Tag Archives: conversation

Duc in Altum

I am getting tired of this never-ending job search. I am also getting tired of constantly feeling judged that I do not have a better job. Many people often think it should be easy for me to get a better job or even a career. I try not to let those judgements get to me but it is difficult when I am so eager to get one myself. My mother was kind enough to point out that people do not understand the entire situation and truly it is none of their business. The fact of the matter is I moved to New York almost a year ago not for a job or a career. I moved simply because God told me to with the promise that He would take care of me and He has kept His promise. More important than a career, He has revealed Himself to me and I have grown closer to Him then I ever thought possible. The Gospel today was all about Peter letting Jesus into his boat.

“Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch.”

Simon said in reply,

“Master, we have worked hard all night and have caught nothing,
but at your command I will lower the nets.” (Luke 5 1-11)

Peter had such faith in Jesus that he listened and obeyed whatever Jesus asked of him, and as a result he not only got a bounty of fish but he became a “fisher of men” and essentially the first Pope. After reading the Gospel, I am left with the question: will I cooperate with Jesus when He gets into my boat? Once Jesus gets into your boat, He will lead you into the depths. “Duc in altum,” as Saint John Paul II said. It will be dangerous but it will be exciting.

If I am honest with myself, my job has been a true “thorn in my side” but Jesus wants me there because it is a crucial part of my journey. It has nothing to do with the actual job; it has everything to do with the people I interact with and the influence we have on one another. Yesterday a regular customer came up to me and said to me, “I love seeing you here, your aura is always glowing. Did you know that?” I was taken off-guard by this comment, especially since I felt like my aura was close to extinguishing at that moment. She opened up to me about how she had been struggling with some health issues and over the past week she had been starting to decrease her medications. She was clearly in a better state of being, she had never talked to me this much before. She said it was a true miracle, she had been plagued by these side effects of all these medications for years and within only a week she is already seeing a difference. She admitted to me that she does not tell many people about her medical history but she felt comfortable with me and knew I would understand her situation. I felt truly honored and humbled that she opened up to me. Just through that one conversation it is clear why the Lord placed me there at that time. The impact that I had on that woman is more valuable than any career or job that I have been wishing that I could have during this time in New York.

While these interactions are wonderful and inspiring, I still leave my job longing for more. I do desire to be more financially independent and have more freedom. My life is dependent on that paycheck and I don’t like living like that. God always provides but sometimes I wish He would let me provide a little for myself. Of course, Jesus has a beautiful sense of humor and has a way of readjusting my perspective. One day while I was on my break at work, I was sitting in the break room and it was around the time all the mid-shift workers were going home. One coworker came down ranting about wanting to be rich. “When you are rich you can do whatever you want.” It is common knowledge that he has a difficult life, he is on the spectrum and the only reason he still has his job at the store is out of pity. I have had an up and down relationship with this coworker but recently I mostly just feel great sadness for him because there is so much he doesn’t understand. He truly believes that all the “great” people were rich. He ended his rant with, “No one who is is poor ever made anything of themselves.” There were some other coworkers also listening to him and all made the the general statement that this statement wasn’t true. I took it a step further and told him, “Jesus was poor and He changed the world.” There was an actual pause after that. I think I took everyone off-guard and I received a lot of quizzical looks. Finally, as if they were brought out of a trance they all agreed, “You’re right, that is the best example.” Too bad the coworker who was ranting was already halfway out the door and I don’t think he heard me. Regardless, it was not only a reality check for my coworkers but also for me. I have chosen to go into the depths with Jesus Christ; it is not meant to be comfortable and I don’t want it to be.

Originally posted at Kitty in the City.
Image: PD-US

Jet Lag

Here it is, 3:44 AM in New York City and I am wide awake because it is 9:44 AM in France. I have been back from my pilgrimage to France for a few days now and I thought that I had been adapting to the time change pretty well… evidently not. My inconsistent work schedule most likely has some part to play in this. I am either getting up really early to open the store or getting up really late to close the store. I am severely lacking consistency. In addition to my unstable work schedule, I do have quite a few things on my mind. Coming back from my pilgrimage has been a true emotional roller-coaster to say the least, especially going back to work.

Work has become almost unbearable. France allowed me to see my work life with refreshed eyes and it helped me realize how much chaos my work creates. I truly dreaded the first day because I was scared of what I would walk into. The people I work with are wonderful but can be unpredictable. I never know what I am going to get with them. The pilgrimage ignited a deeper relationship with God and Mary and they definitely had my back as I walked back into my work and ensured that I had a joyful return. There was a select group of people I was very excited to see and it was reassuring when I realized that they were just as excited to see me.

I had brought back assorted gifts for different coworkers. There was one coworker in particular who wanted a magnet. I must confess getting her this magnet was actually more out of guilt. I had brought back some Colorado magnets the last time I went home and gave them to a few people. She saw them and asked if she could have one. I was not planning on giving her one then simply because I did not think that we had that close a relationship. She later revealed to me that she collects magnets and if I could bring her back a Colorado magnet the next time I go home she would appreciate it — she even offered to pay for it. The old Catholic guilt seeped in and I was bound and determined to get her a magnet from this trip.

I ended up buying her a magnet highlighting the city of Lourdes. I tried to make it as non-religious as possible just because I didn’t know what her background was. Her reaction to the magnet was something I would have never expected in a million years. I gave the magnet to her Monday and I told her my reason for going to France was for a pilgrimage. She smiled and nodded her head; this was the typical reaction I was getting from my coworkers. I assumed she wasn’t sure what a pilgrimage was. The next day she came up to me and inquired more. She started asking me specific questions about Lourdes and pilgrimages there. I was impressed, she was the first person at my work who actually knew why Lourdes is so important to my faith. She even talked about Saint Bernadette and how she grew up watching the movie “The Song of Saint Bernadette.” It was one of her favorite movies.

