Note: I have been examining and assessing my spiritual life, growth, and development for some time now in preparation to enter discernment for the formation for the diaconate. As part of this self examination, I was asked to write a spiritual autobiography of sorts. This will be published in digestible bits. I have decided to share this ever expanding text for two reasons: One, to show people that wherever you are in life, a path to the Lord and His Church is right in front of you, and, two, to elicit prayers for my discernment.
In a homily given by our parish pastor, he shared a line that he has lived by: looking back is to invite sorrow, looking forward is to invite worry, looking up is to invite faith. Trusting faithfully that the moment we are living in is most important. But one cannot often help glancing back from time to time. The trick is to be wary of looking back through the lens of today.
My wife, Cheri, and I, while dating, visited many different churches. Church hopping was what we coined it. College had taken me away from Zion, the band had long since dissolved, and Cheri and I were in search of a place to grow spiritually. We discovered that we both had a strong love for Christ and a strong desire to get to know Him better and grow closer to Him. We were married in a non-denominational church by Cheri’s childhood pastor and good friend of the family.
When we had our first child, we thought it would be nice to have him baptised Catholic. So I reached out to the parish of my childhood. I was told that I would have to have permission from my current parish to have my son baptised there. The problem was that I wasn’t currently a member of any parish. The person on the phone advised me to get in touch with my local parish office. Feeling annoyed, I decided my son was not going to be baptised Catholic. He was “dedicated” to the Lord and was not baptised until he was much older.
When we moved to our current home, we settled at the Methodist church there. I began playing music for the evening service. But both Cheri and I began to feel something was missing. Cheri had suggested on more than one occasion that we visit the local Catholic Church. I would just shrug my shoulders and move on to the next topic.
One particular Sunday evening, after a few songs, the associate pastor of the Methodist church began asking for prayer requests when one person said that we should all praise him, the associate pastor, as he had be instrumental growing programs at the church. I stood behind the associate pastor with my guitar strapped on me waiting for him to explain to the congregation that there was no need to praise him. Does one praise a hammer for hitting a nail? No. Don’t praise me, I thought of him saying. We praise our Lord. I am a mere servant. The only thing was, he didn’t. He didn’t say anything except thank you. I realized then that I wouldn’t be playing music there ever again. When I looked at my wife sitting in the seats, she shook her head and blessed herself. The next Sunday we attended a Catholic Mass.
Cheri soon began RCIA. I had met with the priest discussing my reestablishment with the Church. Our oldest son was baptised. Soon after Cheri’s Confirmation, we had our marriage convalidated in the Church. A year or so later, we had our third child. Before long we added two more.
Still, we both felt the need for a deeper involvement with the Church, to get to know it better, more intimately, more deeply. After researching several orders, we decided to pursue a vocation in the secular Carmelite order. We have been in discernment for about a year and a half now and look forward to entering formation in a few months.
Even with the ever nearing closeness with Christ that the Carmel vocation facilitates through contemplation and meditation and formation, I felt compelled to work for the Church in a deeper capacity. Especially after, in what seemed like passing, our priest one day last summer mentioned to me that he thought I would make a good deacon. I smiled. And the seed grew as I am now planning on entering discernment for the diaconate.
With the gift of hindsight, I can see where I was gently nudged this way and forcefully pushed that way. I am careful, though, to look back through a lens that has not been ground by what I know today. We can only do the best we can with what we know when we know it. Looking back any other way can lead to sorrow of the past which turns into anxiety of the future.
I could mention many more moments that were essential to my spiritual maturing, but they are now out of focus for me, and so I will trust the Lord’s vision, His will, that the moments he has blessed me to remember with clarity will help serve me and others as I develop into a more dutiful and committed servant to Him and his children.
Looking back from time to time without sorrow and regret but with recognition and acceptance, we just might be surprised to discover that the path we thought we were on is actually the trail we have blazed.