Sunday, August 7, 2022

40 Years of Grace


August 7, 1982, the Paulist Fathers' Novitiate, Oak Ridge NJ (photo) was the site of my First Profession forty years ago today. So I am now forty years a Paulist. 

Every person is, in some sense, one's history. That said, while I well remember the day and the event and can recall clearly who was there and what was done, I am at a loss to remember much of what I thought and how I felt.

Surely, I felt a certain sense of relief - relief that a challenging experience (now much more fondly remembered) had been survived and completed. Surely, I also felt some sense of apprehension about what lay ahead - not just because I am by personality apprehensive and anxious about what is unknown but because of what I already knew about myself based on the complicated experiences I had been living through (not just the year at Oak Ridge but the ups and downs of the decades that had preceded).

Even so, I was somehow confident that the intense desire implanted by God in my soul would, by God's same providential design, attain its object. Of this sense I had become more explicitly aware through the mysterious workings of the novitiate experience, aware too that, while less completely conscious of any of this, I had nonetheless rested in some version of that through those tumultuous three decades.

Apprehensive or not, I did not - could not - know then what the following forty years would bring. I knew only that this new way of life, while not entirely erasing my old self, would consistently, if only gradually, continually break through that older self's defensive structures, constantly reforming and renewing me through life and ministry to the new person I was being called to become. Most certainly, I did not at all appreciate then how much more gradual that process would be, more gradual than expected, to the point that the consistency of the process' progress to its final end would at times seem to be broken.

Forty years are a long time to be constantly pushed and pulled. From the perspective of the past, forty years seem to have been almost an eternity - or at least as long psychologically as Abraham's prolonged journey and challenging sojourns.

As I prepare for the next and presumably final phase of the journey, all I can do is to be so amazed at my multitude of challenging sojourns, resting in the acute confidence that all has been, is, and will be grace

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