Thursday, July 19, 2007

Tertio Millennio - Reflections

As promised in my previous post, here are my reflections on the course.

When Mr. Weigel invited me to this course in September, I was a little blown away. I am no one special, and, truth be told, I hadn't been Catholic very long, just about 3 years at that time. But God plants purposes in things that we don't know, and I accepted the gift with great graciousness, despite my lack of being able to grasp that I was actually going to go.

I came to this Seminar with very high expectations. But I was also prepared to be dissapointed as usually when one has high expectations, they are not met nor for that matter surpassed.

I realized, however, at that opening dinner, that my expectations were going to be surpassed beyond my wildest dreams. My excitement was justified, and my hope was fulfilled, which brought me a great joy.

This fulfillment can be described in a line that Fr. Neuhaus used in his homily on the last Wednesday of the Seminar. He said, "If you come away from this seminar realizing that you know how much you don't know, then this seminar has fulfilled its goal". Indeed, I have realized how much I don't know. It is tremendously humbling. Not only in the intellectual realm either, but also in the spiritual and cultural realm as well. I know that there is a lot I don't know, and how grateful I am to know this!

Let me begin by talking about the intellectual portion of the seminar. I will have to say, I was blown away over the past 3 weeks. Deep down in my heart, I have a great yearning for these pursuits and it was amazing to be put in an environment where this can be fleshed out. Not only are the classes fun and interesting, but they are challenging, in the way that you realize you don't know, and you want to know more about how much you don't know. Every instructor gave great insights into things. More importantly, though, is that they also took a personal interest in us and were wanting and desiring to interact with us.

The second is the spiritual. A seminar in which Mass is the center part of the day is a seminar that has its heart in the right place. With pilgrimages to some of Poland's greatest shrines, starting off the day with prayer, and so on, it really makes you realize how much you don't know about the spiritual life being exposed to a rich history of Saints who have been through the trials of faith before us. It is a truly humbling experience.

Finally there is the cultural aspect. Again, this is a richly embrassed aspect of the course, it is very sacramental, very Chestertonian. And this is a good thing. It realizes that being Catholic means being social, being able to relate with one another as much as possible. It is important to build friendships, have discussions, and enjoy the gifts of God's creation.

It is in the cultural aspect that a deep reality was revealed to me, along the lines of knowing how much I don't know. Perhaps one of the greatest things that I need to work on is how to be social. I know that I don't know how to be social, at least in the ways others have been here. It is not to say I have not been social, in fact, I've been throwing myself in almost every opportunity to do so! But hearing others speak about their rich experiences of being a Catholic made me realize just how much in the beginning I am (I have only been a serious Catholic now for just over 3 and a half years). And this is good, it shows me that there is no rush in experiencing everything, because things are only beginning. I appreciate that greatly. I do wish to work on this, of course, because it is impressive to see people the likes of Brian, for example, being able to hold great and fun conversations all out of his experience of Catholicism. It is great because it is an experience of truth, so the conversation is always universal.

I would like to end, however, by saying this. Though I have been emphasizing the realization of knowing how much I don't know, there is one final thing, and perhaps this is the most important, in which I have taken away.

I have taken away that God has created me for excellence and I should settle for nothing less. This means that I am called to live a life of excellence according to my vocation and situation in life and to bring excellence out of that through the grace of God. At lunch on the last day, I was asking George about engaging deep-seeded anti-Americanism. And it was discussed quickly, but the most important thing was that he affirmed in me an observation I was making, that there are no think tanks that seriously engage government and society, there are no lobby groups that lobby for life issues in a deeply engaging way, there are no socially conservative religious journals to bring ideas to society to be engaged, there are no institutes for the training of the young generation who yearn for truth and who wish to shape society. This is all missing in Canada, at least in an engaging manner. And it made me realize (after talking to others) that it only takes one person to get the ball rolling. Whether or not that is me is a completely other question, only God knows what is in store for me. But if God gives me the opportunity to promote the Truth to the world in various forms, then I know that it is my duty to follow that call and I will follow it. I have taken away, in the end, the idea that God has created me (and everyone else) for excellence. If you live a life of excellence, it will catch on to others, and things will change, but always, in the end, by God's grace and love.


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