Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Unconditional Cheerfulness

Saturday I attended a wonderful day of reflection at San Damiano Friary facilitated by Dave Richo. He gave each of us a booklet of "Quotations to Ponder" and among them was this one which I have been pondering:

"Empowered to turn negativity into a resource, I found flowering in me an unconditional cheerfulness and patience that is indestructible, because it is not based on the rejection of obstacles. . . I learned how to crack my habits open and discover the luminous, enlightened energy frozen within them--energy which became available for creative work and joy. . . I understood that virtues are always cultivated from their opposites: patience is the ability to accommodate impatience, courage is the ability to handle fear, and wisdom is not possible unless confusion is allowed to emerge. Therefore I developed immense respect for my mistakes; without them, my discoveries could not have been made." by Stephen T. Butterfield.

Reading this I was reminded of a comment my bishop Vincent Warner, Bishop of Olympia in 1990 when I wrote to him about the confusion of joining a religious order, the confusion of coming out, the confusion of wondering what I was supposed to be about in my life. He wrote back: "We need to have the courage of our confusion!" I took that to mean stop chasing after answers that won't come until its the right time. I always wanted answers right away.

Now I still wonder the same things, but the answers are right there alongside the questions. The only thing I need to do is to be open to the challenges these answers present.

Do I want more intimacy in my life? I am surrounded by men who want the same thing, do I have the grace to accept what God is offering me? Do I have the charity to see them as God sees them?

Do I want to be a great advocate for social justice and a leader of people? I am surrounded by situations and people who need help. Do I have the humility to help those at my right side and my left? Or do I simply long for the spotlight of glamorous aid given to people in the news, far away?

Do I want more joy and laughter in my life? I am embedded in a life of serendipity and weird connections, extraordinary "synchronicities" (to coin a phrase) and hilarious absurdities.

These are the sustenance for the road. With them I can share my faith, serve the world in Christ's name. Joy and unconditional cheerfulness can come from being aligned with reality. Reality exists apart from my fondest dreams, It is something I have to actually accept on its own terms. When I live a reality based, love infused life, I discover (over and over again, alas--such is this amnesiac) the joy of my life as a man, a friar, a priest--Lover writ large.

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