Third Part: Shhhhhh… enter into the sacred silence.
Trust and obey! Trust and obey! Those words slide so easily off the tongue, just like praying the Lord’s Prayer at Mass… right! But it’s actually living those words, that’s the part we struggle with… well not me of course, I’ve always rivaled the angels with my angelic behavior! Just ask my mother! Ok, at the risk of having one of my siblings decide that this a good time for a brutally honest comment made for all the world to see… I’ll come clean! My behavior may not always have been ‘angelic’, but, I can honestly say that because of the nature of my conversion and the path that God subsequently called me to walk, I quickly learned what it meant to trust and obey God. I learned the importance of listening and following. I’d like to say that I’ve completely trusted, been unfailing in my obedience, listened with laser like focus and perfectly followed… but, if it were true then I would be a Saint… which, clearly, I’m not. Siblings, remain silent!
It was the end of January of this year that I was invited to be the Pastor of Immaculate Conception Basilica and called upon to trust and obey our Bishop. It was during the month of February when much prayer and discernment was necessary if I was to see clearly, the way forward. In March I began to act on what I’d been able to clearly see, and sent emails to Craig Lodge community in Scotland, the Franciscan community in England and the Benedictine community in Ireland. March was also a month of waiting. Waiting with patience, with trust, and with an inner peace that deepened with each passing sunset even though nobody was answering my emails! Monks and Religious, always so engaged ‘ora et labora’ they need signs on the walls to find the computer room! I may be jealous… a wee bit perhaps!
Each part of this journey depended on the successful arrangement of another part, which meant it all had to come together slowly and one piece at a time. Week, after week, after week! By mid-April it was all taking shape with minor adjustments and in the first week of May everything was set. When I say that all was set in the first week of May, I mean I was set to fly to England on May 8th and the final details for this pilgrimage of prayer, study and renewal were worked out on May 4th! I know what you’re thinking! Truth is, I wasn’t worried, and to be quite honest… I’ve gotten very accustomed to God’s sense of timing which is often not even remotely close to being ‘comfortable’ but never fails to be perfect!
Mary was happy that I would be going to Scotland, and this would be the beginning of the journey. Yes, it’s true, the Mother of God would be a very special part of this trip… but I meant Mary, our student living and serving at Craig Lodge for the year! Be patient, we’ll get to the Blessed Mothers role in all this! From Scotland, I planned to travel to England where my friend, Father Gabriel Joseph was serving the Lord. He was happy to hear I was coming to visit… well, he never said that, but we’re just going to assume that he was filled with joy! From there, I would travel across the Irish Sea to the Benedictine Monastery.
I’d like to help you understand the ‘tone’ of this journey. The ‘tone’ is very important. It’s borne of the spiritual movement conducted by the Holy Spirit, just as a musical ‘tone’ is borne of the orchestrations by the conductor, of the instruments in a grand symphony. In the experience of the journey just as with the experience of a symphony, if we are to fully encounter the beauty and the richness, even in the subtlest part of the movement, it’s essential that we submit freely to the waves, the spiritual or musical ‘gulf stream’ as it were, and allow it to draw us into its depths.
The flight across the Atlantic was a time to separate. A time to leave behind those day to day concerns that often tempt us to sacrifice our restorative solitude of prayerful encounter with God, and instead to begin to follow the interior path toward that inner sanctuary of contemplation. Arriving in Scotland with greater peace, more able to walk at a slower pace, and allowing the Holy Spirit to enliven the senses, I was ready to begin to discover and receive. The time in Scotland was very much about bringing greetings, offering support and sharing with Mary about her experience… but it was also about history. It was about piercing the vail of this present moment and peering into the past. It was about encountering ancestors of blood and of faith. It would be a reminder of the question, ‘will you die for them’?
Then, as I travelled the countryside by train on my way to England I was able to process, to more fully receive the gifts of the previous three days in Scotland and prepare for the next encounter with the Father, the Son and Holy Spirit through the Franciscans of St. Pio Friary. The time at the friary would be about reflecting on my own past, my path to the priesthood and a reminder of the joys and sorrows experienced during those years long gone but still living in me. It would be a time of healing and freedom. It would be a reminder of the question, ‘will you live for them’?
On the train once again, through England and Wales I contemplated the revolutionary transformative power of the Gospel of our Lord. I literally embarked upon the Sea, on a ferry across the Irish Sea and gazed for hours into the beauty of the great expanse and wondered about the secrets held within the grasp of its depths. The previous days had been a continuing journey within the inner sanctuary, to a destination that was just over the horizon. In the distance of the depths of the soul, just coming into to view was the hermitage within, the place of adoring worship where you gaze into Christ and he into you, being carried into the nothingness of divine union.
The prayer and study during the experience of the monastery would be a reminder of those first days, weeks and months of my conversion experience. It would be an encounter with the liturgical past of Church at worship and the priesthood through the ages. It would be a reminder, that I must decrease and he must increase.
Shhhhhh… enter into the sacred silence.
Fr. Blair Gaynes has been in the Diocese since 2008.