The story continues…
Second Part: With the eyes of Faith, beginning to See
Always an important part of discernment is to ask others for their insight and advice, and then to totally disregard everything they tell you! He said, tongue in cheek! But really, sort of true in this case! I sought the advice of those who know where and how to learn Ecclesiastical Latin and to celebrate the Usus Antiquus form of the Mass… folks who are always genuinely overjoyed to answer that question and uninhibited in the way they share that joy with you!
It's not often that we see that kind of joy expressed when folks talk about the Ordinary form of celebrating the Mass… but, let’s be honest, how often does anyone get excited about the ordinary things in life. We should, really. Most of us live most of our days in the miraculous moments of ordinary circumstances. When you read the Gospels, Jesus isn’t often (might be never) approaching anyone while they're engaged in heroic extraordinary moments… but rather encounters us in ways through which he tries to teach us that it’s in the ordinary moments that we are called to live extraordinary lives. Just like in Eucharistic Celebrations, where God takes ordinary people and ordinary bread and wine and makes them extraordinary, transforms them. So really, being fully alive in Christ is to recognize that the visible might seem ordinary but with the eyes and ears of faith, we see and hear the invisible and the extraordinary. In this, we are indeed transformed.
Anyway, enough with the homily and back to the story!
After sincerely letting the voices of others pour living waters of wisdom into my discerning heart and mind, along with my own research and careful consideration of the ways and the circumstances in which I prefer to learn… I let it all swirl around within my prayers and looked for the hand of God pointing me forward… or slapping me gently because sometimes I’m not really paying attention even though I think I’m paying attention. You know, it’s like when you look at someone when they're talking, and suddenly realize you have no idea what they said or, when you’re reading Scripture and realize that you should go back 3 pages because you got distracted! Sorry, I'm sure that never happens to you, does it!?!
Well, since you were paying attention, you’ll remember that I mentioned that God was working things out all at the same time. While I was busy getting advice, doing research, praying and of course doing the ‘spiritual work’ all while being fully engaged in the work of ministry, God was helping our Campus Ministry team plan a retreat. There’s no doubt that we needed God's help, because it was going to be a bold step in faith and an approach we had never taken before. I can’t lie to you, (well, I could, but that'd wrong). I was very nervous about the whole thing and ready to pull the plug, if and when it was necessary! The whole time, conventional planning wisdom was screaming, pull the plug… but the Holy Spirit was whispering… trust me! You know that feeling?
There's no doubt, when you trust God, the results are great, and sometimes even mind blowing! Again, from the ordinary to the extraordinary! No less true on this occasion! We trusted. I trusted. It was awesome. Blessings flowed for everyone involved, but something very special happened on the Friday evening before the retreat began and it was the key moment that set the pilgrimage plan in motion! We had two Dominican Priests leading the retreat. They were studying in Washington and were associated with FOCUS Ministries (Fellowship of Catholic University Students). Part of their ministry was to lead retreats for college students. It was there that I met Fr. Colm, an Irish Dominican from Dublin! Are you beginning to see?
Fr. Colm and I chatted politely and just as most conversations between strangers with a common bond, we began to talk about more meaningful things, and then the moment of Grace arrived when I shared about my quest! “You know”, he said, “there’s a community of Benedictine Monks who have a priory, just north of Dublin. They’re exactly what you’re looking for!” Hmmm… to be honest, in my soul I knew in the slow motion – last forever of that moment when he said Benedictine Monks…that that was it! Words are wholly and completely useless when trying to explain complex spiritual realities but imagine in the sort of freeze frame reality of the moment that various threads of your life and prayer, desires and interests, dreams and inspirations are suddenly and beautifully woven into a tapestry that becomes a picture worth a thousand words from the hand and mouth of God.
Path determined. Details, to be worked out at a later date! Tongue in cheek, again! I mean sure, I had some things to do, but I’d be stealing credit if I said I went on to work it all out on my own. As usual, God was going ahead of me and had already been working things to this end!
By the next day I had found the Priory on the internet, gotten the contact information and eagerly emailed Father Prior of the community. Then I waited, and waited, and waited. You know, in the busy ‘let’s get it done’ way of the world (even in ministry at times) we expect things to happen like tumblers clicking on a safe as you turn the knob in the right combination. Monks don’t work that way! To be honest, I’m glad they don’t… but, in the moment, not so glad! Right?!
Of course, I couldn’t just sit idly by, so I started looking into all the other amazing things that needed to be worked out. Not the least of which was how this trip could be what the Spirit of God wanted it to be… which wasn’t just about study. It would be about visiting and supporting one of our students who had graduated and had been led by the Holy Spirit to do a ‘spiritual gap year’ of service in Scotland… at a place that I had been aware of and been interested to spend time at, which, also happened to be in the very same area of Scotland where a part of my family roots are traced all the way back into the 6th century!
That’s not all! I knew that God was also calling me to reconnect with a friend who had been in Seminary, in ministry and in community with me far far away and a long time ago, and was now the Servant (sort of like in charge) of a community of Franciscan Friars of the Renewal in England! All of this, wrapped up neatly in a personal desire I’d had for many, many years, to visit Ireland and Scotland, not just as tourist but as a pilgrim. A pilgrim who could walk the same paths, breathe the same air, see the same vistas, engage the same heart… a pilgrim who could, in union with Christ, encounter the ‘soul of the early Celtic Church’. Encounter the land of those Saints who gave the world so much in a time of great need and the great darkness of the 5th through 11th centuries.
For 30 years the ‘peregrinate pro Christ’ (Pilgrims for Christ, the Saints of the Celts) have inspired and amazed me!
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Fr. Blair Gaynes has been in the Diocese since 2008.