Sight, Sound and Beyond

Posts tagged ‘God’

A Reluctant Organist

unnamedIf you asked me ten years ago if I would ever consider learning to play the organ I would probably say, “Nope.”  For the last couple months, I have been pondering the idea, and with the help of a fellow choir member and colleague, I found someone who was willing to teach me.  I am schedule to have my firt lesson a week from tomorrow.

How did all this happen?  Well, after our church music director got a job closer to home, the choir scrambled to find someone who could fill in until our pastor could hire a permanent replacement.  After playing a few masses on piano at my church and even playing a mass on Christmas Eve with another parish at Westchester Department of Correction, my interest in playing music at church became even stronger.  There was one problem.  I didn’t know how to play the organ, and the more I thought about it, the more curious I became.  Could I actually learn to play?

Once I began considering the idea of learning to play the organ, my mind began to attack me with negative thoughts.

Are you kidding?  At your age?  You’re too old to learn a second instrument!

As a classically trained musician, I have often heard it said that to be a good musician on any instrument, it is best to start very young.  Most accomplished pianists begin their piano studies between the ages of 3 and 5.  I was 8 years old when I started, and according to classical standards, that is considered to be over the hill unless you happen to be a genius.  In case you are wondering, I am not a genius.

Now here I am at 35 years of age wanting to learn the organ.  Besides learning to play on at least two manuals (keyboards), I would be required to play on a pedal keyboard using my feet.  P.S. I am not the most well-coordinated person.  If you don’t believe me, you should check me out when I am out on the dance floor.  I may enjoy shaking a tail feather, but I don’t know if others enjoy watching me do so.

I took 20 years of piano lessons, and it wasn’t until my mid 20s that I began to play at a pretty reasonable level.  How long would it take me to play at a decent level on the organ?  Would it seriously take me another 20 years?

I haven’t even started lessons yet, and I have already been faced with my fair share of challenges.  I thought finding a teacher would be one of the most difficult parts, but there was something even more challenging: getting access to an organ.  I didn’t get the green light from my own home parish, and once I informed my father about it he quoted Luke 4:24

No prophet is accepted in his hometown.

Finally after many emails and telephone calls, I finally cut a break with another parish in my neighboring town.  The music director there was a huge help, and through him I was able to gain access to the organ in their small chapel.  The chapel has less activity than their main church, so I would less likely be an intrusion on other people.  This chapel is actually closer to where I live than my actual home parish.

I do not know what the outcome of all this will be.  I have been told by a couple people that God is calling me to pursue this and to become a church organist.  So far, I am not feeling like that’s the case.  Now don’t get me wrong, I initially felt it when the idea first popped into my head, but the feeling only lasted for a few minutes.  My own mother was confused by my interest in becoming an organist and said:

I don’t understand why are you doing this.  Holy Rosary doesn’t need an organist.

She failed to see that this was something beyond Holy Rosary.  Besides, I wouldn’t say that I am Holy Rosary’s most popular choice for church musician (although the choir likes me yay!).  To be quite honest, I am the one that fills in when there is absolutely no one else available.  For example, I played piano at a healing mass once because none of the musicians from the folk group were able to attend.  It was summertime and people were away on vacation. Let me just say when I was asked to play, I was pretty excited and gave it my best effort.  Sure, I was the only person left in the pool of choices, but I still got the call!

Last Sunday, we had no organist to play for the 9:30am mass and so with only 15 minutes prior notice, I jumped in, hoped for a miracle and played the mass on piano.  I will add that before I arrived at the church, my mother gave me some of her useful advice:

Don’t interrupt the priest by coming in too early with the Sanctus.

She was referring to the last time I played at mass.  Before all the angels and saints could begin proclaiming God’s glory by saying “holy holy holy,” I had already gotten started.  I am thinking all of Heaven was like “Whoa!  Check out that anticipation on Earth right now!”  Either that or Heaven had a good chuckle.  Whatever it was, I hope, it to some extent, pleasing to the Lord.  Messing up in church is truly a humbling experience.  P.S. There were twice as many holies sung at that particular mass.  There’s your silver lining!

