+ Been A Long Time

Posted By on September 15, 2012

Yes it has.  Anyone up for a new blog post?  Really?  No one?  Okay, then I guess that means I should put one out…

+ Stay Tuned

Posted By on June 15, 2012

I’m finishing up a lot of paperwork with my Student this week.  Hence, the sparse entries.  But fear not!  I shall return shortly.  Maybe even today, let’s see how it goes.

+ On the More

Posted By on June 11, 2012

The more love you have in your heart, the more you should be prepared to experience joyful, appreciative tears when the occasion warrants them…and in fact calls for them.

Such was my privilege to experience at the graduation ceremony of my little Student…

I just felt so proud of that kid.

+ On Ruts and Things Holding You At Bay

Posted By on June 6, 2012

Chloe confided in me recently that she had a moment of panic, nearing graduation, feeling such overwhelming apprehension about what she was going to do with her life and how she was going to accomplish her dreams of being a cartoonist and writer without traveling the road so many of her peers think is the road you ‘must’ travel — college, etc.  Up awake at night, just all of a sudden experiencing panic of having to grow up and get it all in gear, all of a sudden.  Her mind was all locked up; she was away from her own heart and trapped in fears over a future that wasn’t even real.  It’s when you are trapped in your own mind like an endless maze, and you have the Bad Guy interrogating you and somehow successfully showing you that you are lost.

It had been building in her quietly, she said…welling up, this fear, that didn’t know how it was going to work.  It was the fear of falling into a rut.  The fear that arises from not being able to see the future, and precisely how it’s going to come together.   I tried to help her relax, help her to work only on what’s in front of her, and putting her energy into that, one step at a time.  As she grows into her plans, I said, it will start to develop…and God will help at the right time.  You do your part, He will do His.  Relax from the fears, and allow the future to unfold as it was meant to.  Things will happen when they’re supposed to.

Chloe is at such an important crossroads.  She’s finished with high school shortly, and now almost ready to embark upon a new course in her life, a new stage.  Her best friend is moving in soon…a wonderful girl who Chloe wants to work with and vice versa.   They have plans and dreams of a career in creativity.  But both have known what ruts feel like.   Being led off the beaten path that everyone ‘else’ says is ‘normal’ and the right….wondering where to go now.  Panic and paralysis about the future and what to do.  If you’ll recognize what you have to do and do it, or miss the signal and the boat will sail on you and you will be left behind.  Both have had fears…and it’s interesting to me, I told Chloe, that Our Lord has brought the two of you together at such an interesting time in both your lives…to show you a pathway towards the fulfillment of your dreams, if you choose it…past these fears.  It reminded me of how Our Lord used some profoundly difficult times in my own life as a catapult into something special.   I made it through, and so you can too, I told her.

Like Steve says on Blue’s Clues, “You can do….anything….that you want to do….” (Thanks, Steve).   With God, you can’t go wrong.  Don’t worry.

Ruts and things holding you at bay…many a treasure is found beneath the appearances of such.  Endure, have hope, faith, and you will get through them….and you will find out what God has in store for you, and be happy.

When I got out of high school, and over the years to follow, I found myself in a series of ruts.  I didn’t have the money to go to school continuously and full time, things were very unpleasant at home, I had a series of passionate interests but no real firm direction among them, and I found that I just couldn’t move.  I felt utterly confined.   I also felt like I left the nest too early to know what I was doing in the world, and yet at the same time, things weren’t good in the nest so I couldn’t stay there either.

At 19, I picked up and moved to California, deciding to just go out and visit some other part of the country and live in it for an undefined period of time.  I didn’t decide to make my home there, I didn’t have  an elaborate set of plans.  I had a few friends there, had visited there once before, and that was it.  I was going.  I felt like I “needed” to go.  I was searching interiorly, and I felt like I just couldn’t live in my immediate, familiar environment anymore.  I wanted a change.

So off I went, arriving in LA late at night, arriving utterly exhausted and disoriented.  I spent the next three weeks in Laguna Beach, sharing a tiny room with one of my friends from college, and half-interestedly looking for a job.  My heart wasn’t into it.  Nothing looked like I remembered it from the previous summer when I visited and stayed for two weeks.  At this time, mind you, it was ‘winter’….January.  The rainy and cold season:  the sun rarely shone, and it was rainy nearly every day.  I felt like all I did was smoke cigarettes and worry.  I just felt totally disconnected from everything.

I would wake up in the middle of the night, wondering where I was…and then when I realized where I was, I’d say to myself, “What in the world am I doing here?”

