Sight, Sound and Beyond

Archive for the ‘Dreams’ Category

Animals in Heaven, One Catholic’s Perspective

st-francis-preaching-to-the-birds-Gioto di Bondone1299.jpg!Large

St. Francis Preaching to the Birds – Gioto di Bondone (c.1267-1337)

“We were taught that animals don’t go to heaven because they don’t have souls, ” my mother once told me.  She and my father had attended at 12 years of Catholic School.  My father also continued on to attend a Catholic College.  Then there is me who attended Public School and attended regular college, so what do I know right?

As a Roman Catholic, one of the things I struggle with the question of whether or not animals are included in God’s plan of salvation.  In other words, do they go to heaven or do they cease to exist all together after physical death?  I have received mixed answers from various sources.  Some people have told me that animals do not have souls because they lack free will.  Some, like St Thomas Aquinas, have mentioned that while animals do have souls, their souls are not immortal.  Therefore, when they die, their souls die as well.  Then there are a couple priests who have told me that, yes, animals do go to heaven because God is Love and thus He would never destroy that which He creates.

The thought of animals, especially my two avian companions, ceasing to exist after physical death is an upsetting thought for me.  I don’t know why I am so sensitive about it.  I am probably the only Catholic who prays for animals.  Animals have been a great service to us, providing us with transportation, clothing and food.  I pray for them all because like us, they are God’s creatures too.  Whenever I learn of an an animal companion who has passed away, I pray he or she has been reunited with God in Heaven.

One friend once said something like, “Oh I understand why you feel this way.  It’s okay to love your birds.  After all, you don’t have children.”  Perhaps, if I were married with children, I might sing a different tune about animals right?  Nah, I doubt it.

Another friend of mine said: “Well, you believe that your birds go to Heaven because you can’t stand the thought of never seeing them again after they die.”  I have to admit, she was partially right, but my ideas are not purely based on emotional attachment.

The Garden of Eden

In the bible, there are examples of God’s love for animals.  In the book of Genesis, God created everything: time, space, land and sea, vegetation, birds, sea creatures, land animals and human beings.  God created everything and everything was good.  Why was it good?  Everything was good because God created it.  It was not something that to be earned.  Prior to the fall of our parents, Adam and Eve, everyone lived in perfect communion with God.  You could say that all living creatures were in a perfect state of grace where there was no separation between God and them.  It is quite beautiful to think about, but this paradise didn’t last long.  After the fall of our parents,  the world became cursed and evil began to spread.  Thus we human beings became separated from God.

I imagine Heaven to be an extension of the Garden of Eden, which was meant to be an eternal paradise for God to live among all creation in perfect harmony.   If this is how it was in the beginning, why would God not want to include all creation in His kingdom yet to come?  The book of Revelations tells us that there will be a New Heaven and a New Earth.  Surely at the very least, our non human brethren would be included in the New Earth.  Wouldn’t you think?

Noah’s Ark

Everyone is familiar with the story of Noah, the guy that was chosen by God to build an ark or large boat for his family and himself to escape the great flood that God was going to send in response to humanity’s wickedness.  Because of Noah’s righteousness, He and his family would be spared.  Oh and wait, quite a few others were spared as well.  Who else came along for the ride in Noah’s ark?  Animals of course.  Remember that?  God told Noah to gather two of every kind.  This is quite interesting don’t you think?  God can create anything out of nothing.  I mean that’s how the earth came about right?  He could have easily told Noah to forget about the animals and just gather his family.  I mean after the flood ended, God could just recreate new animals right?  Why would God include the animals to be part of Noah’s ark?

This story illustrate God’s mercy and saving power for not just human beings but for all creation.  God is a lover of all creation.  His love is inclusive, not exclusive.

Someone once told me that animals reflect the innocence of God.  Sure, they don’t have a free will as we human beings do, but animals have something that we as human beings lack: the ability to live in the present moment.  Animals don’t fret about the future or get stuck in the past the way we do.  They live completely in the present moment and to continuously live in the present moment is to truly be in the presence of God.

