Last Sunday,was the feast of John the Baptist. This is a figure that’s been an inspiration for me over the years for his ability to call us out of our comfort zone, and call us to a life of radically following Jesus. June 24 therefore is more important for me because of it’s religious and spiritual connotation and not so much for it’s cultural political ones in Quebec. It has a way of renewing my journey in ways that only Easter and Christmas usually can! Last Sunday was no different as I found myself in a bit of a ‘rut’ that day, and was in the end rather renewed in spiritual energy because of the Mass at the local parish. Some of you may pick up on the “renewed energy” bit, and may wonder ” were you in need of renewal? That” , you may conclude ” might imply that you weren’t doing so great to begin with. What’s wrong?”
Not a heck of a lot is wrong, but something is a little off. To put it mildly, I feel a bit disconnected from reality here. My entire world consists of studying, a language -which is a process I find frustrating to begin with- and visiting great Jesuit works without really being involved in them. So I’m part of the community simply as a student and as an observer of the culture. I’m comfortable with the 2nd role more or less, but not with the first, which often leaves me frustrated. I always swore as a Jesuit that I would never be ‘just’ a student, and usually, our vocation would not permit it. We have apostolates and encounters with people that permit it us to be Christ to the world while we busy ourselves with studies. Here, my blogging and responding to people’s blogs has helped me do some ‘ministry’ but I’m not in my element.
And this is to be expected. Part of language learning and immersion is that you need to feel like you don’t belong for a little while until you fully adapt to the language. And that won’t happen soon for me. This means that very often, there’s a lot going that I’m missing out on -jokes, cool conversations, good homilies during Mass etc..). At first, I was rather inspired by the language of the Mass, which is so strongly oriented on Justice. It still inspires me,however, the general feeling is one of disconnect. Logically, if one is surrounded by people that he doesn’t understand, the disconnect is kind of inevitable. There’s all kinds of conversation that go on around me daily that I know I won’t understand, so often, the reflex is to just stop listening. Which is a shame.
It’s only this past Sunday that I realized the negative influence this ‘disconnect’ has had on me. The thing is, I’m still very social, and have many both inside and outside this community. And I am committing myself to the task of language learning as much as my little heart will allow me to ( I’m doing my best, and I’m not completely miserable doing this, but I’m not thriving either). That’s not the issue. The issue is what happens to me when I start not caring about the conversations happening around me, or even the words during the Mass. My tendency is, the moment a word is said that I don’t understand, I just go into my bubble and stop caring about what’s being said. For someone who derives inspiration and joy from the Mass, this is indeed dangerous. I’m afraid it’s even affected my prayer life a little. Although I’m a bit disconnected, I am still spending most of my time in a Spanish environment, trying to wrestle with what people are telling me and to learn crazy verb tenses. It’s exhausting, and at the end of the day, it’s easier for me to ‘watch my tv shows’ than pray. Thankfully, it doesn’t happen too often that the former usurps the latter, but often enough that I was starting to feel concerned about the negative way I’ve responded to this challenge to my Jesuit life.
Sunday started off as an example of a day spent resting, kind of half wasting away. Not a very inspiring day. Even going to Mass in the afternoon was kind of a drag. But the parish here is not. It’s a parish with a pretty solid youth group that does all the music. They’re only about 15-20 youths involved, but they carry the Mass on their collective young shoulders. There were so many lovely songs that spoke about being present to God in the moment, making ourselves available to his loving grace, allowing his freedom take over our life. This is all stuff that I know I should be doing, but like I said, I’m not necessarily in my best element these days. So what this youth group, this parish and it’s energy gave me that day, is the courage to face my demons, and overcome them, by returning to the basics: The simplest elements of my faith teach me to always be praying, no matter what I’m doing, but to always reserve a good hour or so for God, so that the bond between us can grow. But in order to do that, I need to be open. And not just be open to God. To the whole Venezuelan experience. To see where how God appears at many levels of my daily life. In a way, THIS is how I become more loving, and more open to justice in our world. This is how I heed John’s call, and prepare the way of the Lord. It was nice to hear that call again, and to understand what it means for my life.
This is the greatest grace of the moment for me: Yes, I know I’ve been struggling with prayer, and with my work here. Nevertheless, though I’m not 100% committed, I see every day as an opportunity to give more and more of myself. Rather than looking at my struggles as opportunity for defeatism, I see it as an opportunity for growth. One might almost say, I thrive on the struggle, because I know it will bring me to a better place. Again..nothing new. However, as I’ve learned time and time again in my Jesuit life, every experience reminds us of old lessons that we need to re appropriate for ourselves. Re appropriate. I hope y’all know what I mean by that. It’s one of my favourite words, but I’m not so good at explaining it!! I can, reclaim would be a synonym. We’re never done learning something, as the lessons need to be adapted to new experiences, and can help us become more free with every new challenge we face.
Poco a poco, nuestras luchas nos llegan a la libertad. (little by little, our struggles lead us to freedom! I was almost able to say that perfectly. Didn’t conjugate the verb well! There’s a shocker!!)
Peace to you all