Anyway, my parents happened to be at the impromptu mass that took place this morning.  My mother said:

You did very well.  I didn’t hear any mistakes.

Well, I managed to fool her.  There were plenty of mistakes and thankfully, our Lord was very gracious in helping me cover them up.

As I bring this blog post to a close, I recall a phrase that someone very close to me said a couple weeks ago:

“Go where God leads you.”

Let’s see where He takes me.

Why We Feel Unloved

16830806_10155030232006624_849842294541958570_nA few weeks ago a friend posted on facebook about feeling unloved.  She has experienced much in her life and at that particular time felt that those around her, which included family and even her own therapist, had let her down.  Many comments were posted to her page reassuring her that she is loved.  I do not doubt she didn’t know she was loved.  In fact I am sure she rarely forgets, but isn’t it interesting how even when one is surrounded by family and friends he or she can feel unloved?

I can very much relate to feeling unloved.  It unfortunately a very familiar feeling that I have experience for much of my life that seems to go hand and hand with loneliness.  We all experience rejection in our lives, but most importantly, we also experience disappointment from those who supposedly love us.   We put our faith in another person and down the road they disappoint us and we are deeply hurt.  Because of our disappointments, we all yearn to feel loved.

I have learned that nothing in this world can being a person true and everlasting happiness.  This also means that we as human beings can never experience what it means to be a true giver and receiver of love.  Because we are imperfect, our love is imperfect and since we give imperfect love, we in turn receive imperfect love.  We try to seek perfection in people which is impossible.  No matter how hard we try, we will at some point be disappointed by others and we will also disappoint others as well.

If we ourselves are imperfect, how can we expect to find perfect and everlasting love in another imperfect human being?  The simple answer is that we can’t.  To experience true love, we must realize Who the real giver of true love is.

I wrote this following comment beneath my friend’s facebook status.

You feel unloved because no one in this world can love you perfectly. We are all finite creatures seeking the infinite, the divine, the eternal. We are all imperfect creatures and therefore not capable of loving perfectly. This is why we can never find happiness through another person. Only God is perfect and thus capable of perfect love. Therefore keep your eyes on God always for He is the true giver of perfect love and our only True Love.

And therefore I end by saying this: if perfect and eternal love is what you seek, you will never find it in this world for the world cannot offer such a thing.  Nothing in this world lasts forever.  You can only find true love in God, for He is the reason that we love and seek love in the first place.

 

 

A Prisoner of the Mind

PrisonCell

“Are you scared?” a co-worker asked me.  I had just had two biopsies taken from my left breast.

Here is a little background:  I have dense, cystic breasts, and since I was about 30 years old, I have been going for routine ultra sounds to monitor them and make sure there were no suspicious changes.

Two weeks ago, I was told that two of the nodules (small lumps) in my left breast had grown and that I needed to have a biopsy taken from each of them to confirm that they were not cancerous.  I had read that most biopsies come back normal, so I wasn’t too concerned and the doctor didn’t seem too worried either.  However, even if something was wrong, I knew it could be caught early because of the close monitoring.  I go for bilateral ultrasounds on my breasts every six months.

When I was asked if was scared, I answered honestly, “No,” and went into my logical reasoning.  To the average person it would seem a bit strange that I wasn’t scared.  My mother had a biopsy done a few years ago and she was very anxious until the results came back.  Thankfully, they came back benign.

So why the heck was I so calm? The answer lies inside my head.  What I mean by that is that while my body had some things that were in question, it paled in comparison to what routinely goes on inside my mind.  My mind is a bully and likes to hold me hostage with its nagging thoughts and negative energy.  Before the biopsy, my mind was still chatting and being a bit obnoxious.  It wasn’t until a few days ago, that I realized how antagonizing and aggressive my pesky mind can be.