St. Francis of Assisi

Why did St Francis address animals as his brothers and sisters?  Why did he treat them with such respect?  St. Francis viewed animals as part of God’s family.  He said of animals:

“Not to hurt our humble brethren is our first duty to them, but to stop there is not enough. We have a higher mission — to be of service to them wherever they require it.”

It is his love and respect for animals that makes him one of my favorite saints.

I had Sunny and Nikki blessed the day prior to the feast of St Francis to confirm their membership of God’s Family.  I got a lot of laughs from people but it felt like the right thing to do.   To learn more about Sunny and Nikki’s blessing read “To Bless or Not to Bless”

Why Do I Want Sunny and NIkki to Go to Heaven?

When you love someone, even a small bird whose head is smaller than your eyeball, you want only the best for him or her.  Many cannot understand what it means to love a small creature like a small parrot.  It is really not that much different from loving a human being.  Sure they do not have our intelligence, but they have the integrity, innocence and curiosity of young children.  Living with Sunny and Nikki is like living with two permanent two-year-old children!

Sunny and Nikki will both be 13 years old next year, and I love them more now than I did when I first adopted them.   I often include them in some of my spiritual practices, which include reading passages from the bible.  This probably sounds ridiculous to many, but in Chapter 16, verse 15 in Mark’s Gospel Jesus did say:

“Go into all the world and proclaim the good news] to the whole creation.”

Well, the last I checked, the whole of creation included birds.

Anyway, I digress from the question at hand.  Why do I want Sunny and Nikki to go to Heaven?  I want the best for them, and what could be better than to be in eternal and perfect communion with God?

My wish for the girls going to heaven does not primarily stem from my wish for them to be with me, but rather to be well taken care of by God and be included in His plan of salvation.  I have had dreams about what it will be like after I die.  The dream is set in the future, and I do get to heaven.  In the dreams I do see those who have gone before me: family, friends and the animals I have known and loved.  For a short moment I see the girls.  All my loved ones are there, but they are not the main focus.  My main focus is being with God, the source of all Good and who is Love.  I believe that when we go to Heaven it will be exactly like attending Mass.  We will be in attendance as one family, which includes the angels, saints, and our non human brethren, but our focus will be on the one who has created us.  He is the reason that we love in the first place.

At the end of the musical, Les Misérables, a memorable line is sung:

“To love another person is to see the face of God.”

To love anyone, including something as small as bird is to know the love of God.  Like animals, we human beings are creatures.  We are all of God’s creatures and compared to His infinite power and love, we are but a speck of dust, but like I love two little birds, God loves all his creatures both great and small.

Advertisements

My True Love

2000px-Heart_corazón.svgSo I a couple months ago, I was practicing with my band, which consists of a few parishioners from my parish.  Two of my bandmates are members of the Knights of Columbus, and one of them mentioned that the knights would like for us to play at their Valentine’s Day Diner.

“I can do it!” I said in excitement, “I never have plans on Valentine’s Day!”  Despite my happy disposition, I was admitting to what seemed to be an unfortunate truth.  I have never that special kind of love. Well, I have had many but all of them were unrequited loves.

I was a late bloomer in life and didn’t go out on my first date until I was nearly 23 years old. Were my parents strict about dating?  Heck no! That’s seriously how long it took me to get a date.  In high school, I had many crushes but because of my unpopularity, I was shy around the opposite sex.  In college, I had many interests but many of the guys on campus were either taken or gay.

I have never had a steady boyfriend.  I came close a few times, but it never worked out the way I hoped it would.  So as you can see, I have never earned the title as being a man’s girlfriend or sweetheart.  When it comes to that kind of love, my life has been a series of disappointments and it started at a fairly young age.  When I was about eleven years old, I had my first broken heart when my childhood friend of many years rejected my idea of us marrying in the future because of my poor vision.  Yes, I know I was just a kid and he was just a kid as well, but those words pierced my heart because I was rejected based on something that I could not help.  Being born with both a hearing and visual impairment just happened to me.  It was not something I chose.  It simply just is and I prefer to be defined by my choices, not by my circumstances.

