It's been roughly a month since we came back from Denver, and I can honestly say it's been a heavy month, but deeply enjoyable at the same time: In one single month, I was inspired by some great Jesuits which gave me great hope for the future, gained a little more peace of mind (in the present) around the next phase of my life as a Jesuit, and had to let go of one more person in my life and deal with all the memories that I had of her in the past.
I'll start with facing the past: My Nana, Lena Bourque Leckman passed away on August 8th or 9th.So that makes it 3 major deaths in my family in the last 5 years. I learned about my grandmother's passing while I was at Anderson Lake with the Scholastics. I had been looking forward to our vacation time with the guys for a long time. So when my dad managed to get a hold of me to tell me the news, I assumed I wouldn't make it to the funeral and would enjoy my vacation time. I was looking forward to going back to Wiky, perhaps seeing some of the kids,to watching many movies and hanving fun with the guys. Of course,part of my initial gut reaction/decision to stay at Villa and miss out on this funeral came from an assumption that I was making: I assumed that I was not too grieved by my nana's passing, since she had been sick for a while, and although she seemed to be improving and her death was rather sudden, we had all been prepared for this for quite some time. Furtheremore, I had not been that close to her in the last 5 years. Consequently I assumed I was fine about this.
Thankfully, in my Jesuit life, I am often pushed to challenge those gut reactions of mine. I learned the news of her passing 5 minutes before we began a session of 'faith sharing' with the Scholastics. At first, during the sharing, I seemed at peace, but the closer it got for my time to share, the more I realized that my spirit was not at peace. So I asked to pass, in both rounds of sharing (most sharing in Jesuit communities have at least 2 rounds!!).I guess I realized that it was going to be hard for me to share about what's going on in our Jesuit province with the news of my nana's death still fresh on my mind. Finally, when the one coordinating our sharing asked me to share at the end of the 2nd round of sharing, I explained that I wasn't much in the mood for this, because of this news I had received. Once I faced her passing more publicly, once I made it known to the group that my beloved grandmother was gone...that's when I realized I wasn't ok.
I left the group, and went outside to pray for a good half hour or more. I let myself weep very openly for my Nana. I came to grip with the fact that, just because we had faced a lot of death as a family in recent years, this did not mean that we were able to deal with it better. All these memories of her flooded my mind and my soul, and the weeping got even more intense....as did the praying. That's when I realized, I would have to leave Anderson Lake to go attend this funeral. Of course, this was easier said than done. From Anderson Lake to Montreal was not going to be an easy skip and a hop. But there were possibilities. I spoke to people at the center, spoke to my family and to the novitiate, and a plan was formulated much more quickly than I could have anticipated. A beautiful Mass was said at Anderson Lake for her and my family, and a few hours later, the incomparable Ted Penton and Michael Knox drove me to the Bus Station in Sudbury where I'd be on an overnight bus to Toronto (leaving at 1 am and arriving around 6 am), where I would meet up with my uncle and aunt who would be leaving that same day for the funeral in Montreal.
It all happened so fast that it all seems like a weird vague memory at this point, but what amazed me about the whole process was the clarity of the prayer: Yes, I didn't feel like travelling, like doing all the planning that the travelling would require, like being apart from my group of brothers etc...but I needed to be in Montreal. I needed to be with my family. This is what my vocation is about: It's not about doing what I feel like, but it's about being present to others in their time of need. It's about discerning where God's love is calling me to be in life and to follow that path to the best of my limited ability. And in the end, my presence in Montreal was greatly appreciated by all..the greater good was served in a way (-;
And it's not like I didn't get some energy from my days at Villa. Besides all the wonderful movie watching and canoeing, good food and wonderful preprands (drinks and snacks that precede meals!), it was just nice to connect with the guys through great conversations. One such conversation was very instrumental in my need to find peace with my first studies. Because I am on the Brother's path, I've never been very comfortable with the idea of doing a lot of studies. If I start doing too many studies, it will be like I'm a wanna be Scholastic which we all know could not be further from the truth. During the past year, I have made my peace with the need for more studies, though I also have been stressing out about registration. During Villa, I had a wonderful chat with someone who put me at ease on this question, and I think, after that conversation, the final barrier towards my first studies was overcome. I can now in all truth say that I am not only ready for this next phase of my life, but am completely at peace with it as well.
In case you weren't following...grieving about my nana was me facing the past...making my peace with first studies was in part, dealing with the present, but also the future.
One final note that can be said about my last month and how it's impacted my vocation, was the visit of Father Adolfo Nicholas, the Father General of the Society of Jesus (also nicknamed the 'Black Pope' because he's always wearing black, and he's at the helm of this huge international community of men dedicated to Christ). He's someone we read, hear about all the time in Jesuit circles, but hardly ever get to see. Well...to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the Jesuits in Canada, he came to Quebec and Ontario to visit all the Jesuit communities there and talk with as many people as he could. During this 10 day period ,this man went from Montreal, to Quebec City, Toronto To Guelph, and Pickering to Midland. He was a travelling machine. What touched, amazed and inspired me the most about this man was his desire to be so present with us. He met with EVERYBODY. The novices, the old priests in the infirmary, the Scholastics, the Lay collaborators of the Jesuits, the Brothers etc...I got to sit next to him and talk with him more than once...he is an inspiring figure, but so incredibly humble at the same time. When I look at men like him, I know I've made the right decision in chosing the Jesuits as a community. I could never be exactly as he is, but there is already so much of his wisdom that I have experienced in my own journey...so rather than putting him on a pedestal, I see in him the possibility of a future me. I see in him, the Zenith of all things that make a good Jesuit, a great human being!
He was in many ways, my hope for the future.And so we've come full circle. I wrote the following line last week..but I kinda like it..so I include it in this blog:
Tomorrow (August 20th)I take vows as a Jesuit Brother. My bags are not all packed yet...but almost. The leaf is being turned, and my heart is ready.
Show me the way Lord, and I will walk that path with every ounce of courage that I can muster!