Here is a little more about me that you may not know.  Since my mid teens, I have battled depression and anxiety and wasn’t officially diagnosed until the age of 21 when I suffered a overgenerous breakdown.  Thanks be to God, I am in a much better place now, but my 20s were really rough.  My mind was a real, bad bully, constantly spitting out negative thoughts, which, led to self harm and my contemplation of suicide.  I believed that I was better off dead, so when I say the mind is a bully, I know firsthand.

Now let’s get back to the biopsy.  If I had it my way, I would have gone to the biopsy alone, but because I am not able to drive, and didn’t know exactly when I would get finished, I decided to have my mother be my ride rather than arranging for ParaTransit to take me to and from the appointment.

The night before the biopsy my thoughts were like this:

“I know I am going to be totally awake for this, but man, I wish they could give me a little Valium or something to relax me because I don’t want to be totally conscious.  If I am totally conscious I may cry and I don’t want them to see me cry.”

It is really interesting that I have had had 9 surgeries in my lifetime, one of which saved my life (my appendix burst in ’96).  However, still to this day I am not a fan of needles and watching any kind of medical procedures being done.  I get a little queasy at the sight of blood.

My prayer to God that night went like this:

“Lord, I am putting this in your hands.  Whatever happens, happens, and we will get through it together, but I have one favor to ask: Please help me to remain tough during this thing.  Don’t allow me to get all wimpy.  I really don’t want to cry.  I don’t like to cry in front of people.”

Well, it is a good thing my mother took me to my appointment because when I arrived the next morning for my appointment, the radiology department was at least 30 minutes behind schedule, which meant that I would be leaving my appointment at least 30 minutes later.  Of course I felt bad that she would be staying there at least 30 minutes longer, though.   She sat in the back of the waiting room with my father.  Yes, I forgot to mention that earlier that morning my father was in the vicinity of the area for a doctor appointment.  After his appointment finished, he arrived just as my mother and I entered the radiology department.  I sat toward the front of the waiting room so that I would have no trouble hearing my name being called.  The whole time I was sitting and waiting, my mind was talking a mile a minute.

“I can’t believe both your parents are with you at your age.”

“You should have just went by yourself.  You are 35 years old, not 10.  No one your age would have a parent take them.”

“You shouldn’t have let your parents come.  They have better things that they could be doing.”

“You are such a pain in the ass.”

This went on for a few minutes.  I was trying to prove to my mind that there were people who were my age and older who had at least one parent accompany them to a medical test like a biopsy.  I thought that my 50-year old cousin had his mother take him to and from his colonoscopy and endoscopy appointment, but when I asked my mother, she corrected me and said that it was his wife that took him.  Dang, I was out of luck.  I couldn’t think of anyone else.

Finally, my name was called and I went in.  I cracked a few jokes to lighten up the mood.  When I was asked if I knew how the procedure was going to go, I answered: “Oh yeah, I watched videos on YouTube.”

Both biopsies went fairly quickly and the doctor told me what she was doing as she was doing it.  I had a local anesthetic so I couldn’t feel any pain just pressure, but I looked away and kept my eyes closed the entire time.  “I don’t want to see anything,” I had told her before she got started.  The fact that I knew what was happening made me a little queasy.  Surprisingly, my mind was relatively quiet.  Sure it was thinking things like, “Is it done yet?” or “I am hungry,” but I had no annoying thoughts.

Last Friday, I received a phone call from the doctor with great news: both biopsies came back benign!

The moral of this story is to not tell you my biopsy experience, but to give you a glimpse of the mind and its influence.  In life we deal with both physical pain and emotional pain.  For whatever reason, I find emotional pain and problems that stem from the mind to be more difficult to deal with.  In many ways, it is easier to heal a physical wound than it is heal an emotional wound.  It is also difficult to overcome the bad habits of the mind.  My mind has an awful habit of putting me down and comparing me to other people.  As a result. I feel pretty badly about myself.