I always thought that unrequited love would get easier with age, but I have learned that is not always the case. I can remember one instance that wasn’t all that long ago in which the pain of unrequited love was almost unbearable. In fact it was so painful that the emotional hurt and stress caused me to experience physical pain in my chest. At one point I thought that the pain would lead to a heart attack.  I kept praying to God to help heal both the physical and emotional pain go away.  It took months and many nights of crying before I began heal.  I remember pleading with Him: “Lord, please do not allow me to ever fall in love ever again, unless the guy actually wants to be in a relationship with me.”

Then a light went off in my head. God wants to be in a relationship with each one of us. God loves each of us so much, but do we all respond to His call to be in a relationship with Him?  Only one who loves us so much would come down into our existence, suffer and die so that we could live in eternal love with Him.  I can recall what a Franciscan Friar once told me on my 34th birthday: “Jennifer, always remember that Jesus loves you.  He died for you.”

During that time that I was dealing with the chest pain, which was clearly due to a broken heart, I had a very powerful dream one night that was the source of great healing that began to take place in my life.  I was standing outside my home when I suddenly saw Jesus, Himself standing before me. He stood tall, clothed in red garments that had gold trim and I, like a little child, ran to Him and He scooped me up in His arms and held me close to His heart.  My eyes filled with tears as I held my arms around Him, my chin resting on His shoulder.  I felt so small and yet so precious to Him and as He held me I noticed how high off the ground I was. It was a very beautiful and emotional encounter, and the interesting part is that no words were spoken. No words were spoken at all, and yet I knew He truly loved me.  I also felt a deep sense of understanding from Him for He knew all too well the pain of unrequited love.  He knew what it was like to have His love handed back to Him.  He knew what the sting of humiliation felt like.  Our pains became united because we both understood each others suffering.

From that experience on, I have focused less on trying to win the heart of a man, but rather to focus on the heart of He who already gave me His heart in His death and resurrection.  He is the one who still continues to love me despite my faults and mistakes, and He has not forsaken me.  I want so much to please Him not because I want Him to love me but because He already does love me.  He loved me then, He loves me now and He will love me in the future.

Why must I concern myself with finding the love of my life when I already have a Great Love in my life already?  Yes, finding love in this life is a good thing, but it is not needed for survival.  Without my Lord, I am dead.  He is the reason I exist and He is the source of everything I have for He is the ultimate gift giver.  He gave me my music, my birds, my friends, my parents, my family, etc.

Therefore, I do not make it my life goal to find a guy and get married.  If it happens, it happens, but if doesn’t that is fine too.  Being single is not the worst thing that can happen to a person and it doesn’t make a person less lovable than someone who is married or in a romantic relationship.  Unfortunately, it took me a long time to realize this.

People have asked me: “Why don’t you have a boyfriend?” or “Why aren’t you married yet?”  I answer them by saying: “I don’t need a man because I have the Lord.” They give a little laugh and a smile, but I am actually being serious.  All my life, I wanted a love that’s eternal and I have had it this entire time. I am sorry it took me so long to figure it out.

Santa Claus

shutterstock_63655702 [преобразованный]I was having an engaging conversation with a few of my coworkers about this imaginary old man dressed in a red suit, who children believe bring them presents on Christmas Eve.  One of my co-workers asked: “How old were you when you found out?” She was referring to the age we all found out that he really didn’t exist.

“I don’t remember, ” one of my coworkers answered.

“I was 9 years old, ” my voice rang out, “I was devastated.”

Like most children, I believed in Santa Claus. I truly believed in his existence wholeheartedly, and I remember leaving milk and cookies out for him on Christmas Eve before going to sleep and finding an empty glass and clean plate on Christmas morning along with a personal note from him written in large printed letters.  I also remember writing a letter to Santa Claus that I put in the mail.  I sealed the letter inside an envelope, and on the envelop, I wrote his name and address, which is The North Pole.  I clearly remember happily putting my sealed envelope inside the mailbox.  Imagine my delight when I received a response in the mail a few weeks later.

As I grew older, I remember hearing my older sisters say that Santa Claus didn’t really exist, but my my faith remained strong and unshaken.  After all, if my parents and teachers told me he was real, then he truly existed, right?

