Just wanted to quickly share a prayer I’ve been composing for my Philippine folk arts group, Kayamanan ng Lahi, as we prepare for our show, Agos, for the Sounds of LA series at the Getty Center:
Eternal, Loving Father,
Out of your divine and infinite Love you created us, and You, who thought of us even before you began the work of creation, who knew us before you knit us in our mothers’ wombs, saw fit to bless us with the wondrous treasure of Filipino culture, beautiful beyond human imagination, a heritage so vast and diverse that to explore the depths of it would be an adventure beyond this lifetime, beyond time and space: indeed, a journey that connects us to our ancestors, to our future descendants, and to each other.
Receive, O Lord, our performance as an oblation of thanks and praise for the many great gifts and blessings you have granted us, especially the opportunity to share this adventure we are on with our families, friends, and neighbors.
Send forth your Spirit upon us, we pray, that we may fully share with our audience the passion and effort that brought us to this very moment, so that this performance may be a product of our bodies, hearts, minds, and souls; of the wholeness of our being. And grant us, we pray, that in sharing the beauty and grace with which you have blessed us, we may humbly reflect the beauty and grace of your Divine light, so that we may inspire our audience through this performance as we have been inspired, that we may all draw closer to you, our God and Heavenly Father, who are the source of all truth, beauty, and goodness. Through Christ our Lord.
Ok…still lagging on the Lenten practice post, but I have been drafting it, I promise!
Anyways, people in my life are aware to a varying extent (read: not at all to fairly knowledgeable) of my search for my vocation. The idea of a vocation is not very well understood, so here’s a definition from Dictionary.com:
vo·ca·tion [voh-key-shuhn] – noun
1. a particular occupation, business, or profession; calling.
2. a strong impulse or inclination to follow a particular activity or career.
3. a divine call to God’s service or to the Christian life.
4. a function or station in life to which one is called by God: the religious vocation; the vocation of marriage.
The story of my on-going vocation search is a winding one, best left for another post (or two, or three…or more?), but for the purpose of this post, it is sufficient to say that my search has been one of joy and excitement and growth in my desire to know, love, and serve God in this life and be with Him forever in the next. At other times (for example, lately), I feel a sense of tension, disappointment, confusion, even spiritual desolation.
At times like these, I revisit this reflection from Blessed John Cardinal Newman that I ran into a while ago and copied down into my travel notebook. If you’ve ever felt a sense of tension over what you’re doing with your life, where you’re going…or to what God is calling you, I hope you find this as helpful as I do:
“God has created me to do Him some definite service. He has committed some work to me which He has not committed to another. I have my mission. I may never know it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next. I am a link in the chain, a bond of connection between persons. He has not created me for naught. I shall do good; I shall do His work. I shall be an angel of peace, a preacher of truth in my own place, while not intending it if I do but keep His Commandments. Therefore, I will trust Him; whatever I am, I can never be thrown away. If I am in sickness, my sickness may serve Him; in perplexity, my perplexity may serve Him; if I am in sorrow, my sorrow may serve Him. He does nothing in vain. He knows what He is about. He may take away friends. He may throw me among strangers. He may make me feel desolate, make my spirits sink, hide my future from me. Still, He knows what He is about.”
If you missed out on the first part of this story, you can see my previous blog post here: http://wp.me/p2eERS-1q
So, the question is, why spend my time writing not just one, but two entire posts about seeing that girl at Disney California Adventure who had, as my friend puts it, a “winsome-gaze-as-though-looking-for-a-prince” while singing along to Disney film clips? And another question is, don’t you have better things to do with your time?
Well, the answer to the latter question is that today is my regular Friday off work, and I already went to Mass to receive Jesus in Word and Sacrament…so no, I don’t really 😛
The answer to the former question (the more important one, duh) is this: after spending time reliving the experience in my imagination, and meditating on it, and talking it over with God, here’s what I ended up with: “How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of Hosts!” (Psalm 84)
The fact is, I don’t really remember what she looked like anymore: her physical features, what she was wearing…I honestly don’t remember most of it, except that she was average height with dark hair, and I thought at first glance that she was kinda cute. But though my physical eyes barely noticed her that first time, the Eyes of my Heart, once opened that second time, was instantly drawn to something much deeper: a window into her inner being that showed her inner Beauty!
Classical philosophers Plato and Aristotle, and one of my favorite saints of the Middle Ages, St. Thomas Aquinas, all agreed that the Trancendentals, Goodness, Truth, and Beauty, are all infinite in nature, and that man naturally desires all three. These infinities, Christian theology declares, are God himself. If a hardened atheist were to actively pursue just one of these three, that pursuit would eventually lead him (or her) to the Maker.
Quite sadly though, contemporary culture has lost its appreciation of the Trancendentals and has cut them way short of their objective infinite natures: namely, that Goodness is subjective (what’s immoral to you is good to me), Truth is relative (if I don’t think it’s true, then it’s not), and Beauty is reduced to a simple expression of self and personal taste (don’t judge, just because you don’t like it doesn’t mean it’s not attractive).
On a less philosophical level, in our fallen world, the relationship between men and women has likewise been cut short of its full meaning by mainstream culture and media: we are bombarded with an obsession with physical appearance and sex. As evidence, I present the song “Sexy and I Know It” by LMFAO: is it a satire? Possibly? Well…if you think about it…maybe?…it’s probably a toss-up. Now don’t misunderstand: our bodies and sex are gifts from God, and even more than that, in the right context, actually reveal to us an even deeper knowledge of God himself…no, really, I kid you not! Even more amazing: the Church actually teaches this! *GASP* You want proof? Try reading up on works regarding Blessed Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body.
