Friday, June 30, 2006

The Vocation of Love

When I left school in May, I had no idea that life would be more eventful than Christendom. I honestly never thought that was possible. Among many things this summer, I was deeply honored and blessed to be asked to head up a young Catholic girls' group. My first night was Sunday. After much prayer and deliberation, I focused my scripture lesson on the passages about Jesus and the little children. I finished my talk with the reason why children are so special.

We all have lights, I told the young girls. Confused, one of the girls piped up. "What are lights?" I answered that she had brought me to my next point. I read the passage about not hiding one's light under a bushel basket. Suddenly, the girl's hand flew madly into the air and her eyes were shining brightly. After I called on her, she said something quite profound that consequently covered the rest of my carefully chosen points. "Oh! Our lights are our talents and those are gifts from God and we should use them to bring Christ to others." Why was it that I thought the young girls would have such a hard time grasping the concept of Christ's love, light, and maintaining the faith of a child? Because I'll admit openly, I was wrong.

Actually, I think adults would have a harder time grasping the simple profoundness of this idea. After all, adults have been so jaded and hardened that most have forgotten the crux of childhood. Simplicity and love. For everyone. My stress could not have gone unnoticed Sunday when I begged the girls not to lose this important virtue. With adulthood comes jealously, callouness, skepticism, and conditional love. Independence comes, too, and adults will often forget how to depend on their Father.

Children never see negative and evil. They only see the potential good in others and some lucky few even have the ability to sense the need for love in others. Children have this strange talent of being able to look through your eyes all the way into your soul. Adults never look at you long enough to do that. Some adults see the faults and they judge. Viciously. Children never lose the love for the beautiful. Sunsets, ice cream, dreaming. Most adults don't have time for the beautiful.

There are a select few with the vocation of maintaining that childhood inside themselves when they turn twenty-five, forty-five, even ninety-five. We are the people who have something stronger than a desire to love others, regardless of the choices they've made. We can't see the evil. We walk through airport and see God's creatures and can't pick out who's gay and who's a single mother. We are the people who God sends to those desparately lost and those who are panicking. He asks us to pick up these people, His lost sheep, and bring them back to Him in the most personal way. He asks us to give our heart to these people who have no idea what that entails. And it's these people who appreciate it so much.

We are the people who, because we have a dire need to love the unloved, hurt more than anyone will know. Stabs, insults, and rejection hurt more in us than in other adults. We feel it in our stomache and in our hearts. We never forget the hurt, but we instantly forgive the injurer. Our utmost desire is keep people in our light. And it is because He asks us to.

For some adults, childhood ends around eighteen years old. For others, it never ends. We always live in the world of happy sunsets, melting ice cream, and terrible pain. We hold our arms wide open for all of God's creatures while we are frightened to death of inevitable abandonment. We think about others first while we feel the ache of the lost and lonely. We are adults only in mind. We are children at heart.

And it is this that Christ calls out of all of us. But He orders it directly from a select few. A bittersweet vocation, it is full of happiness, but always causes pain. Child-like faith and love is a beautiful vocation. Not something to be hidden under a bushel basket, but set on a lampstand. Not to be hidden under our bed, but placed gently on the table. Through sharing it with others, we share it with ourselves. And Christ lights ours a little brighter each time.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Thank You

I take things for granted. I'm very bad about this. It takes me seeing how much it cost others before I understand how lucky I am. Unfortunately, these opportunties don't come very often. For any of us. And I know that I am not the only one who takes blessings in life for granted. Every person in my life does the same, to one degree or another. We live our lives, complaining about every little cross and weight, never giving one thought to what it is we do have.

Like Freedom and Life.

I went to eat lunch with my father two days ago (June 14). My father is deputy director at the Veteran's Association Hospital, a huge facility that serves many of our country's veterans. One need only take a walk through the wards to see the cost so many paid unquestioningly. For me, all it took was a walk through the dining hall. In line for my weekly hamburger, my mouth was watering. They can make some wicked hamburgers there and I had been working hard all morning. And then, it took just a minute too long to get up to the counter. I began to get impatient. As I was switching feet and grumbling, my eye caught something behind me at waist level.

It was a man. Confined to a wheelchair, he was prematurely old. Nothing was left to him, but sagging flesh and bones. Even his mind was no longer here. His patient wife stood beside him. "Honey, over here. We have to wait over here. We need to get you off the morphine. It really makes you sleepy." The man was slowly dying and his wife was having to watch him go. What a painful vocation. As I tore my stare from the man, I had to fight back tears. The tears weren't only because of his illness. He wore a hat. Vietnam Veteran, it read.

My God, I thought, this man fought in defense of me. He once marched valiantly off to fight a War, one in which he was never supported. He went off proudly, leaving his wife behind, and was the pinnacle of manhood: brave, strong, courageous, valiant, and sacrificing. And what was left of him. Nothing. He was slowly wasting away. He sat in an electric wheelchair completely incognizant of everything around him: his wife's loving beckons, my saddened stares. The soldier was gone.

It's a little late for Memorial Day and a little too early for Independence Day, but maybe it's better that way. We should always remember. Those soldiers who gave their lives lie in graves and those who gave less lie in wheelchairs. They unquestioningly gave what they were called to give and didn't think twice. Yet, when I can't have my food or see my friends, I complain. I have done nothing to deserve the every thing I have. Yet these men and women gave all and have nothing left.

Thank you to all the veterans who unquestioningly sacrifice everything for me so that I may be greedy and impatient. And for those still fighting overseas and their families, thank you. Thank you for being so kind as to lend your loved ones to such an incredible cause. God bless the soldiers: all those who have gone, those who shall go, and those to come. May God bless you and America.