Friday, October 22, 2004

Exigencies & Spirituality
When I became pastor I promised occasional reflections on the experience of being a new pastor. From time to time, I have shared certain happenings in the parish -- some disappointing things and plenty of exciting things. Yesterday something happened at the parish that reminded me of a lesson I had already learned. But, I think this was the first experience of it as pastor. The lesson has to do with the exigencies of life in the body -- our proper existence as a unity of body and soul -- and how that seems to compete with the spiritual life.

On Thursday, I got up nice and early and enjoyed some quiet prayer before heading over to the chapel for the Holy Mass. I was excited. Yes, because of Mass, but also because I had a great start on the day. Immediately after completing Holy Mass, I was going to throw one day's change of clothing in my car and head down to Oklahoma City for the monthly meeting of my priest support group. It is a welcome relief in a busy life to stop, even if just briefly, to enjoy the fraternity of other priests and to unload a bit of the burden. Well, God decided, I guess, that I hadn't yet reached my burden limit for the month. I found a small lagoon just outside the main entrance to the church. Suddenly, the prayerful preparation I normally undergo for Holy Mass, which begins by washing the hands, found me instead with my hand poking around a muddy hole, trying to find the source of our own little version of the fountain at Lourdes! [No, I didn't plant my face in it and drink. If Our Lady was there directing me to do so, I missed her!] I offered the Holy Mass, took off the vestments and got right back to the lagoon, determined to call the city, turn off the water, call a plumber and still leave for my support group. After all, I'm not a plumber and they certainly don't need me looking over their shoulder in order to adequately fix such a problem. All was on track, until I discovered that the lagoon had a twin in the basement Kindergarten RE classroom. I cancelled my attendance at the support group, envisioning the entire church disappearing into an enormous sinkhole were I to be away. [Not that our church being swallowed up by a sinkhole wouldn't be welcome, I just wanted to make sure to be here so that immediate plans could be announced for a glorious gothic cathedral in its place! OH, okay, I'll be honest, I would have wanted to open a bottle of champagne too!]

Such is life in the flesh. We have the best plans to set time aside for God. We are going to finish earthly tasks early so as to devote attention to the spiritual life. We are going to pray, go to confession, keep the TV off, stop sitting around the recliner night after night... But life throws many unforeseen exigencies in our path. And, as the meaning of exigency communicates, these distractions must be attended to immediately. I suppose the recognition that exigencies will happen ought to mean that we take even that much more care to nourish our souls now. We must be even that much more disciplined in earthly pleasures so that our souls move toward perfection. Because, let's face it, if we don't exercise care in this regard, the exigencies of life will deplete the focus our souls deserve. And that will be time and effort we cannot regain when the exigency of death and our particular judgment invite themselves into our plans!

And if you, dear reader, are just now returning to this post in a huff because you had begun reading it, but were distracted by a crying baby, a phone caller making back-to-back calls when you didn't answer the first time, or a buzzer reminding you that dinner is about to burn, you have just experienced the very thing about which I write! God bless you.

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