I realized I had no idea what I was doing.  I wanted adventure, something new and different from ‘home’, something of the world to get out into.  I walked all over the town, when my energy finally started to get rallied, hunting for jobs.  However, I still simply felt ‘despirited’.

I realized I was missing certain things you normally get when you grow up and make your transitions from youth into adulthood.  I somehow just was lacking these things before I left the nest.   I was out on my own, but I was still — wow, dare I admit it, I thought — just a kid.

Things got weirder, and then finally seemed to level out:  I got a job at a hardware store for awhile, but didn’t like the fit at all.  I ended up working building stained glass windows in a small factory several miles inland.  I took a different apartment setting with a buddy from the hardware store, and got out of that tiny little room I first had to stay in.  I had a little money, I could pay my share of the rent.  I could buy some food.  I thought okay, I’ll be alright.  I know how to do this stuff.  Everyone has to, and I’m no different.

But why, I thought, am I just….unhappy?   Why don’t I feel any satisfaction with anything, no contentment?  Why don’t I feel “right” about where I am, and what I’m doing?  I was free to write, draw, do whatever…but I somehow just wasn’t really doing anything.  Something was missing.

My problem was spiritual connection.  For me, that was at the heart of all my interests and passions…it’s just that no one else in my peer group shared that with me or even appreciated it.  They were all trying to get away from religion and if anything, do something on their own.  Just not stuffy Christianity, etc.

I broke with my friends out there in many ways, as I was starting to get more into religion and enjoyed spending more time by myself, away from friends’ influence.  I was choosing to live clean too, just to experiment with it as much as I could:  no smoking, no drinking, and I even went vegetarian.   I didn’t have any interest in going to parties and the rest, as my other friends were doing.  They quickly grew tired of me.

But at the end of May I went home to Baltimore and never went back to California.  California was only just ‘okay’ to me, and I wasn’t so impressed really.  It was just another ‘place’ to me, and its novelties wore off quickly.  I didn’t feel any urge to return.

Yet home in Baltimore, I fell back into the same rut of not having any clue as to where to move, where to go.  I loved writing, art, religion: and I was deeply searching spiritually.  I felt a lifetime of questions and curiosities and fascinations with God and the things of God constantly welling up for me.

But it was like I had nowhere to go with anything.  I didn’t have any college behind me, my friends were nearing the end of school or had graduated, and I felt like I was lost or left behind.  My family didn’t understand my thinking on anything, didn’t understand what I was doing.  I seemed to them to be drifting and I heard about it all the time.  My parents were still at war with each other, and my grandparents on both sides were always in anxiety about what I was going to do with my life.  My father was pressuring me to do the military, to do what he did when he was my age.  I tried to convince him that my situation was not the same as his, because I really felt I was being “led” somewhere by God…although to no avail, since all my dad could see was that materially, I was going nowhere fast.  I had nothing to show for.  I had no accomplishments, I had no money, I had no real ‘direction’ to him.  Or to anyone around me either.

I retreated in many ways into my own private world, studying scriptures and spending time in libraries, looking for any and all information about God and the things of God.  I was all over the map too, like an adventurer traveling the globe in search of various sites to explore, I was rifling through books on Zen, Bhakti, Christian mysticism, you name it.  And I was also reading the Beats too:  Jack Kerouac and his pals.  To me, he seemed to capture in his writing something of what it was like to pursue a Holy Grail or sorts, although I felt sorry for him that he got so wrapped up with drinking, drugs, and the rest.  I didn’t like many of the things he did, but I could identify with the passion for life, and searching for that one mystical experience that would define you forever.  For me, it was God.

I was dating a girl who was in medical school, and we went together for a good while.  But we were different when it came to God and religion, and for me, this was central.  I still had this passion burning in my heart that no one but me understood.  This set me apart from everything and everyone.  Yet I still felt the pains of not fitting in anywhere, not knowing where this was taking me, and how anything was ever going to work out.  Where was I going to go with this? What kind of job could I ever get?  How would I fit in anywhere?  It seemed more and more curious and at times, frightening.  There were plenty of times where it would get to me and I really wondered where in the heck I was going in life.  I felt my desires for God increasing, and I felt ‘pulled’ in a very unusual direction, but nothing that seemed normal for everyone else around me was coming into my life.  Everyone else seemed to be moving on and I felt like I was held in place.

I began visiting monasteries, religious orders.  Talking to friars and priests and seeking some counsel, albeit quite privately.  I didn’t want friends and family knowing about it.  They would never understand.

Finally I talked to my father about a few things but he couldn’t understand.  He thought it was just more of the same, drifting and dreaming.

