Notes From A Small Town

Rather than write one, cohesive blog post this Sunday morning, I thought it might be a good idea just to share a few ideas, which you might find interesting or helpful. For my American readers we still have this Sunday and all day tomorrow left in this holiday weekend.   Remember that the reason we have this holiday is to recall those who have given their lives in service to this country, to preserve our freedoms and way of life – and who in many cases gave their lives to help people spread all over the globe.  We are truly blessed to have benefited from their sacrifice, and the sacrifices their families made for all of us.

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My birthday was a couple of weeks ago, but as this is a holiday weekend in the United States it was the first time most of us could all get home to my parents’ to celebrate it together. Among the many thoughtful, useful, and fun gifts I received, one of my brothers got me a rather thick, heavy, scholarly book about the development of the film industry in all its aspects – everything from technical methods employed in lighting to concepts in editing such as continuity. Of course by scholarly, I mean it is a volume with lots of text and footnotes, in a smallish font so as to squeeze in as much information as possible, and there is not a huge amount of accompanying pictures or illustrations.

The giver expressed some concern that he was not entirely sure if it might prove too specialist a read, but as I explained this is exactly the sort of thing I like.  It is easy to lose yourself in this sort of book, even if it takes longer to make your way through than would a more accessible text. Not only do you learn a great deal, but it is absorbing and requiring of your concentration, so that you need to pay attention to it if you are going to get through it.  Thus, it provides the proverbial “hours of entertainment”.

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As my parents recently had high-speed WiFi installed at the house, this was the first weekend I have been home to visit where I did not have to reduce my computer time to when the one in my Dad’s office was free.  At first I mourned the idea that I would now be able to keep up with all of my normal internet activities here in the small town where I grew up, but instead it has actually turned out to be great in several, unexpected ways.  I have been able to write blog posts uninterrupted, for example, and do some other, work-related writing that I need to do.   I also managed to appear on SQPN’s “Catholic Weekend” show from here, using my youngest brother’s bedroom on the top floor as the recording studio least likely to have any interruptions.

And while I am not a baseball fan, I managed to spend last evening with my family all watching baseball on television while I sat on the couch with them and did my usual writing, research, and so on, and yet still being able to interact with them.  I was able to be a part of what was going on, without having to put work aside, or not appear on the show, or go to another room because I could be on the computer at last if everyone else was watching baseball.  Perhaps the lesson to take away from this is that technology is wonderful, but you have to make an effort sometimes to figure out how it might bring you together, rather than isolate you.

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Although I live in Washington, and I only manage to come home to visit every 6-8 weeks, give or take, over the past couple of years I have befriended one of the local parish priests here.  I usually check to see what mass he is going to be saying while I am in town and attend that one if I can.  He has been marvelous for confession in the past, we email back and forth periodically, and he strikes me as a very gentle, thoughtful pastor of his flock.  This weekend I wanted to go to confession and also have some time for spiritual direction if he was willing to just listen to me talk about some ideas and issues I am wrestling with, and he agreed to block off additional time for me before the scheduled Saturday afternoon confessions were to begin.

So yesterday afternoon we got to sit and talk for about an hour on where I have been, and where I am going.  A number of interesting commonalities came to light which I had not been aware of, such as the fact that he is a fellow alumnus of Notre Dame.  He was also a lawyer and practiced law for a few years before entering seminary.

For those of you who know the wonderful feeling you get from making a good confession, and particularly when you are able to do so after a really solid discussion with a good-hearted priest, there really is nothing else like it.  Yet what came out of this as well was that Father had the chance to tell me of examples in his own life as a parish priest that have parallels in how I live as a lay professional.  He explained how he looks at these situations and tries to handle them.

It was great hearing Father’s perspective, and how he could relate it to my own experiences, because he clearly had listened to what I had told him.  He talked about what fit for me, based on who I am and where I am now, as the individual sitting in the chair across from him.  And we spoke an equal amount of the time, going back and forth and taking turns to speak, rather than it all being lop-sided, and that was terrific as well.

So if you are Catholic, and it has been awhile since you have been to confession, or even if you go reasonably regularly, consider making an appointment to spend some time face to face talking about things in a way that is unhurried. Find a priest whose personality fits with yours, and let him know you just want to talk for an hour or half an hour, and see how it goes.  It may do you a world of good.

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