While I was sitting in that waiting room, I should have been thinking: “Wow, look how lucky and blessed I am!  Both my parent are here to support me while I get my biopsies.”  Instead my mind was spitting out all kind of negative thoughts and making me feel bad when I should have been thanking my lucky stars.  My parents were there for me and I was not able to see this reality for what it was because I had allowed that reality to become distorted.  This is what happens when you become a prisoner of the mind.  One is not able to see oneself and life very clearly.  That’s why when I pray I always ask God the following:

Help me to see myself as You see me, not as society sees me.

The mind is heavily influenced by our society and in case you have not noticed, our society is not in alignment with God.

The mind is very intelligent but that doesn’t mean it is right.  It is like the devil because it tells lies and convinces you of a reality that is completely false.  I believe that the devil and demonic forces influence the mind.  The mind breeds doubt and doubt is the enemy.

Sitting in that waiting room, my mind had convinced me that I was a loser, a wimp and a pain in the ass.  I had allowed it to bully me for a good 30 minutes, and I had allowed it to influence my opinion of myself.  I constantly have to remind myself that I am not my mind.  I am a soul, a spirit,  that was created by God.  For the reasons mentioned above, the mind can be very dangerous because it can destroy a soul if one allows it.  And now a quote from the ancient Chinese philosopher and writer, Lao Tzu:

“Watch your thoughts, they become words;
watch your words, they become actions;
watch your actions, they become habits;
watch your habits, they become character;
watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.”

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.

Can Music Be a Form of Prayer?

Screenshot 2016-04-27 21.42.01

excerpt of  “In the Beginning” from Images

A year or so ago, I was riding in the car with one of my friends who has the same first name as I do.  I don’t remember the exact sequence of the conversation, but I went from talking about God to talking about one of my music composition projects.  “Gee Jen, ” she said, “I am surprised you don’t write religious music.”

I always wondered that myself.  Honestly, I never wrote anything that would be considered religious.  I never wrote a Mass or anything like that.  Many of the great composers have already written such wonderful works, so I never felt the need to write any sacred music myself.  I was always trying to find my own voice and do something different.  The fact that I had not written or was even considering writing any sacred music seemed quite bizarre to me.  After all, I am active in my church’s music ministry.

The topic of music and God, also came up in a discussion I had with my spiritual director some time ago.  She mentioned how music can be a form of prayer and worship and used King David as an example.  While The Ark of the Covenant was being brought to Jerusalem, he danced before the Lord .

“As the ark of the Lord came into the city of David, Michal the daughter of Saul looked out of the window, and saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord;”2 Samuel 6:16

“Oh, but I don’t compose religious music,” I told her, “and much of the music I play would be considered secular.”  She had told me that my performance and compositions didn’t have to be of a religious nature to be considered a form of prayer.  It seemed really strange to view my own music as a form of prayer or praise to God.  I have studied music written for The Church, is considered sacred since it was clearly directed to our Lord.  However, when I began to think more about the process of composing and the art of performance being forms of prayer, the more it seemed possible.

God is the source of all creation and I believe all things come from God as well.  For example, I just finished recording a CD of original piano music that will be coming out next month.  If at least one of the compositions would be called “good,” I couldn’t take all the credit.  The closest sacred work that I have composed that is included on the disc is Images, a collection of seven piano pieces inspired by my pilgrimage to the Holy Land.  Each piece was inspired by either a specific place, moment or feeing during my visit.   It isn’t written for the Mass or anything like that, but I would consider it sacred because it was inspired holy places and spiritual experiences.  It is a trip that transformed me in many ways.  The scriptures came alive and I felt it brought me closer with the Lord.

