Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Displaced, But Not Discouraged

This morning, I spent a good two hours staring through the glass windows in the living room that led to the gardens belonging to this house and its neighbors.  I stared and stared but could almost see nothing, as the autumn was giving way to winter and the trees were almost fully covered with a white mist.  Some leaves peeked through the fog, reminding me of their presence.

I wasted away the hours, partly because I needed time to finish my bowl of barley and oats with some honey and a serving of banana, the healthiest breakfast I had ever known, and partly because I needed time to reflect on my own displacement.

Like the garden, my life was before me but I could not see it clearly.  Everything was shrouded in mystery and suspense.  True, I had known better than to pin all my hopes to Sydney and My Gap Year, but still, there were times when I wish I could see the future, both immediate and faraway.

This displacement was self-imposed, planned, long-considered, and welcomed.  And yet, as I had not been fully transformed into perfection, I continued to be gripped by fear on seemingly futile nights of empty pages and silent inboxes, and visited by doubt on mornings that could have been beautiful had I been wearing my rose-colored spectacles.

I blamed God.  I questioned God. I begged of God to speak through my doubt and make me a happier, more hopeful person.  He who had carried me through all my unpreparedness in life, all my dependence, all my little indiscretions of the mind and heart - He always got the blame.

Someone told me that in this time alone, I should not expect all my life's questions to be answered.  Perhaps, he said, it was time to face the questions.

But the questions could be dark and depressing.  Certainly, they were not pleasant to the eye and warm to the touch.  They were cold and lifeless and unyielding.  I wanted everything to be handed to me on a silver platter, with a silver fork to consume it with.  I did not want to go through isolation and uncertainty.

There were days, not many, when I would grow tired of reflecting, and I would get restless.  I would look up options not really consistent with my life's direction.  I would make plans that had no signs of my passion.

Another wise fellow shared withe me that when he and his wife left the city for a while and tried provincial life, they got to know themselves better.  What he said was already familiar to me; however, the confirmation was real and reassuring. It was going to be worth it.  Jumping, leaping, to stay hungry and foolish, leaving behind all self-judgment at the lateness of the choice, closing my eyes to the doors that could lead to alternate lives where I could pretend to be another version of myself: happy enough, comfortable enough, and still asking questions; the words of those who had journeyed with me would be the silent force that would sustain me.

Something happened, both expected and unexpected, that displaced me once more.  That's why I had to sit, stop the aimless fluttering, and regain my bearings.  Where was I? Why did I go here again? Who did I want to become? What was being asked of me to do? What was the point of pursuing myself, when I could never be whole, when parts of me would always be scattered to the four corners of the earth?

I knew I needed faith, more than I had been used to.  No surprise there.  It was the grace which I needed all along.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Experiencing the Mass in Sydney

Among the things I left behind in the Philippines is my service to my parish, which I had gradually detached from.  I wondered, though, what kind of spiritual life I would lead during my gap year, having been so used to a country that was historically and culturally programmed to be religious, and being active either in my community or the parish for the past twenty (20) years.

What should not come as news to me is that: 1) God is omnipresent and omnipotent, so of course He is here in Australia; and 2) I belong to the Roman Catholic church, and I can go to mass wherever and know the responses and be able to participate fully, even with a different community, and absent the guitar music that the choirs back home favored.

I am blessed indeed for in my Sydney family's parish resides a priest who delivers the most interesting, animated, and informative homilies using presentations that feature, among others, movies, songs, and books to bring the Gospel message to the people.  I look forward to Fr. Geoffrey Plant's homilies every Sunday.  I have subscribed to his YouTube channel.

One Sunday, however, a friend of mine invited me to hear mass at St. Mary's Cathedral in the city.  I had been to the cathedral but not to its solemn mass featuring the full choir.  It. Was. Amazing.  I was enveloped in the most beautiful music - from the organ to the choir -  that became prayers that were lifted up to the heavens. I was happy to sit and not sing - for some songs were in Latin - praying instead with the choir because I knew of what they were singing.  It was the mass, after all.  I do not know how to describe the experience.  Perhaps it is like sipping hot tea with honey on a cold, lonely afternoon, its warmth quietly enveloping you and taking you to a happier place.  Multiply that by a million times, that's how it felt to listen to the cathedral choir during solemn mass.

The priest then said words that became my theme for the week.

"To live is to change, and to be perfect is to have changed often." - Cardinal Newman

There are so many changes I am living with right now, and if they lead me to perfection, then I happily embrace them all.