Finally one day, when I was 9 years old, I asked my mother if what I heard others saying about Santa Claus being fake was actually true.  Was he really just a story?  Given my age, my mother told me the truth and my heart sank. How could my parents and the other adults in my life lie to me and string me along for all those years?  I remember being taught to believe the reality of the story of the Angel Gabriel, Mary and Jesus. Was that just a story too?  A lot of questions arose in my mind and I felt cheated.  Even as a child, I detested lies. I was taught to always tell the truth and was now finding out that my parents been fooling me for all those years.

I remember telling one of my teachers when I found out.  She said, “Oh but Jennifer, it’s still fun to believe.”  I tried to embrace that idea, but it never erased the other questions that came into my mind.  There was a brief period in my life, where I questioned the existence of God.  It was a year before my confirmation and I remember asking myself, what if it was just a made up story?  It wasn’t until I had a powerful dream one night that I began to feel more secure in my faith.

But now that I am an adult, I can’t help but look around at young children today during this time of year as they eagerly wait for Santa Claus to bring them their Christmas gifts.  My nieces and nephew are young and believe he exists.  While visiting my two older nieces, ages 8 and 5, they introduced me to the Elf on the Shelf, a little elf sent from Santa Claus to be his eyes so he can see who is being naughty and who is being nice. Apparently, parents are supposed to move the elf each night to give the illusion that the elf is watching.

“It’s a girl, ” my oldest niece told me.

“Oh wow, ” I said, trying to sound enthusiastic.

“We can’t touch her, ” she explained to me.

“Why not?” I asked, “Will she explode?”  She had me curious now.  I really wanted to know what kind of lies kids are being fed these days.  My niece explained to me that if the elf were to be touched, the life inside of her would leave.  I really didn’t understand it, and again, I began to remember when I was her age, when I believed in Santa Claus and the elves who helped him at his toy shop. I remember being told that Santa could see me at all times. He was practically like God.  After my two-second trip down memory lane, I thought to myself, “I don’t want to be around when she finds out the truth,”

When I find myself among children and Santa Claus pops into the conversation, I prefer referring to him as St. Nicholas, the 4th Century bishop of Myra in Asia Minor, known for his generosity and who had a reputation for secret gift giving.  A truly humble soul, whenever people thanked him for his generosity, he always gave credit to God.  I believe his spirit visits us all during the Christmas season. Today, December 6th, is his feast day.

But Santa Claus, elves and Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer?  While I am completely fine with children hearing the stories, I would not encourage them to believe this to be a reality.  Imagine my shock when I found out that the letter I received in the mail from Santa Claus was actually from the post office!  Sure, my parents consumed the milk and cookies and wrote the letters that I found on Christmas morning, but now the post office was in on it too?  That was just taking it too far. It is amazing how a little harmless fib can grow into a whopper.  Have we forgotten the Eighth Commandment altogether?  It states “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor” aka YOU SHALL NOT LIE!  I don’t care if you think it is fun to encourage them to believe that Santa, his sleigh, his reindeer, and his elves are real, it’s still a lie.  Why?  Because it isn’t true.

“Oh Jennifer, you are making too much of this,” people tell me, “You are taking this way too seriously.”  Then they add, “Santa is what makes Christmas more fun and magical for children.” Hold on a second. Where is Jesus Christ in all this?  It seems that Santa Claus is steeling His thunder!  Children seem to be more into Santa Claus than their own Lord and Savior!  Santa has become like a God.  I mean he is watching you all the time and you have to be good because Santa is watching right?  But the holiday is called CHRISTmas.  Jesus is the reason for the season, not Santa Claus.

In addition to creating a false idol, Santa Clause just adds more commercialism to Christmas.  Christmas has seemed to become more about just receiving presents.  When I hear children talk about Christmas it is mostly about what they want to get and very rarely about what they want to give.  They have made their Christmas lists of all the things they want Santa to bring them and this is encouraged by adults.

I realize that the majority of people see no harm in children believing in the existence of Santa Claus.  After reading this post, you most likely think I am nuts and sound like a 21st Century pharisee, but please be assured that I am not trying to force my thinking on you.  My job here is not to convince, but to inform.  I am simply presenting a different view based on my own personal experience.  Perhaps you will agree, perhaps you won’t.  I am putting it out there for your consideration.

