169/365 – Who am I, really?

DSCN2506Nothing like digging through your past and throwing most of it away to help you get a fresh perspective on life and yourself, not to mention your relationships with others.  I found dozens of letters written to a sibling, for instance, who to this day hardly responds at all. (Yes, I’m a writer with access to a copier, so I kept copies of my letters to people in case it took them weeks to reply and I couldn’t remember what I wrote them.)

And oh the written chatter I kept spewing back then — I’m talking the 1980s in Phoenix — keeping the Midwestern contacts alive as I raised a young son mostly by myself, lots of time to write, both at home at the super-priviledged ad agency where I was prince of that little puddle, flying to LA for the day to work with household names from TV — I once had half the cast of character actors from M*A*S*H and Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In (Artie Johnson is a dear) doing a radio spot for hot dogs at a convenience store (they were a lost platoon of German soldiers — you had to be there).

But that’s not me.  None of this stuff I’m tossing as I move is.  It’s all just versions of me because I wasn’t in touch with things then like I am now.  I didn’t have the love of God and Jane, I hadn’t looked at myself with the insight and forgiveness of grace and mercy, I really hadn’t done any work at all in trying to be a good human being who cared about his brothers and sisters. “They don’t care about me so the hell with them” was the prevailing attitude, most likely.  “It’s a tough race and the Devil take the hindmost!”

I don’t need much to practice my profession: a notebook, a shoulder bag, one of these new portable computers, some identification and credit cards, a camera, travel Scrabble, and I could be anywhere, writing about anything, Dearest at my side.  That’s the future, and the Devil is welcome to the dry bones and wrinkled pages of the past.

141/365 – Fledgling Catholic takes flight

 

From this spartan setting were a dozens souls saved.

From this spartan setting were a dozen souls saved.

It takes nine months to gestate a Catholic convert.  No coincidence, I’m sure. My RCIA experience ended tonight with a session on prayer, and I pray we all find abundant life in following the plan.

There is  a certain wistful melancholy that accompanies such a transition.  These Tuesday nights with instruction from Monsignor Holmes and support from my fellow converts will be missed.  Yet the process worked and what I learned will always be with me.  Thanks also to the staff who devote their efforts to keeping things going.  And thanks especially to Jane Elizabeth Seton who showed the way for me to become Paul Augustine. Maybe one year I can be a sponsor to another convert.

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127/365 – Divine order for the community

There have to be limits as well as rights.

There have to be limits as well as rights.

In society, order exists for the sake of all.  That’s what we discussed at my continuing education class in Catholic beliefs as we explore the implications of the Ten Commandments.  My patron saint, Augustine, wrote of the “tranquility of order.” One can look at the commandments, or any system of laws, as a set of rules to insure domestic tranquility.

Ah, but the American will say, what about my rights?  I’ve got rights, you know!  And then the battle rages over the defense of these supposed rights and how to balance them against the next person’s rights.

For Catholics, Pastor Holmes said, the fundamental principle is order, and the fact that rights always correlate to duties.  We have a duty to honor our parents, a duty to be faithful to our spouse, a duty to respect life and “the dignity of persons and peoples,” to quote the Cathechism.

Going back to my theme of true communalism, the Cathechism says, “Earthly peace requires the equal distribution and safeguarding of the goods of persons,” in other words, no huge gap in wealth or power, and no piracy.  It goes on to call for “free communication among human beings, and the assiduous practice of justice and fraternity.”  Powerful words that can each be examined in future entries.

119/365 – Do we know God’s name?

Here's what God feels like to me, a beacon in the randomness.

Here's what God feels like to me, a beacon in the randomness.

Interesting discussion of the second commandment at RCIA tonight. (Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults, my Catholic class, for new readers.) Number 2 is about not taking the name of God in vain, and I have had little trouble editing out the “G-Ds” and “J-Cs” out of my swearing and cursing. In fact, since I’ve started this religous journey, I find fewer and fewer instances where I feel like cursing. I never really liked it.  I remember as a kid a group of my buddies asked me one day, “How come you never swear?”  I let loose a couple of F-bombs and so forth just to show them I knew how, but it didn’t feel right.

Sure, later on in college and “the big city” I could hold my own, peppering my sentences with all the choice swear words of the day, but I preferred making new ones up, like “Rat farts!”  Today, when someone cuts me off in traffic, I might make a comment about their intelligence or some part of their anatomy involved with the expulsion of waste, but”cussing” really doesn’t appeal to me.  Neither does losing my temper.

Anyway, to get back to my topic, I’m not sure anyone can ever know the name of the Supreme Being — not in this life.  It would be something beyond us.  The One God is fine with me.  I don’t feel the need for some mystical name known only to the inner circle.  That’s too Old Testament for me. I feel we don’t need a name, just the intention to acknowledge and accept something greater than us who cares about us and knows our name.

103/365 – Maybe my last personal entry

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What to write?  Taxes?  Who cares.  Love?  Too personal.  Conversion?  Is it really anyone else’s business but me, Jane, and God?  Well, to be fair, I’ve already blogged about it and it’s only natural for people to be curious how it came out.

For those just tuning in, I have been studying Catholicism on Tuesday nights for the past nine months, and got confirmed on Easter Saturday, so now I’m a full Catholic, as is my fiancée, Jane, who converted 10 or so years ago. Jane told me of her conversion on our first coffee date and once I knew there was such a process, I was deeply moved to take part in it.

As for the ceremony itself, there are so many steps and stages, you have some time to prepare yourself for the final rite of communion, but there’s really no way to anticipate it, and I tried to remain in the moment.  As I wrote on Sunday (101/365), I got real emotional after communion, but luckily it was a short trip back to my pew where I could kneel and be as emotional as I needed to be.   It was a feeling of coming home, to a home I really never had, but which was waiting for me all along.

I feel different now, and will conduct my life differently as well, with more joy and less sarcasm (well, not too much less), less mean-spirited, bitter sarcasm, but still some righteous indignation where needed to puncture pontification and pretense — especially my own.

I’ve been to confession twice, and haven’t covered all 10 commandments yet.  I keep on dredging up heavy things on my conscience to confess to, and Jane tells me that process will continue. 

I continue to try to make things right with my past relationships with women.  As I face up to each situation, I feel a powerful cleansing emotion – that human blend of sadness for a life that might have been mixed with gladness for the lives that came to be.  I just want any harm to stop and healing to begin.