliefs, and our values. As we ruminate upon our experience, we might spend a few moments contemplating how we felt when it began and how our feelings had changed by its end. Are there larger abstractions that are awakening in our soul? If so, it may be that in striving to answer deeper questions we will find new layers of meaning revealed to us. 

The significance of an experience may remain hidden to us for some time. The meaning of an event can change when viewed from another context or may only become apparent after intense meditation. An incident that seemed superficial may unexpectedly touch us deeply later in our lives. If we accept the reality that God is always and everywhere attempting to make contact with us and we take a truly open-minded approach to our examination of each new level, we will grow in our connection to the Source of all that is. Even revelations that are challenging or painful can bear much spiritual fruit. And the refined impression we glean from our experiences after contemplating their significance can add a new richness and texture to our life. “Behold,” Christ tells us, “I make all things new.” And I would add, even our same old, same old.

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