I could go on and on about this, but the point I want to make is this: what the culture has done is try to separate our bodies and the physical realities of sex from the fullness of our humanity, from the connections to our inner-most being of our hearts, minds, and souls…and from God himself, who created all this, and created all of it good, in the first place! This has caused so much harm to men and women and how we relate to each other…and some of us don’t even know it. 😦 One of the worst parts of this is that it has damaged both men and women’s ability to recognize the fullness and infiniteness that is Beauty. As tempted as I am to keep going on this track, I will save this for another time.
Back to the story: what I encountered in that moment, when I truly saw that girl, was a glimpse into the Beauty held within her heart, mind, and soul; a Beauty far beyond the physical “sexiness” prized by this culture; a Beauty of her own unique self; a Beauty that radiated from the inside out…a Beauty that revealed the Creator himself because Beauty is the Creator himself. As St. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 6:19 “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?” I think the answer is that we forget this a lot, and even more so, we forget that other people are temples of the Holy Spirit also.
Eventually (inevitably?) I made the blunder of pointing her out to my friend, which resulted in her continually encouraging (pestering?) me to talk to her, as well as several “match-making” inside jokes, which are still on-going. 😛 According to said friend, that girl actually passed by me outside of the Animation Building without me noticing and, paraphrasing my friend, “looked at you for a good 2 seconds with a slight lingering gaze of interest…perhaps longing? *wink wink, nudge nudge*” 😉
And no, I never did try to talk to her: what does one say in a moment of being overwhelmed by Beauty? Odds are that I’ll never run into her again in this life, but if we both make it up to heaven one day (in my case, I’ve got a long ways to go!), I would tell her this: Thank you for unknowingly sharing a tiny bit of your Beauty with me that day, because just by being you, you revealed God to me. And…you gave me enough to write two entire blog posts 😉 (hey, being dead is no excuse for losing my sense of humor!)
And to my Heavenly Father (and yours!), “How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of Hosts!” AMEN!
I’m dodging the Lenten practices post again, haha. But this time it’s because I want to share a story of something that happened to me recently, which you may find amusing, possibly cute, but perhaps thoughtful as well.
As most of my friends and acquaintances know, I’m a very big Disneyland fan (being fairly tall, that’s both a literal and figurative statement). 😛 There are many interesting layers as to why that is, but I’ll save that for another time. Anyways, recently I went to Disneyland to hang out with a couple of friends who shall remain nameless, but will no doubt find the retelling of this story amusing, and could probably throw in a few extra details as well. Since we’re all AP holders, it was one of those kick-back-and-relax evenings at the parks: instead of rushing to get through as many attractions as we could, the night was pretty chill, eating dinner at a sit-down place, visiting rides with short lines, including cramming my long legs into a friggin’ teacup >.<
At some point in the evening, we went to one of my favorite low-key places in the Disney California Adventure: the Disney Animation building. The Animation Courtyard is a great place to hang out and enjoy clips from various Disney and Pixar animated films, which also include original character sketches, music, and lighting effects. The building also hosts the Disney Animation Academy, where artists teach you how to draw some of Disney’s most popular animated characters. We got there and found out that the “class” had already started, so it’d be 15 minutes to the next one; so ok, cool, the Animation Courtyard is probably the best place to wait for anything anyways 😀
So we’re hanging out, enjoying our favorite animated clips, music, and songs. Personally, one of my other favorite activities to do there is people-watch (actually, this is true wherever I go), and on that end there was a lot of interesting things to see: a guy making a silly dance video with his friends, a mom running after her toddler, a dad holding his baby and moving to the music. In the visual and audial symphony of it all, I barely noticed a fairly pretty young woman, maybe early 20s, step into the courtyard. I give her a quick glance, think that it’s a bit odd to see a girl by herself at Disney, then go back to watching clips (or other people, I forget).
A few minutes later, as I’m glancing around the room again, and I notice that young woman again, and this time she’s singing to the song currently playing, and very much “in character” (that kind of starry-eyed expression that certain Disney songs have the power to invoke) …and it’s hard to describe what went through my mind, but it was like I was actually seeing her for the first time, as though something in me had registered something that I hadn’t noticed before. “I wondered why I didn’t see it there before!” (Beauty and the Beast reference). In that single moment, she became that girl, and from that time on, until we entered the Animation Academy, I would try to distract myself by looking at other people, the screens, my phone…something else…anything else…but my eyes would always return to take just another glance at that girl.
Now, there’s a bit more to the story, but I’ll come back to it; instead I want to pose a few questions: what was it about that moment that drew my gaze? What did I notice then that I hadn’t noticed before? What is it about that experience that has caused my mind to drift back to it, again and again, day after day, during times of idleness (and I’ll be real, even when I’m busy)? For the love of God, Mary my Mother in Heaven, and all the angels and saints, what is it about that infinitesimal fraction of my life span that is driving me to spend time writing about it on this blog?!?
If you want to find the answers to these questions, stay tuned for my next post, coming soon! (a.k.a. this will be more readable if I break it into two parts) 😛
[edit:] here’s the link to part 2 http://wp.me/p2eERS-1R