As a child, I did enjoy the stories of Santa and Christmas was certainly a magical time, but I think children can experience the magic of Christmas without being fed lies.  Even at my age, Christmas is still a magical time of year as I eagerly await the coming of my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  Looking back, I wish that that as a child, my focus was more on Christ and less on Santa Claus. That’s just my two cents.

And I close by saying this: May the peace of our Lord be with you now and always, and may the New Year be filled with health and joy!

Dreams and Divine Intervention

Dream City by Paul Klee

Dream City
by Paul Klee

Last night I dreamt that I was caring for a chicken that would eventually become a source of food for my parents and me.  The chicken was freely wandering around the kitchen and seemed to be content. Then, I realized I needed to find a good-sized crate or cage for the chicken, so that he wouldn’t end up pooping all over the place.  I picked him up and carried him in my arms while I searched for what needed.  The chicken became a new friend and thought to myself: “I don’t want this chicken to be slaughtered.”

This was the only dream that I was able to recall last night, and after writing it down and thinking about its meaning, I feel a sense of healing and reconciliation from the inner turmoil that I had experienced earlier this week.

The chicken in the dream represents fear.  You have heard the phrase: “Don’t be such a chicken!”  I never quite understood the origin of that phrase, but in my experience, birds seem to be easily frightened. It doesn’t take much to send Sunny and Nikki in the opposite direction.  Maybe I will start using the phrase: “Don’t be such a parrot!  Squawk!  Squawk! Squawk!”

Anyway, let’s get back to the subject. The chicken in my dream represents my fears such as my fear of inadequacy and fear of negative judgement from others.  My holding the chicken symbolizes my taking responsibility and taking care of these negative feelings rather than resisting them or “slaughtering” them.

I found it interesting that the dream took place in the kitchen, a place for nourishment.  A lot of my dreams take place in the bathroom, a place for cleansing.  However, nourishment is necessary for healing and spiritual growth.

It’s been one heck of a roller coaster ride these last few days, but in the end I think I came out a winner.  I guess you gotta have break down before you can have a break through.  Well, I thinks St Peter says better here:

“And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, establish, and strengthen you.” – 1 Peter 5:10

I have also found a way to “build a bridge” between my interest of dreams and my spiritual life.  Up until now, I kind of kept dreams separate from my other spiritual practices.  Yes, there were some occasions I felt that God spoke to me a dream, but I didn’t think that all my dreams could God speaking to me by using the dream world in its entirety.  Working with Br. Don helped me to see this connection, and I discovered a way in which I can integrate dreams into my prayer life, asking God for specific guidance.

When our last session ended, Br. Don gave me an extra copy of a book he had that he recommended for me to read. The book is by John A Sanford and is titled Dreams: God’s Forgotten Language. This book sounds like it is right up my alley, and I look forward to reading it!

A Perfect Storm

Rembrandt The Storm on the Sea of Galilee

Rembrandt
The Storm on the Sea of Galilee

Today keeping silent was much easier. I must explain that in general keeping silent during a retreat is not so terribly difficult for me.  I had no issues on my last retreat. However, the nature of this retreat is different.  I am receiving a lot of information and asking myself a lot of questions.  After yesterday’s session, I felt like a pimple that was about to pop.  I had all this stuff inside that needed to come out. Talking is one way that helps me to sort out information, but I am in a quiet place where people are being quiet. Under normal circumstances, I would find a private area and talk to myself, but I can hear all that goes on here and if I can hear what’s going on, everyone else must hear it as well.  It’s that quiet!  I can’t talk inside the building and if I could, I don’t want others to hear the private conversations between me and myself.

Imagine someone gave you a a gallon of water to drink and you drank all of it because you were so thirsty.  You are now in a small room full of people you don’t know and all of a sudden, that gallon of water catches up with you. Now your bladder is brewing up a perfect storm, and you are doing your best not to think of waterfalls and babbling brooks. Oh but wait!  I forgot to tell you!  There aren’t any bathrooms in the vicinity of the area.  Now you are about to burst, and you don’t know where to go, literally.  All you know is you have to get to a bathroom fast or things will get messy, or shall I say wet?  That should kind of paint a picture for you of what I was experiencing during the past couple days.  I needed to get stuff out of my system and I must say that writing in this blog has been very helpful and therapeutic for me.