Our Lady of Lourdes
Our Lady of Lourdes

Throughout the day she continued to ask me questions about my religion. It started very general, basically just telling her why I went, but evolved into discussing her faith and how she had fallen away over the years. She told me that she was baptized but never received any other sacraments. She has a daughter who does not practice any religion and her granddaughter is a self proclaimed atheist. I could hear the regret in her voice and tears even welled up in her eyes. I said that I have had my struggles with my faith and had my moments of questioning. She asked me how I found my way back to my religion. I told her that I first had to reconcile my relationship with the Lord and I did that through prayer. She added that she never has received a good answer from her granddaughter as to why she refuses to go to church. At the end of the conversation, she seemed to be more determined to re-address the conversation with her granddaughter — she is older now and may be able to articulate her feelings better. My coworker was still in tears and I could tell something was still bothering her. She brushed it off saying she was just going through a lot of things lately. I didn’t want to pry plus we really needed to get back to work. I ended up just giving her a hug and said that no matter what she was going through she was a beautiful person and I was always there if she ever wanted to talk more. The rest is in the Lord’s hands. I will pray for her of course, along with her daughter and granddaughter.

God and Mary truly surprised me with this one. This coworker was one of the last people I would have guessed would understand what I encountered in Lourdes. The conversation we had blessed me just as much as it blessed her. It allowed me to relive my experiences I had in France and I was able to give a more honest account of my trip instead of the general, “oh I had a great time.” I pray that my affirmation of my faith will encourage her to revisit hers and maybe bring her back to the Lord.

___

Originally posted at Kitty in the City.
Featured image: Mosaic in the Rosary Basilica, Lourdes / PD-US

Can talkative people make it to Heaven?

The title of my post might sound a bit weird but this thought comes to me whenever I finish an enriching conversation with somebody. My definition of enriching means that the conversation contained no gossip, was intellectually stimulating and humanly deep, and done in an atmosphere of mutual listening and sympathy. It need not always be explicitly about God, though God and religion are very often (at least for me!) one of the most interesting topics to talk about.

Will heaven be like that? I sometimes wonder. Or is my talkativeness (and I can be very talkative, just ask Grace my wife!) simply a symptom of my deeper restlessness for deep and abiding communication with God?

To be sure, the Christian tradition places a lot of emphasis on silence and with good reason. We are reminded constantly to slow down amidst the busyness of our lives, to still our hearts and quiet the noisiness in our souls. After all, the prophet Elijah did not discover God’s voice in the earthquake or fire (noisy events to put it mildly) but only in a gentle breeze. (1 Kings 19:12-14). And when we reflect on the times we have mis-communicated with someone, we know that it is very often because our minds are so preoccupied and cluttered that we have heard but failed to listen to the other. And we proceed to give advice and to talk even before we have truly listened.

Does that mean the talkative people are to repent in sackcloth and ashes? Well I think that they should repent of being talkative without listening and try to cultivate a capacity for silence. Yet being talkative in itself, when properly understood, is not a bad thing at all. In fact, the ability to communicate is really a participation in the eternal speech of God. Jesus is the WORD of God, as we are reminded in John’s Gospel. And when the Word became flesh, hosts of Angels were singing hosannas to frightened shepherds.

Pretty chatty if you ask me.

The Trinity, Andrei Rublev (c. 1410)
The Trinity, Andrei Rublev (c. 1410)

Indeed, redeemed in Christ, we are able to speak to each other as heirs to the Kingdom, adopted children of the Father. Our sharing is characterized not by boasting but by mutual concern for each other. Conversation becomes enriching as it is free of jealousy, one-upmanship and pride. One genuinely wants to listen to the other, as the other is a brother in Christ, of infinite interest.

We know however that this is not possible on earth. To begin with, we are unable to have conversations with everybody we respect for extended lengths of time as time is finite (though with Facebook, the possibilities are extended!). So we are usually limited to conversations with close friends. And an enriching conversation in which there is mutual vulnerability and friendship seems to me a participation in the eternal conversation of the Trinity in which we are also invited. (Indeed, that’s Fr. Robert Barron’s definition of prayer.)

When I was studying theology, the joke which went around was that when talkative theology students (the kind who can spend literally hours talking about the processions of the Trinity for instance) pass on to the life to come, there would be two doors awaiting them. One would be labeled “God”. The other would be labeled “seminar about God”.  Guess which one the theology student would choose?

I began to panic as I realized that I might choose the second door. I remembered St. Augustine’s passage that the restless heart can only rest in God and know that I must be careful not to mistake theology for God Himself. Nevertheless, will that mean that I won’t be able to talk about theology in heaven if and when (God willing) I get there?

Then I read St. Gregory of Nyssa. His idea of the afterlife is a bit different from Augustine’s, as he holds that there will be no rest in heaven as we will be constantly stretched onwards and upwards towards God. “No limit can be set to our progress towards God; first of all, because no limitation can be put on upon the Beautiful, and secondly because the increase in our desire for the Beautiful cannot be stopped by any sense of satisfaction,” as Gregory puts it in one pungent sentence.

If I understood Gregory correctly, I would have an eternity to talk about theology and an eternity to communicate deeply with the Blessed Trinity and all the saints in heaven. That would include not only the hall-of-famers like Our Blessed Mother, Sts. Peter and Paul, but also our loved ones and others whom we hope have also placed God or following their conscience their top priority.

In the book of Revelation, heaven is portrayed as a wedding feast where guests will be at table, and served by the Lamb Himself. (Revelations 19:7-9)

I presume there would be lots of talking at a wedding feast.

And I do hope that you and I will accept the invitation.