I am no stranger to reflecting on the past – I’ve done it often enough throughout my now many years on this big blue marble. In the past few days, between clients and conferences, my mind has wandered through the past 20 to 30 years of celebration and turmoil.
You see, in two days I celebrate 20 years as a priest in the Independent Catholic Movement (ICM); a movement filled with saints and sinners, servants and sharks. Before the ICM, I worked for 10 years at my local parish in the Roman Catholic diocese where I lived – including the 4 years in seminary and alternative learning placements (I was older, second career they called us, and they didn’t quite know what to do with me).
A part of me wants to launch into an angry tirade, calling out all the destructive individuals I’ve encountered, but then I ask myself – what good will it do me to reflect on all the negative and punitive garbage? What will I accomplish by calling out the various forces that seek only position and power? There is only one answer – nothing. It does me no good and it certainly doesn’t shed a good light on the ICM. The truth is, whether it is the Roman Catholic Church or the Independent Movement, there are problems a plenty. We’ve no shortage of people who will point out all the horrible life has to offer. That is no longer an option for me. I need to take a different path; one of healing and growth.
I’ve learned many things in the past 30 years and I take with me on my journey of service to the People the good and great in all things I have encountered. There are so many bright and beautiful memories; you have to look for them, and sometimes they just smacks you upside the head. But the beauty is there for anyone to find, and it’s there I choose to focus.
“The thorn in my side deepens
with every breath
and has become a knife; deftly wielded by an invisible hand,
it prods me on to continue my journey;
it has become my lover and my most hated friend.
My mind is full of awe and wonder for things I can never understand.
My soul cannot separate from mysteries better left to those who understand such matters while
I wander in anticipation of my beloved fool who returns in every celebration.
Through the invisible pain, I celebrate;
the pain deepens and I am satisfied,
until again my soul is filled
with awe and wonder for things I can only hope to understand.”
~Fr. Kenn Nelan, 2016.
It’s taken some time and some taxing moments, but I have learned to rely on the grace and love of our +Creator throughout the good times and the not-so-good times. I have learned to trust in the process and that the +Creator is leading me “in the right paths” for the right reasons. I have learned to rely on faith rather than on the failings of those around me who seek other comforts. And through it all, “the thorn in my side…” “…prods me on to continue my journey…” of service and of seeking the divine in all things and in all people – even in the most detestable.
As I look back, I recall the love and the joyful moments. I recall the companionship and camaraderie, the laughter and lightheartedness. I remember the embraces and deep theological conversations. I remember the salvific vision of peace, love, forgiveness, and compassion I espouse.
Sure, the not-so-great stuff keeps popping up into my mind, but I can overcome them by remembering it is the Christ and my +Creator I serve. I will walk forward into the light and remain present to the teachings I teach and profess.
It’s taken 20 to 30 years, but I finally recognize that focusing on the not-so-good only keeps me rooted in a place that serves no greater purpose than to destroy and divide. Focusing on the latter only perpetuates an endless cycle of self-destruction – again, something I learned long ago and refreshed just a couple of years past.
So… moving forward I choose the past less traveled. I choose, instead, to focus on the love and peace that exists in the world. It may be a struggle, but it will be well worth the effort!
“…and I still cry” when celebrating the most sacred of sacred moments. I am proud to be an emotionally connected servant to that moment we share with the +Divine! 20 years… Let’s see where it leads!