Screenshot 2016-04-27 21.55.41

excerpt from Revelation

For me, the art of composing and performing is a spiritual collaboration between man and God.  Sometimes the two can be completely in sync with one another where the music just flows freely and effortlessly.  This rarely happens to me, but when it does, the experience is awesome.  An examples of this happened to me in 2011 when I was writing a piece for the North/South Chamber Orchestra called Revelations.  The ideas for this composition seemed to pour out into my head and I simply followed where the music led me.  There seriously had to be strong Divine Intervention for that work.  I called it Revelations because it literally was revealed to me.  Was it revealed to me by God?  I would like to think so!

As for performance, the mind is truly in the present moment and only when the mind is in the present moment can one be in the presence of God.  I can recall many performances in which I felt very well connected with the piano and truly in the moment where I was able to connect with the audience and other musicians who were performing with me.  This is what I love about playing chamber music, there is more of a sense of community, a kind of joining together in group prayer.  In my best performances, all sense of time is lost because I am completely immersed in this heavenly world.

Much of my music comes from my own personal experiences, and even though I have free will, God is still the author of my life since He created me and knows everything about me.  Much of my music is inspired by my two avian companions, Sunny and Nikki, and who created them?  I think our Lord smiled when He imagined those two!  He seems to work His hand in everything.  Man may have built the first piano, but who created man and gave him the ability to imagine such ideas?  Our ability to create comes from the Creator.  After all, we are made in His image.  Therefore, when anyone creates a something that would be considered beautiful, powerful or a masterpiece, it is not simply just a human effort, but a collaboration between God and man.  Where there is collaboration there must be a dialogue of some kind, and when one engages with a dialogue with the Lord, that is called prayer.

As I write this, I recall a gift my mother gave me one Christmas.  I was a pillow that read the following: “Music, a Celebration of the Soul”  I couldn’t agree more, for when the soul is in perfect alignment with God, it truly has a reason to celebrate.

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.

A Misfit in the Catholic Church

VaticanFlagI always knew I was different and it wasn’t my physical disabilities that made me different from other people.  I acted much different and liked different things.  I was different in how I viewed and understood the world around me.  I was a rebel, but not in a way that you think.  I was not a trouble maker, but a truth seeker.  Despite having two impaired senses, I sought to see and understand the world as it truly was and not how it appeared to be.  Unfortunately, I saw a lot of things that did not please me.  People liked to copy each other and rejected living like their true selves.  We are all different and unrepeatable and yet I saw people trying to make themselves repeatable and trying to fit some kind of a mold or set of standards that stemmed from the ideas of media and pop culture.  If the majority of people were going left, I would go right and if they stepped forward, I stepped back.  As much as I tried to be like the majority, it never felt right.  To conform to the ways of others felt very unnatural to me and as much as I tried to fit in, I could never manage to do it.

As a child, I was classified as being weird and I had hardly any friends.  I spent much of my high school career studying and when I look back, I wish I had not taken my studies so seriously and had a little more fun.  My social life was on the verge of extinction.  My idea of having a good time on a Friday night was doing trigonometry.  I had a hunger for knowledge and loved to think.  I often retreated in my own little world, which was fun because not only did I know all the people there, but I was very well-liked.

At 34, I still feel like an outsider looking in, but even more so as a Roman Catholic.  Why is this?  Well, it seems that my Catholic contemporaries are light years ahead of me.  They are either married or in religious life. I still have no clue what my calling is.  My mother says that the single life is a vocation.  Well, I don’t feel like it is because it is not talked about much.  The church seems to celebrate the married and religious states of life.  I can count the number of never married, single lay Catholics that I know on one hand. When I am in church, most of the female attendees are married and those who are single are widows, so they were married and became single by circumstance.  I really don’t know many single lay woman above the age of 30 in my parish.

My whole family is Catholic, but everyone in my family above the age of 30 are married and most of them have children.  In fact most of them have two children. That seems to be the magic number in my family.  Even my parents are each one of two children.  When I am around my family, I feel like I am a leftover on Noah’s Ark.  I am the only single person excluding my young cousins, nieces and nephew, who are all under the age of 18. It is really difficult to fit in a family where everyone is grouped into pairs. I even have TWO female birds that are best buddies.  Honestly, I wasn’t planning on having two birds though.  I thought I would stop at one, but Sunny flew into my life unexpectedly and became part of my family.