Well, today I am beginning to get some relief and clarity with regard to my dreams and what they are telling me.  I had several dreams last night in which I experienced many things: telling a family to stop gambling, building a bridge using telekinetic powers, spilling someone’s cremains and repeatedly turning the hands of time to undo what was done, trying explain to a scientist my logical reason behind the type of bird cage I have, and explaining to a woman that the piano music I gave her was printed differently not incorrectly.

Remember that question I was supposed to asked God yesterday?  I was to ask Him what types of qualities are needed for me to lead a full adult life.  After reviewing the important themes in my dreams, Br. Don and I agreed on the following things:

1.  I must accept myself and what cannot be changed in my life. This includes all past events. What’s done is done and all I can do is learn from the past and avoid repeating the same mistakes in the future. The is revealed in the dream I had in which I accidentally spilled someone’s cremains and tried to erase that event by repeatedly going back in time to prevent it from happening in the first place.

2.  I must continue to take responsibility of my actions.  This is self-explanatory, but being responsible does not mean that you should not take any risks at all in life.  It is important to know where to draw the line when it comes to these things.  This was revealed in the dream in which I was trying to stop a family from gambling and losing all their money.

3. I must view my life experiences as different, not as being wrong.   In the dream involving the piano music, I had two collections of piano music written for one piano four hands.  The piano literature in both books was the same, however, the manner in which the two piano parts were presented on the pages was different.  After looking at both books, the woman told me that one of them was right and the other was wrong.  She accepted the one that was “right” and handed the “wrong” book back to me.  I told her that the music that she believed to be right is the most common way that music for piano four hands is printed, but it can also be printed as shown in the other book.  “It’s not wrong,” I told her, “It’s  just different.”  And so I must learn to look at my own life experiences this way as well. Though I don’t have the same life experiences as most individuals near my age do, that does not mean I have been living my life the wrong way.

4. I must trust my own knowledge and experiences. This was illustrated in the piano music dream as well.  I  explained to the woman the reason why both piano books were printed correctly.  Because of my my 20 years of musical study and over 10 years working in the music field, I knew what I was talking about.  This statement was also illustrated in the dream in which I was trying to explain to a scientist my logical reason behind the type of bird cage I have.  I demonstrate my knowledge on keeping birds as pets based on my own personal experience living with them for 11 years.

These dream revelations also answer the answer to the question I asked on Monday Monday night:  What is needed for my deeper healing.  And now, some words from St Paul:

“Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” – Romans 12:2

Br Don also had a very interesting interpretation for the dream I had about building a bridge using telekinetic powers   He interpreted the bridge as a spiritual symbol because I did not build the bridge by using my hands.  I willed the bridge to be built. It is a bridge to God and the way that I create a bridge to God is through prayer and the sacraments.

As a Catholic, It took me a long time to understand, recognize and appreciate the importance of the sacraments and the role they play in leading an individual to holiness.  Sacraments are outward signs instituted by Christ to give sanctifying grace.  Let’s put it this way, if you really want to get connected with God, the way a power chord gets access to an electrical outlet, the sacraments are a good way to do that. Like a power chord that receives electricity from an electrical outlet, we receive sanctifying grace from God.  Sanctifying grace is a is a life-giving gift, a sharing in the kingdom of Heaven.

Well, that’s enough reflecting for now. Until tomorrow!!!

Going Cuckoo

Cuckoo Bird

Cuckoo Bird

Thank You, God!  I finally got to talk to someone other than Br. Don! The silence was driving me nuts at one point.  I felt like a volcano evolution to erupt.  I finally ran into a woman I met on Sunday evening and whispered: “I need to talk to somebody.  I am going nuts!”  After eating dinner in silence, the two of us went outside where retreatants are permitted to engage in quiet conversation. We both agreed that this was intense stuff.

This retreat is having a very emotional effect on me and I have been getting very agitated. I hope I will leave on Friday morning feeling a little better about things. My dreams are revealing things about my life that I don’t like talking about with people, especially a Jungian psychologist that I just met. My sessions with Br. Don have been more emotional for me than i had anticipated.