To make a long story short, I eventually started taking classes again and working, struggling with life and finally applied to the seminary, although even then I couldn’t understand what I was doing there, because aside from my passion for God, I really felt I had nothing in common with “churchy” people and institutions.

But my point in all this is that there were just so many things converging on me at once.  And I left the nest too early, whether it was that I fell out, was kicked out, had to get out, tried to fly before my wings were ready, whatever.   Part of me never had a chance to grow up and so it never did.

It really caused a lot of problems for me in one way, over those few years, because I wasn’t ready to support myself and be totally on my own.  So much training and preparation was simply absent.  I oftentimes just didn’t know what to do.  I felt bad about it a lot, but there I was, hanging on to friends and not feeling experienced enough to make it on my own.  But I couldn’t go ‘home’ either, because for so many reasons, there was no ‘home’ to go back to.  And when I ended up there a couple times, because I needed a place to stay, it was awful and I couldn’t wait to get out.  Just too much there that I didn’t fit in with.  I was totally different than everyone around me, whether they were family OR friends.

Those years were like a pressure cooker of sorts.  I was held in place and feeling the pressure from so many sides until the right sorts of feelings, thoughts, and movements of the heart were provoked and drawn forth.   Then, after there had been the right kinds of transformation in my heart and mind, I was moved into the streams which led to rivers….seminary and all that would follow.

It becomes clear, if I think back on it long enough, how painful some things were during those times.  I worried and panicked…I was stuck and couldn’t move.  I had no idea how to reach any of the dreams I had, when it came down to it.  And no one among my family or friends really shared in or believed in, any of my dreams.

And because I left the nest too early, I never really learned how to grow up as they say, or make certain transitions at the right time and place.  I did end up taking the right bus, for sure…but at that time, back then, I felt like I missed all the buses and all the ships sailed.  It left me feeling completely lost sometimes.

It was paralyzing…and that’s what a rut felt like to me.  In my heart, deep down, I somehow knew it was going to be alright.  But my mind gave me a fit most of the time, simply because it was hooked into the same world everyone else around me was hooked into.  I wasn’t experienced enough spiritually to see clearly that this was only just “the world”, and not reality according to Jesus.  Now I can look back and see Jesus was doing all this with me quite on purpose.  It was necessary to shake loose the hold the world had on me.  It was necessary to have me disassociated from the world to a large enough degree, to get me to start seeing the things of God in a clear light.  This wasn’t something everyone else cared about.  I had to be different.  And I was, plain and simple.

The ruts I was in became an important tool, as it turns out.  They forced me to think and experience life quite differently. I really, really felt alone…and I was.  I wasn’t understood, and no one appreciated my thoughts and feelings about God and life.  Except the voices from the Lord Himself as He spoke to me here and there through certain religious people I met over the course of that period…just enough to let me know I was not mistaken.  I was moving along the right path…but more patience would be required.

Funny enough, I went into the seminary and had, over the next four years, a completely structured life and I excelled in it.  My problems however continued because I then was battling corrupt priests and church stuff.  So one problem was replaced by another.   I again hung on tightly to the faith I had, which by now was strong as steel but was still being worked on by the bad guy though all these awful seminary experiences.  I was eventually sentenced to ‘death’ in a matter of speaking, by the evils in high places…experiencing the wrath of the devil and the evils of a thoroughly corrupt institution.   I was hung out to dry, thrown out on the street again.

Some of those old fears and worries returned.   And you know, I never really had a ‘nest’ I thought.  Not one to come from, and not one to go to.  I felt those scary dark drafts coming back and it was quite disconcerting.    I thought much in those days and weeks about Jesus who said that everyone had a place to lay their head, except for Him.  He had no place to call home here, no nest to get warm in and feel safe.  Deep down, over the years, I always secretly wished I had that.

I was then finally taken in by Mary Ellen Lukas and her family.   Jesus did give me this, finally, and I have it now.  And all those things I couldn’t have during that time growing up, because it was necessary, I do have now.  Life is still hard and it gets harder all the time….with Jesus, with the ways of God, it’s not an easy road.  Transformation and the Holy Grail are not cheaply obtained.

But I do have that nest now.  Actually, living with the Lukas family, and becoming one of its members, not just a live-in, has healed me and made me strong.  Goes back to what I was saying before about having REAL FRIENDS.

I told Chloe not to worry…that I know exactly how she feels.  I know all about that!  And I know from experience, too, that we will always make it through our trials and struggles, feeling lost, and finding our way…as long as we keep Our Lord in front of us, always in sight.  He’s our compass, our lighthouse, our map, our guiding star in the heavens.