Since I made my confirmation, my father has been telling me to enter the convent and become a nun. Whenever I mention that there is a chance that I could get married, he would tell me that the convent is for me.  Most parents want their children to be married. My mother doesn’t put any pressure on me to do anything, but I will confess, I often feel pressure from my father to become a nun.  I feel guilty that I don’t feel drawn to the religious life, and I honestly don’t understand why I don’t feel any sort of connection to it. It would make perfect sense for me to become a nun or a sister right?  I love God, I am active in the church and I am unmarried. There’s my loophole, I should just make my move right?  Honestly, something is holding me back.  Like in my school days, to go that route doesn’t feel natural to me. It might feel right in the future but not right now.  Right now, becoming a nun or a sister, would be going against my own will.  But what about God’s will? Aren’t I supposed to conform my will to the will of God?  This is the part that always gets me.  If in fact our Lord wants for me to become a nun or sister, I don’t want to rebel against Him and His plan for me?  People have even told me that our Lord could be speaking through my father, but somehow, I highly doubt that God was speaking through my father when he said: “If you become a nun, then I will go to heaven.”

One of the anxieties I experience as a single lay Catholic is the idea of a “missed vocation”.  Did I miss my calling?  Did God give me an invitation to follow Him down a certain path that would lead me to my vocation and did I not accept that invitation?  Did I miss an opportunity that God provided for me that would ultimately help me decide between married or religious life?  I imagine finding my vocation to be like catching a train.  I am racing down the train platform to catch it and find that I have missed it.  Now I must wait for the next train to come to lead me to my destination, but will there be a next train or was that the last train altogether?  Did I totally miss my vocation completely? Am I doomed to live out the rest of my Catholic life trying to catch that train that may never arrive again?  That thought makes me feel as useless as an appendix and I don’t even have an appendix!  It ruptured in 1996, which was a complete blessing, but that is another story.  Anyway, I can only hope that I get a second chance to get on that train.  I want so badly to have a purpose.  In my school days, I wanted to fit in with my peers, now I seem to struggle with fitting in the Catholic Church.  I can’t help but think that my vocation is uniquely my own and being a single lay person will allow me to follow that unique path wherever it may take me.  Is it silly to think that?

Besides sharing music, I really want to focus primarily on learning more about my faith and strengthening my relationship with God.  Unfortunately, I never had the privilege of attending a Catholic school so I am trying to catch up on my Catholic education. There is so much I do not know, but I am learning a lot. A friend of mine likened me to being a recent convert to the Catholic faith because of my enthusiasm and hunger to learn more about my faith.  I often call myself a Born Again Catholic. Yes, I am a cradle catholic but it wasn’t until I was 29 years old, coming out of a deep depression that I spiritually began to shift.  I became more involved in my parish and when I was almost 32 years old, my father and I participated in the Charismatic Renewal together.  It was here that my faith was completely renewed and set on fire.  From that point on, I became more interested in learning more about God and how to strengthen my relationship with Him.  Let’s just hope that if I don’t find my spiritual vocation before I leave this earth, our Lord won’t say something like this to me: “Dude!  I can’t believe you didn’t figure it out!”  If He were to say that to me, I think I would have to say something like: “Lord, you know how clueless I am.  Surely you already know that I would never figure it out.”

Despite not knowing for certain what my actual spiritual vocation is, I can, in the meantime, try to live my life focusing on the universal calling: the call to holiness. We are all called to holiness regardless of if you live the single, married or religious life. I hope that each day I live, I live according to God’s will. It isn’t easy you know. I always find myself stumbling a lot. I am far from perfect and need major graces from our Lord to enable me to live intended. Because He loves me so much and died for me, I want no more than to please Him. I have faith that in His own given time, He will reveal His plan for me.

%d bloggers like this: