10th Catholic Anniversary Reflections

So, I have not blogged since Easter Sunday.  I’ve had a lot of time to reflect over the last ten years — I’ve been Catholic now for ten years.  I’ve not been disappointed, or ever doubted my calling — the way in which I ran into the arms of the Roman Catholic Church.  There is no other way to come in — when you already believe in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist.  At least I already believed enough in order to seek the rest of the story.  This year my Easter Vigil was extra special — knowing the Elect and Candidates through my participation on the OCIA team this year.  Ah.. Easter Vigil — I come for the smells — the bon fire, incense, and Chrism oil.  I come for the baptismal water and a renewal of promises.  I even come to hear a large portion of Bible read — from Creation to Resurrection.  It makes it all so real for me again — something the Catholic Church does well — making things real again.   I feel that my spiritual life was rescued the day I sat in my first Inquiry session and said, “I want to be Catholic.”   I was very hungry — starving — raised in a tradition that lacked vital nutrients.  Every day I fall more in love with heaven — my heaven has more people in it now that I can talk too. <grin>  Where ever I’m at, I can pause, close my eyes, I can literally taste the heavenly meal — the Eucharist. 

In the last ten years,  I attended World Youth Day in Toronto, made two pilgrimmages to Italy and one to the Holy Land.  I made two trips to Assisi.  I completed a year of Pastoral Ministry Formation  and then went on to finish my bachelor’s degree in Management.  I became a professed Secular Franciscan — that to which I was asked if I was moving too quickly, to be so new in the Catholic Church and then into a religious order.   To that I can only say, “You are saying I cannot live the Gospel life?”  I do understand the questioning — it is a serious life long commitment — a religious profession.  Being a Franciscan is not simply about the Gospel — it is about being in relationship with a community of people — Franciscan family.  Every one who aspires to St. Francis’ spirituality is not meant to spend several years becoming a professed Franciscan.  My whole Christian experience from age 9 forward has been about discovering what Jesus has said in His Gospel.  In my own Southern Baptist experience, I learned nothing of Saints.  Having been brought into the Catholic Church in a Franciscan parish, I was bound to learn about Saint Francis of Assisi.  He was the exclamation point for all that I’d read and studied — the Gospel lived according to Jesus — indeed.  Sometimes, you have to join the family to continue in conversion.  I saw that in him — a model of continuing conversion.  The Christian life is a narrow road.  What does Jesus mean when He says, “Follow me?”  It is a different calling to each of us — you must listen and He will speak.

I feel I should say something profound about my future expectations.  I’m looking forward to the Archdiocese of Atlanta Eucharistic Congress in June.  I’m excited to see Greg and Jennifer Willits will be official speakers.  There is something else I’m looking forward to as well — as God so wills it —  but — I’ll save that for much later.

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Cubicle Witness

So there it is in my photo, my little workspace shrine.  In this workspace, we have short walls and I wanted to keep it minimalist.  I’m mostly free of clutter.  These are the items I don’t compromise.  It is my little corner of faith and fun.  I don’t really get questions about my St. Francis statue.  But, a question about my beach photo will result in the telling of part of my faith journey.

If you read my post on Sacred Heart, this part of my faith journey happened the same summer.  I was 24 and the company I worked for was moving from downtown Atlanta.  The office relocated to Gwinnett County.  I had grown accustomed to riding Marta from my home in South Fulton — parking my car at the station and avoiding the drive into town.  At the time, I was a complete freeway wimp.  After finding out the location of the new office, I picked a Saturday and decided to get up early and give a trial run.  We were still about two or three months away from the move.  By the time I arrived, I was in tears.  There is no way I can make this commute every day.  Some time passed and I saw the blueprints of the new office.  I saw my name written in the space of my new cubicle.  The company was reorganizing and we received “offers” to remain with the company in our current capacity.  I signed the offer that I accepted my “new” job.  Summer arrived and we dealt with the sudden death of an executive.  Things were on track to move in August.  I took vacation with my family in July.

My parents, sister, and another couple, friends of my parents, rented a condo in Panama City Beach, FL.  Near the end of the week, I decided to take a walk on the beach alone.  The move at work was very heavy on my heart.  I was dreading the end of vacation and return to work.  Did I really want the hassle of that commute for a job that wasn’t offering advancement?  I was hired two weeks out of High School when I was 17.  I was always the baby of the office.  I was then 24 and approaching 7 years on the job.  I walked and walked, the whole while my mind was racing.  I teared up.  Silently, I mentally prayed to God for guidance.  That is when it happened — God spoke.

As I was quietly praying and seeking God, I began to hear words in my mind that were not mine.  God said, “Go back and turn in your resignation.  I will take care of you.  I always have.”  The weight was lifted from my heart and I relaxed.  I no longer had a decision to  make.  I had a command to obey.  I raised my camera to the sky and turned to the sun and took a photo of the shore line.  I returned to work on Monday and typed out my resignation letter.  I set my last day for the last day that our office was downtown.  I’m not a spontaneous person nor a risk taker.  My resignation took many by surprise.  The last thing I did was shut down the telephone service in the Bellsouth equipment room and transfer all the calls to the new office in Gwinnett.  I got on the Marta train home and looked to my future.

I didn’t have long to wait because I’d lined up a two week assignment helping out a friend.  I also signed up with a contract employment company and requested airline placement.  The airport was on my side of town and the true opposite of the commute I’d just avoided.  I was placed in September and by December accepted their offer of full time employment.  I framed my photo from the beach and put it on my desk.  That photo has traveled with me to every new desk and new job in the company.  It is a source of solace when I’m frustrated and feel like quiting.  Once, I was up all night praying over a job bid.  God again gave me the courage to act on it.  That career change landed me on a team with an evangelical Catholic.  The little koala bear that clings to my photo was a gift from the friend who became my RCIA sponsor.

I truly believe that God has been lamp unto my feet.  I am without any doubts that God has directed my path from the earliest days of my childhood.  The photo on my desk reminds me of where I was and where I am today — coming on 19 years of service.   The photo reminds me that God spoke to me and I obeyed.  So, when someone says, “That’s a nice picture.  Where is it?”  Well, I say, “That is where God spoke to me and why I am here today.”

Pepe Le Pew lives on my desk too.  He’s my favorite Looney Toons character, or, perhaps it is really Penelope that humors me.  Penelope the cat — the mistaken object of Pepe’s affection.  Perhaps I’ve run from one or two smelly suitors of my own.  Maybe I have a convent spirit in a cubicle world.