I had my crossroads, I remember it well.  Chloe has her crossroads:  and she’ll get through them with flying colors I think.  And I said to her, look: see how you and your new sister are put together to go through these things together.   The Lord is kind…and so generous.  The thing that really makes me excited about what Chloe has, is that she’s ahead of the game because she got a good education in what really matters in this world…she has Faith and her heart and mind are good and solid.  Many of the harder battles we all face on the Path are already behind Chloe.  She has more to come, but she’s starting off happy and knowing who she is.  She’ll do wonderful.   She has true friends, real friends, too.

I do wish I had a friend then to walk with, like Chloe does now…but Our Lord had different plans for me and I had to go it alone.  That’s how things were meant to be for me.  Jesus is wise.

Many battles are put behind us.  And yet they will be ongoing.   You’re made strong and given the things you lack, that you need:  because you need your nourishment, you need your strength: as ahead, there are yet more, deeper, stranger, and glorious battles to fight.

God knows what He’s doing with you.

In Hoc Signo Vinces….

 

 

 

+ Faculty Member Snapshot

Posted By on June 5, 2012

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

+ A Friendly Follow Up

Posted By on June 5, 2012

 

 

A friend of mine recently brought up with me one of my recent posts about “friends”.  He laughed and said it made him think about his own collection of buddies.

And I said it’s basically like this:  if your friends are good, if they help you get to God, they’re good friends.  No worries.  But if they don’t do that, or they get in your way with God, make things harder to get or stay close to God, if they take you away from God and your responsibilities, then at worst you can’t be around them, and at best, they’re only acquaintances…people you “know”.

I’ve known situations over the years, observing family members when I was growing up, and friends even from my own life now:  how when they’re married, they retain certain friends (who won’t let go of them, just as much as they can’t let go of their ‘old identity’ before getting married) and keep affirming a false identity for their buddy.  They pull him down into their circle of  having no commitments, or into irresponsibility, and away from their married lives and the responsibilities they have there.  Not good friends.   When a man is married, or a lady is married, they leave behind many things, many old ways of thinking and being.  You have to to make room for what’s needed now in a new life:  that is, NEW LIFE.

God, spouse, children, and everything that goes with these things.

I personally think that when you choose your way of life, and off you go, you have to let a lot of things go about your former life.  So many people don’t want to do this, don’t want to think this way, but you really have to.  If you don’t, you never really leave home, you never really get married, you never really come to learn how to make any sacrifices and cultivate the ground you are given.

You can’t keep those old things going in your new life as if they are still current; they’re just not good for you.  They drag you down, they keep you from investing totally in what you are supposed to be doing now.

Just like any other stage of growth, you have to learn to let go and let previous stages of your life be exactly that:  previous stages.  You say goodbye to some things so that you have the strength and energy and place to say hello to new things.

That’s one of the reasons I let go of guys I thought were my friends from high school and college years, when I got involved in the seminary and then became a priest.  They didn’t mix, and were always trying to pull me away from what I wanted to dedicate my life to.  They kept trying to re-establish my old identity with them, which was only something THEY wanted to keep themselves from feeling miserable all by themselves.  They needed company and didn’t want me moving on with my life.

How many times I’ve seen guys who couldn’t break with their high school, college, or work friends…when they really should have.  And it pulled them away from their homes, where they needed to build a new life.

As I said, I reached a point with my old friends where I realized they weren’t interested in my good; they didn’t respect what I was doing with my life and only wanted me to hang out with them…and to do that would’ve meant giving up on what I was called to do.  Not being interested in my good, this was proof they didn’t really care about a real friendship.  They didn’t respect or care about me, not really.

So in my case, it became necessary to completely cut ties with them…because God was my life, not these guys who didn’t believe in God, didn’t want God, and laughed at what was sacred to me behind my back.  I’d have been a colossal fool to keep up with them.   And all for what?

You’re wasting time with people who don’t value what you do, and aren’t going to.  You can be kind and pleasant when you see them.  But who your real friends are, and where your true life is, and WHERE YOU BELONG IN LIFE  might be quite another story.

Like I told my friend, this is a call you’re going to have think hard about and make all by yourself.

+ Candid Glimpse Into A Katoonist’s Morning Routine

Posted By on June 5, 2012

So here you see Chloe working hard at her morning art.  I was hoping to catch her without her noticing, but sure enough she must’ve sensed the camera up in the air being pointed at her.