I got an answer to my question from God in a dream last night.  In the dream I saw an image of Jesus holding a red-haired doll close to His heart. The doll was supposedly me and His presence was full of compassion, not judgement, which was nice because earlier in the dream I was being yelled at and criticized by my childhood imaginary friend, Jessica.  I had told Jessica about something that happened to me in real life a few years ago that had upset me. She wasn’t sympathetic and told me that I am too sensitive and that I need get over myself. The image of Jesus was a nice contrast to that.

Just a reminder, I asked God last night what He wants me to know for my deeper healing.  In the dream, the image of Jesus was followed by a voice that provided me with an answer.  I received the challenge of living a greater adulthood. Br. Don and I concluded that I now need to accept myself as an emerging adult and take steps to live a fuller adult life.

This is heavy stuff.  I don’t know why but the word “adulthood” leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Now don’t get me wrong, I am all for responsibility and gaining wisdom, but I will tell you what turns me off about adulthood: society’s perception of what a mature adult looks like.  I am 34 years old and most adults around my age are married, have children, settled in their careers, own a car (well, I am not able to drive so I am excused from that one), own a home and know where their life is headed.  Me?  I have two birds, working multiple jobs, learning new skills, still doing the music thing and don’t exactly know where my life is heading.  Most of the people I know who are in similar situations as I am are in their early to mid 20s.

Like I said in an earlier post: I am a late bloomer.  To help myself feel better, I often repeat the following Italian proverb: Chi va piano va sano e va lontano.  Chi va forte va alla morte.  In English this means, “The one who goes slow goes safely and far. The one who goes quickly will die.”  Holy cow!  At the rate I am moving, I am going to get to the ends of the earth!

The worst part was that during the entire time I was talking with Br. Don my mind would not stop yapping. I wanted to slap it.  It kept thinking things like: “He probably thinks your an idiot,”  “He probably is thinking that you are really immature for your age,”  “Yo, get a hold of yourself, he probably thinks your mental!”

Then, when the topic of discerning my vocation in life came up, my initial reaction was like “Oh crap!”  I mean, I will tell you that finding my calling in life has been on my mind since I hit puberty.  Okay, I didn’t start thinking about it when I was that young.  I  started thinking seriously about my vocation in my sophomore year of high school.  In fact, I became so focused  and concerned about finding the answer to this penetrating question that I ended up having a nervous breakdown in my third year of college.  The clock was ticking and I had no clue what kind of life I wanted  after graduation.  My twenties were a mess and my anxiety didn’t start to get better until I was 29 years old, when I began getting more active in my church.

Of course now there is a difference between my life now verses my twenties. While I always believed in God, I wasn’t constantly in relationship with Him.  I can’t say I had much of a prayer life and I did not have as much appreciation for the sacraments like I do now. I was what you would call a clueless Catholic. I didn’t know anything.  Heck, I am still learning.

I grew increasingly frustrated when I didn’t have the answers to Br. Don’s questions. My brain kept saying “Oh crap!” or “Am I supposed to know the answer to that one?” I felt like Radio Shack gone to hell. He had the questions, and I didn’t have the answers. I kind of felt like I BSed my way through some of them just to have an answer. Then, in the midst of all this, the demon of comparison showed up. I asked Br. Don: “Do you talk to anyone older than I am that still don’t know their vocation?” I thanked God when he told me there were.

After that brain-busting session ended, I went to where I get a lot of answers about life: Google.  I did a search on parts of the Bible that mention adulthood.  Here is what I found.

“When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became a man, I gave up childish ways.” – 1 Corinthians 13:11

Well, I have to think about how I could possibly take St Paul’s words and apply them to my situation. The words that stick out to me are “gave up”  in “I gave up my childish ways.”  What are my childish ways?  I never thought of myself as having childish ways, although I am sure people who know me would say otherwise.  Childlike, yes. Childish, I don’t know.  Although, when I was a child, I never liked to admit I did something wrong or stupid.  On second thought, I still don’t like to do that, but I manage to suck it up and take it like a woman.  Now of course, I do own own up to my mistakes and screw ups, but I think I need to dig deeper here. What about the my past?  What about the nature of my true self?  Do I own up to that or do I cover it up?  I notice that I don’t even like talking about myself with most people.

