Sunday, June 24, 2012

Willful Choice

At mass at 9:30 at St Pius X in Towson today, we got to hear a homily from Fr. Ray Chase--once he got his microphone turned on for the homily.  Fr. Ray always gives nice concise homilies.  Today we were talking about things related to the celebration of the birth of John the Baptist.  One thing he shared with the congregation was what he called the most frustrating part of being a priest.  I'll paraphrase: that no matter how much he prayed with us, consecrated the Eucharist before us, or preached homilies to us, he couldn't make us do anything.  No matter how much he knows what might be right from the point of view of following the path of what God would want, it is ultimately up to each one of us to take a willful action to make things happen.

I can see where this would be frustrating.  We are often called upon to ask "What would Jesus do?"  Well, I believe that most clergy (I won't say all given the continuing news about some small fraction of clergy in the Catholic Church) have a better idea of what Jesus would do than the rest of us.  They want to offer what they know.  They have spent a long time thinking about things.  They want to help.

It is not so different from public health experts.  They know more about many things for our health than the average person.  They have spent a long time thinking about things.  They want to help.

So, I can relate to what he is saying when I think about it professionally.

I can also relate personally and I think that this is pushing me one step closer to changing the blog to "Connecting the Dots--Nourishing the Soul".  If we think about a "dot to dot" it may just seem like a random series of dots if you look at the dots before connecting them.  No matter how much you stare at it.  If I think back to string art I did as a child (dating myself there, perhaps...) I think of the pattern of nails in the board looking somewhat random before the string was wrapped to make it a coherent pattern.  A meaningful pattern.  A pretty pattern.

In both the case of the dot to dot and the string art--it takes a conscious and willful effort.  A choice.  A choice to make the effort rather than simply to stare and wonder.

My tattoo is similar.  As a few people in church who had not seen it before this morning asked me about it, I gave the medium to long answer.  My sixteen year old asked me how many times I had explained it.  The answer is--a lot.  But now I have a short answer--a modern reinterpretation of the art around St. Sebastian, the parton saint of athletes.  And I have a much longer answer that goes into detail about the symbolism.  If people want to hear (and I want to share) the deeper meaning that requires a conscious effort on two people's parts.

As I think about whether I would ever get another tattoo, I think "only if I find a story as compelling that I want to tell."  In other words, I don't see any small tattoos. If I am going to get any they will be big and bold like the first and tell a whole story.  About what?  Maybe my music or my cooking or my writing or my teaching.  There are many other themes.  I could work in other patron saints or my confirmation name.  Who knows?  The one thing I do know is that it will be a long thought out willful choice.

Willful choices guided by God have the potential to take me far in my life.  I try to live up to what I am taught by priests like Fr Ray.  It's not always easy.  

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