The view is from my seat at the school desk; and as you can see, Chloe is surrounded by reminders of the cartoon world:  Mistor K is in the background there (you can’t see Pigment).  Spyduck is on his pedastal, and across the top of the drawing desk you see other assorted friends from the Beanie Babie collection.

Chloe’s routine is to come in first thing and get rolling with the next installment of her ongoing saga with Porky, Unit 129, and the rest of the ‘gang’.   Chloe loves her coffee, but only drinks half the cup.  And she rarely remembers to take it back up with her at the end of the school day, so it’s down here, cold and still half-full (or half-empty?).

But I let it go, because the Katoons are becoming more and more brilliant.

+ A Thing Or Two To Learn From the Monks of Mount Athos

Posted By on June 5, 2012

 

I was looking at some news stories and a few video clips of the monks of Mount Athos last night, a long standing interest with me from way back when I first came into the Church and started practicing my faith more seriously….around the early college/seminary years.

What struck me with interest last night was how the monks there — from middle to advanced age — are apparently in such excellent health.  There was a study done between 1994-2007 on some 1,500 monks and it found that there was none developed lung or bowel cancer, and only 11 had prostate cancer, a fraction of the international rate (According to The Independent).

They eat only two meals a day, 10 minutes each, of the “Mediterranean Diet”:  the meals are comprised mostly of vegetables and fruit, with some fish and poultry.  They use olive oil instead of butter.  Herbs instead of salt.  They even have red wine for the breakfast meal. The benefits of this diet are rather well known and respected: lower rates of cancer, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s.

The monks work steadily throughout the day, mixing work and prayer, and do not concern themselves at all with news, television, internet and email.  They are devoted to prayer continuously throughout the day, cultivating the biblical mandate of St. Paul to “pray unceasingly”.  When it’s not liturgical prayer, it’s the Jesus Prayer you will find on their lips.

It’s of interest to me here, mainly, that these monks can subsist on their diet and become quite used to it, while not getting much sleep at all, and doing considerable manual labor all day.  In our culture, the standard across the board is that we freak out if lunch time comes and the trough isn’t ready.  We can’t live without our sugar and salt, heavy meats, sweets, and all the rest.  We are such a Food Pyramid obsessed culture, yet look at us:  obesity and all sorts of diet related diseases.  We are so conditioned to have three meals a day plus snacks in between and after; and we do less physically exerting tasks now than ever, because computers and machines do everything for us.  We are becoming fat and dumb, like processed cattle.

We think we “need” this, we think we “need” that.  But actually it’s more about what we are used to…what we are conditioned to have.   Someone who is well conditioned to have rich, sweet, salty, fattening foods thinks they must have that and can’t really get along without it.  The person who eats more simply gets used to eating more simply and feels satisfied with that.  Is much of this problem in our minds then?  Is it really a matter of what we choose to condition ourselves to eat and think?

So speaking of thinking, I think there’s something to learn from the monks living on that island out there.  We can’t do all that they do, practicing their way of life….but what can we perhaps incorporate into our own daily lifestyle?  How about a simpler diet, less thinking about food and satisfying our palate, and more thinking about God and our quality of life?  How about more physical work and exercise lacing our daily routines?  And while we do this work, why not learn to pray while we work, instead of just ‘thinking’?

 

+ I Don’t See the Word “Quitting” In My Lord’s Dictionary

Posted By on June 4, 2012

There are many out there in schools who can’t wait to graduate (quit) high school, and get away from it forever.  They want to put it behind them and get out in the world be grown-ups.  They have no idea how that really works.  I’m glad my little Student never felt that way.

I regret that I wanted to get away from high school when it was ending, but there were other reasons for that which I don’t feel like remembering anymore.  I just remember that overall, what very different thinking I had then.

How differently I think and feel now.

Now, I’m the teacher and I have been for a whole lot of years…and I feel like I’m really just starting to learn important things…important to God, that is.   I don’t want to quit.  I don’t want time and circumstances to make me stop being what I am, doing what I love.

Some things feel like they always were, and were always meant to be.  They’re not supposed to end.  And then, when they do end, you know in your heart it doesn’t make any sense, that it’s not supposed to happen like that.   Life is not supposed to end, love is not supposed to end, learning is not supposed to end.

Where has the fun of learning about God and all things under the cope of Heaven gone….?

So something must be wrong with the way man thinks and builds his world, because if he did it right, the good and the love and the magic wouldn’t have to end.

I just don’t see where it says anywhere that I have to hang up my Mister K coat, tie, and Tilley Hat.

 

+ Kaboo With Wooden Heart

Posted By on June 4, 2012