I think part of living as a full adult life is accepting these sort of things and not trying to hide them.  I sometimes feel  embarrassed about certain aspects of my life, like the fact that I am a late bloomer. However this comes as a result of the influence of society’s standards. If you haven’t done something by a certain age, people wonder why and ask questions.  I sometimes find  it difficult to be myself around people because of the fear of being judged.  I always felt like an oddball or an outsider. The only time I ever feel like I belong is when I am at mass.

Br. Don ended our session with an interesting observation and some interesting advice.  “You have a very rich inner life. What you need to do is take what is in inside you and make it external.”  Hearing that statement made me realize why I create and make music: to make the internal external.  When I compose a piece of music or do anything creative (like even writing in this blog), I take something that exists deep inside myself, pull it out and make it external so that it can be shared with others. Maybe music is my vocation and hopefully by sharing what I have created will bring others to a deeper sense of themselves and closer to God.  Maybe I am making this notion of vocation more complicated than it really needs to be.  Perhaps it is okay not to have an exact answer.  If I knew everything about my life and where it was going, I would be God and you all can worship me!

Enjoy the Silence

Mariandale Retreat and Conference Center

Mariandale Retreat and Conference Center

For those of you of you who have never been on a retreat there is one thing you should know. You can’t talk. Okay, that is not entirely true. You can talk outside the building, and if you are on a directed retreat like I am, you can talk during the sessions when you meet with the person leading the retreat.

Now for those of you who know me, you know I like to talk. In fact I am often called motor mouth and am like the energizer bunny: I keep going and going and going.  I have been told to put a cork in it on several occasions.

You can imagine how I am adjusting to the silence here. Eating meals is especially difficult because I feel so tempted to start yapping. I don’t even remember eating in silence last year when I attended my very first retreat at here at Mariandale.  Hmm, maybe I managed to block it out of my memory.

I must tell you that I was relieved when it was 2pm when I had my first meeting Br. Don.  We Began began our dream work together, and besides having the chance to engage in conversation with another person, I got to talk about my dreams from last night.

I seriously had 20 dreams last night, but within those 20 dreams were three dreams that had the same theme. Here is a recap of the three-part dream trilogy. I am with a woman, who I do not know, and she has a black dog with her, who kept trying to bite me.  It seems as though the woman was encouraging the dog to get me because every time the dog would try to go for me, she would do nothing to stop it. The woman was not a nice woman either. She would verbally attack me. This happened in three separate dreams that had three different endings. In the first dream I withdrew and flew to a rooftop where I would be safe from harm. In the second dream there was an angry confrontation between us, and I warned her not to mess with me, a Castellano, Lord of the Castle (That’s what Castellano means) or she would be dead.  Finally, in the third dream I put an end to it.  I somehow managed to get the dog to change sides, and he attacked her instead.   She fell to the floor like a ton of bricks.

In our session Br. Don and I came to the agreement that the woman represents the part of myself that puts me down. I have always been my own worst enemy. That was fairly obvious to me.  What interested me the most is what he said about the dog. Dogs behave aggressively only when they are afraid, so in my dream the dog represents fear and serves as a kind of protector for this woman.

The dream is a representation of a power struggle between two aspects of myself, the critic who compares me to other people and society’s standards, and the real me, the person who God created me to be. My task is to transform this negative energy, the dog, and bring it to the light and have it work for me instead of against me. The final dream illustrates this solution when the dog changed sides, and attacked the woman instead of me.

So how do I apply this to real life. I think part of it has to do with being mindful of my own thoughts and being kinder to myself. Most importantly, I must strive to stay centered on the way of God and not the ways of the world.  To remain close with God is to find inner healing.  I am beginning to realize that.   St. James says:

“Adulteress! Do you not know that to be a lover of the world means enmity with God? Therefore, whoever wants to be a lover of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” – James 4:4

Tonight I am to ask the Lord what He wants me know for deeper healing. Hopefully, His answer will be revealed to me in a dream or perhaps in this silence.

%d bloggers like this: