Since Monday found me turning 62 years of age, I find myself thinking about life, the universe and well…everything. The notion I would ever reach this age was never a consideration in my younger days and looking back on some life experiences, I can also say I am very lucky to have reached this age. Even what I consider to be the early stages of aging have been a challenge and while my brain might say ‘you shouldn’t do that’ my body and ego don’t always listen. When I do exercise restraint I find myself thinking ‘in my younger days I would have done that!!’. When restraint is missing I find myself usually saying ‘I can’t believe I did that!!!’.
I believe we embark on many journeys in life and our experiences whether they be good or bad help us learn and push us in different directions at different times. Spiritually I started out as a Catholic. I attended Catholic grade school, Catholic high school, was an altar boy and even read scriptures at Sunday Mass for a time. As I reached young adulthood I found for various reasons that the messages the Catholic Church preached were not practiced in reality by a large number of ‘believers’ or clergy. This was largely due to the times (1970s) where Vietnam and the sexual and drug revolutions were in full swing. Some priests who taught at my high school missed time in the class room on occasion because they were in jail for vandalism or trespassing from protesting the war in Southeast Asia. A few even quit and along with their Nun friends renounced their vows and joined communes or were married. Other hypocritical issues I observed were known criminals being buried in Catholic cemeteries largely because they had donated large sums of money to their chosen church. Meanwhile someone who may have divorced with good reason was denied that final resting place because they went against Catholic teachings. Anyway the influence the Catholic church had on me was an influence I no longer wanted in practice or reality.
When I finally moved out of the big city into a more rural area I spent a few years not attending any Church and while I did believe in God and I prayed regularly I was not a official member of any Church. Then a friend of mine asked if I would give his Church a chance. He was a Lutheran and he described the pastor as being very different and I might like what his church had to offer. Being an adventurous type I gave it a try. Now this pastor was very interesting, he organized church picnics and bar-b-ques that were unlike any I had attended. For one thing, all you could eat food and all the beer you could drink for a small donation was quite appealing at that time in my life. Food and beer have been a lifelong hobby and darn-it if I could get God’s message at the same time I was eating and drinking so much the better. But alas, the Pastor was transferred to another church in another state and the next pastor was more traditional. The smorgasbords were discontinued and I found so was my interest in that particular church. I realize now that the messages concerning the Lord were probably not why I was attending the services anyway since all I really remember were the bar-b-ques. Oh well, my spiritual journey was meant to continue and I guess with deference to Willie Nelson, I was on the ‘Road Again’ spiritually.
A few years later while living in another area yeah I moved a lot, and no it wasn’t because America’s Most Wanted was airing at that time, only kidding…..(maybe). Anyway, I found another quiet little rural town and settled down for a few years and joined a Methodist Church. Now, this will sound sexist and possibly get my wife’s green eyes glowing, but the pastor of this church being of the female persuasion was by far the best looking pastor I had ever laid eyes on. That is all I’m gonna say, just telling the truth. But, she was a very good pastor who had wonderful messages in her sermons and she presided over the Renaissance wedding my wife and I had almost 18 years ago. A very happy 18 years by the way. Anyway, once again the pastor was transferred and the next pastor just wasn’t the same. The congregation slowly thinned and when we moved to a different area we stopped attending. So there I was finding myself a Godless Heathen again. Now I did believe in our Lord I just had not always attended church or belonged to a congregation for too long. I use the self describing ‘Godless Heathen’ phrase because a remnant of Catholic upbringing that still remains entrenched in my mind, back when I was Catholic you were either Catholic or a pagan. Pagan usually meant ‘Godless Heathen’.
The Spiritual journey for me has gone thru three organized religions, several pastors, a Monsignor or two and at least one Bishop. Ah the Bishop, he brings back a memory concerning the Catholic sacrament of Confirmation. The Bishop was in his mid-nineties and from Korea. English was foreign to him but due to a clergy shortage he was travelling from parish to parish performing Confirmations. Confirmation is where you are blessed with your Catholic or a Saint’s name usually your middle name. The church I attended was in a Philadelphia neighborhood that was predominantly Polish and Lithuanian. As a fourteen year old listening to this Bishop attempt to pronounce all those names that included far more consonants than vowels was at the time quite entertaining. It did make for a memorable Confirmation experience. My Confirmation name is my middle name Isadore by the way, named after Saint Isadore and a family member from the old country of Lithuania who I believe was actually a Cossack warrior. Sorry my memories and thoughts tend to wander. Probably another sign of aging.
At long last my spiritual journey takes me to the present. I know, if you have stuck with me this long you’re probably saying ‘Thanks Fella’, about time you got to the point of all this blabbering….Through the help of some friends, my wife and I have found a wonderful church and congregation that believes and practices the messages of fellowship and engaging in a personal relationship with God. These messages never registered with me before no matter what church I belonged to or where I was in my life but now more than ever I feel the comfort and goodness God provides. Every Sunday I find a meaningful message that registers with me and recalls a memory or time in my life where I believe God was present even though I wasn’t a good friend to Him. Call it maturity, getting old, or even luck I feel more blessed and happier than I have at any point in my spiritual life.
The thoughts that produced this blog post were shaped by and aided by the friends I have made and Church I found in the area I now reside. The Pastor and congregation at my Church are the best and have provided my family with spiritual as well as personal help. I have a good friend who is a great example of Christian values, he is always ready to help and provide support. That support has especially been helpful to a blogging newbie such as yours truly. I will strive for the rest of my days to be a better person no matter how flawed I know I am. Being able to see Christian values in action, everyday in real life is priceless. I feel I have been truly blessed and that is an indescribably wonderful feeling.