Sunday, December 21, 2014

Duc In Altum: Put Out Into The Deep Discernment Retreat With Bishop Donald Hying

This past weekend I went on a silent discernment retreat at Saint Francis de Sales Seminary. It had been quite a while since I had been on one. The retreat was called Duc In Altum, which literally means,  to "put out into the deep" and although I didn't realize that it was a silent retreat when I signed up to go, it was exactly what I needed at this moment in my life. The weekend was led by Bishop Donald Hying, a great man whom I also consider a wonderful friend and spiritual guide and is soon to be the next bishop of the Diocese of Gary, Indiana.

For myself personally, I have had a difficult time discerning what the next steps are that God is calling me to take regarding re-entering seminary. This retreat was extremely fruitful in a sense that it reminded me that I am not alone in my discernment, and reaffirmed my trust in God, that He would never leave my side, even when the life decisions that I make are not always comfortable or easy.

Each day of the retreat featured the Liturgy of Hours, Mass celebrated by Bishop Hying, and the rector of the seminary, Fr. John Hemsing, listening to a series of conferences by the Bishop and participating in a beautiful Eucharistic all night vigil.

In one of his talks Bishop Hying spoke about a common conversation that he has with young people.
Often he will ask a man or woman what they want to do with their life and being put on the spot, they are unable to think of their greatest dreams and desires. The common response that follows is that they want to go to a good school. When the Bishop asks them why this is important to them, they answer, "In order to get a good job so as to have a comfortable life." Finally the Bishop concludes the questioning, " Then what do you hope to do after that?" Usually there is hardly or no response at all.

As a young man discerning what I should do with my life, there are so many options that it can be very overwhelming. Often times I feel lost or confused about what I should do especially while living in a world that constantly encourages moving upwards in life, making a lot of money, gaining popularity, success, prestige and human admiration, while adding as much material possessions as I can to my life.

Christ on the other hand calls us to move downwards, to give all our money away, to die to self in order to put others first, to subtract the comfort from our lives so He can fill us with all that we truly need to grow in faith and love.

This retreat was such a beautiful reminder of the need to make myself open and available to the will of God whatever it is that I am being called to do. Going on this retreat also reminded me of what great friends and support that I have from the community of people I have come to know. I really recommend making a retreat at least once in your life. Not only is it a great way to grow in community with others who share your desire to do God's will, but in the world of great distractions and upward vision, it's a perfect opportunity to enter into silence and allow God to speak to your heart.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Growing Up

"As we grow up, we realize that we have two hands; one for helping yourself and the other for helping others." - Audrey Hepburn

When I was growing up my parents worked hard to instill  the importance of hard work and education in my family. I believe they became fearful when we would rather play video games and sit on the computer instead of studying for our exams or filling out scholarships or applications for colleges.  They knew that life would be hard as we moved on into our young adult years and they wanted to make sure that we were well prepared to cope with the challenges that were sure to come our way.

This past year has been huge learning experience for me where I encountered many challenges and became truly grateful for all of the guidance my parents have given me.  Knowing that other young adults may also be struggling as they make the transition from dependent children to independent adults, I want to share some of the great lessons I learned. 

Make sure you have a back up plan when choosing a career path- If you run into obstacles and setbacks in your plans and something doesn't sit well with you, there is no shame in going in a different direction.

Choose to work for companies that share your values- During the summer I was struggling to find a job and jumped at the chance to work for Quad Graphics. It wasn't until after I was already hired and worked for the company for a few months that I learned that they print "Playboy" magazine in another one of their plants. Had I known that before applying to work there, I wouldn't have considered applying for that job.   Now I'm blessed to work for a great Catholic company.  I'm so grateful to work for a place that not only shares my Catholic values, but strives to instill them in all of our members and clients.

Always drive the speed limit- I used to have a lead foot, and although it got me to my destinations quicker, it really cost me a lot with speeding tickets, accidents and a higher rate of insurance.

Take the time to research how to find and secure a job- I spent the majority of my summer tirelessly looking for a job, applying everywhere and anywhere. I learned a lot about my strengths and weaknesses, honed my interview skills, learned how to take rejection and realized how unqualified I was for the positions I wanted. Most importantly I learned that by persevering in a job search, a quality job can be yours and that there are always good people who are willing to help you get where you want to be.

Everything costs money- As a young kid, I was not immune to want to spend all of my paychecks from my first jobs. Young people like me really learn on the fly  that just because you have money, doesn't mean you should blow it. You never know when a emergency situation will occur.  Saving for those emergencies is crucial.

There will always be girls- If your biggest worry is having a relationship, then you really need to settle down. There will always be girls, so don't make dating your top priority.  Instead, focus on those things that will help you to have a successful future.  If you are already in a relationship, don't settle for someone who is less than ideal for you. If you don't feel like they're the one for you or there is something that you can't overlook, don't stick around. God will surely lead you to the right person in His time.

Network- Everybody knows somebody else. You can really benefit from making connections with people.  I am blessed that my friends have my back and were willing and able to help me get up off my feet to where I am now. Having those friends who look out for you, love you and support you can really go a long way.  And at the same time, make sure you return the favor and give your friends a helping hand, too, if they should ever need it.

Listen to your parents- They've been there and back so respect them and thank them. You wouldn't even be where you are now without them. 

Work on your faith- When things seem to be on a downward turn, don't let go of your faith in God. It is your faith in God that will strengthen you and bring you out of the deepest holes.

There is a huge difference between book smarts and common sense. I learned that there are many things in the real world that school can't prepare you for. I also learned that just because you are smart in school, that doesn't mean that you are set for the real world. I've seen so many peers who were extremely educated in school, yet when it came to common sense, they got in the worst situations, chose the wrong friends, didn't reflecte on consequences before they acted, and now they don't have the knowledge to resolve their problems. 

This year, I was reminded that I can never stop learning, regardless of whether I'm in school or not.  I am never alone in my trials. You always have second chances to make up for your mistakes and people will never stop loving you no matter what. Never lose hope in yourself or in God. 

I hope that you have also had a year of great learning and have grown in self-knowledge as well as in knowledge and life-skills.  Have a wonderful last few weeks of the year and know of my prayers for a blessed and hope-filled Christmas and New Year.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

What Should You Desire

My Mom told me about about an interesting conversation she had with one of my younger brothers the other day. She had picked him up to take him to school and while they were on the way, my brother pulls out a prayer card of St. Joseph that I had given him. According to tradition, if you pray the prayer to St. Joseph for 9 consecutive days for anything you desire, your request will be granted.

While looking at the card on their drive, my brother spoke with a great deal of honesty, " I don't know what to desire, so I just pray that God will reveal what I should desire. " I couldn't think of a more honest answer from someone my age than that one and I think it is true for so many people today.

We don't know what we want...Or what it is that we should want.

Looking at my own life, I find myself confused about what I should and shouldn't desire. I believe both society and my own human weakness are to blame.

We strive to have holy relationships with women, but society tricks us into thinking that we need promiscuity with women. We want to grow in our relationships with God, but we are persuaded to believe that contact with God should be strictly designated for Sundays. We want to mature and become more independent, but we are taught that in order to do that, you need to move out, cut people out of your life and start all new habits with brand new people. Society can confuse you and your dreams and desires and it can be a very lonely place to be.

My brother had the most mature and well thought out solution that I've ever heard from anyone his age.

"I can't decide what I should be desiring. You decide God."

Who better to rely on than the one who created your entire being? Submit your will to the Father and let him lead you down the path he has chosen for you.