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They saw a Samaritan carrying a lamb on his way to Judea.
He said to his disciples, "That man is round about the lamb."
They said to him, "So that he may kill it and eat it."
He said to them, "While it is alive, he will not eat it, but only when he has killed it and it has become a corpse."
They said to him, "He cannot do otherwise."
He said to them, "You too, look for a place for yourselves within repose, lest you become a corpse and be eaten.

- Logion 60, The Gospel of Thomas


I've been thinking recently, about the notion of an 'interior castle' as a kind of fortification for the spirit, and this post by Fr. Jordan Stratford brought those thoughts to the forefront of my mind.

We live in a world where we are surrounded by information, by the need to keep doing, to keep moving, to fill our days with activity after activity, to keep "busy" no matter what. For what? For money? Wealth? Power? Distraction? Fear of being alone? Fear of silence?

What happens when we neglect the so-called "interior castle" of the spirit, when the flames no longer flicker in the lamps and the musty odour of dust has replaced the rich aroma of frankincense? What happens when we both dwell in the world and become of the world?

It carries us off, bound like a lamb for slaughter. Money, wealth, power, being "busy," what do they bring? Temporary benefits, temporary comfort? And when you're alone what then?

Don't fear that place of repose within yourself... nourish it.
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This has to be one of the strangest greeting card holiday weekends I've experienced in a couple of years. My mother happens to thoroughly enjoy greeting card holiday, and I naturally procure her a greeting card and some little bauble which then results in "Aw, thank you!" or some variation thereof. And then we usually amble out to breakfast or brunch depending on the time.

Today, however, I spent the day taking a trip down to the county jail. My father is, yet again, in jail on charges of obtaining a prescription by fraud. He has done this sort of thing off and on for most of my life, so it's not that big of a surprise anymore. I've been there before to visit inmates and children of members of my various congregations who've been tossed in Juvenile for a bit, but this was a new experience. I no longer had to amble around the cell block toward a visitation room, rather I went to a building across the street from the cell blocks proper and the visit was conducted by video conference on closed-circuit TV.

It was really quite a different experience. Maybe it's always been that way and I just never knew it because priests got to use the proverbial back entrance when making pastoral visits, but it was new to me.
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On April 12, 2005, it will be one year to the day that I officially began the process of leaving the priesthood. I figured leaving behind one of the most significant events of my life, to date, would be easy; it hasn't been. I'm still rather too attached to Christianity for my own good, I think.

I can still feel that strange, distinctly warm tingle in my palms; the sensation has been there since my ordination, and it's incomparable to any other sensation I've experienced. I can hear a voice in my head sometimes, telling me to go back... put on the cassock, take up the rosary, say Mass once more, and everything will be back to normal. That would be great, if it could go back to the way it was; if that were something I could stomach going back to... the bickering, the infighting, the self-aggrandizing bishops... but then there are the members of my old congregation who tell me how much they wish I would come back. I think about it; being a parish priest was a pleasant occupation... then I remember what I was like for those last two months before I made the decision to leave... severely depressed, nearly catatonic at the altar... lacking the motivation to make sick calls or to take communion to shutins.

Then there was the ASL professor who decided that one of my dear friends nearly dying and coughing up blood on me wasn't an excuse to miss her lecture... despite the fresh bloodstains on the front of my clerical shirt.

When I asked her "What kind of priest do you think I'd be if I left a dying man alone and refused him Viaticum because I had to get to an ASL lecture?"

Her response: "A priest who could sign."
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[livejournal.com profile] thecherrywench's post "a nice, blah day" got me thinking about materialism in American culture. She mentioned crying because she couldn't keep up with the fashion trends and all, and I've got to wonder what's the point of all that? I remember when I was a child in primary school and we couldn't afford to buy new clothes (thrift shops were the name of the game back then); I remember being mocked and ridiculed because the clothing I wore wasn't new, wasn't usually very stylish, and was almost never "name brand." It was absolutely hellish to go through school like that, and I often found myself wishing I could afford the same clothing everyone else was wearing, not because I liked it but because I wanted the humiliation to stop.

Eventually, when my home life straightened out (and my parents straightened up) there was more money, but I never really bought in to the idea that I should wear Tommy Hilfiger or Ralph Lauren clothing simply because of the label on the clothing. My criteria for clothing is that it should be suitable for its intended purpose, and be well made. Sometimes more expensive "name brand" clothing fits that criteria, but most of the time the name brand clothing is no more or less well-made than "off brand" items.

It says something abhorrent about society when someone can become depressed and upset because they can't afford to keep up with the latest trends, or with the latest perception of what an attractive physique is.

One of the most humbling times of my life was during my priesthood. I owned four black clerical shirts with accompanying Roman collars (three were short sleeved, one was long sleeved), three pairs of bluejeans, and a pair of black trousers, a cassock, and some miscellaneous clothes to wear on my off days and for sleeping. I came to realize how little I really needed in the way of clothing and how much money I spent on it before becoming a priest.
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In the United States, many of us grow up with this idea that we're the great "Melting Pot" of the world, and we have this idea that we simply must be diverse "multi-cultural." However, I often wonder whether multi-culturalism is as good for Americans as some people make it out to be.

In a sense there really is no "American Culture" aside from that held by the various Native American tribes. We're a young nation and already we're teeming with hundreds, perhaps thousands, of different cultures all crammed in to one relatively finite space, whether that be a neighbourhood, a town, a city, a state, or a country. We're hardly unified culturally in any sense; all of us, no matter how long we've been here, still identify in some way with our 'parent' cultures. This isn't a bad thing; In fact, I think we need to realize and embrace the fact that though we're in the United States and we do approach things in a different way from our counterparts, we're still pretty bloody close to them culturally and linguistically.

I think what I'm trying to say here is that in our society, amongst a very vocal segment, multi-culturalism is taken to an extreme, and I don't think Abrahamic monotheism helps matters any. We are not all the same. We do not all view the world in anywhere close to the same way, and we have different customs despite the fact that we live in the same geographical space. We are a diverse lot. Instead of embracing our diversity and our own unique identities, we're encouraged to see how we're all alike, and in my mind this emasculates and denigrates who we are in the name of "getting along."

Thoughts, comments, heckles? Bring 'em on.

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September 2007

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