Sunday, April 18, 2010

Study theology....Who ME????

My enrollment into the Newman Theological College is part of longer journey that began in earnest after tragedy visited our family. Through the lens of hindsight I recognize the hand of God at work in my life, in every event from the first time I entered the doors of this college until this moment sitting at my laptop to share my story. When I reflect on these events I remain dumbfounded and humbled by the events that unfolded during this time period. Each one of us has a similar story to tell –here is mine.

I had passed the college numerous times over the past 20 some years. Occasionally I would look at the enormous statue of Jesus welcoming passersby into the complex, and other times I did not pay much attention. Other then this exposure I knew little about the college and even less about the seminary located behind it. The odd time I heard comments that the college was a liberal bastion of dissent, which was enough to curb any further thought I might have given to it.

The family of my youth was orthodox or conservative Catholic; while at the same time my parents were liberal in much of their worldview. For example we never missed mass, and we said our rosary every day after supper except on Sundays. At the same time my parents were open and accepting to any person from any faith or walk of life. They did not restrict my exposure to other faiths. I don’t recall having a Catholic friend growing up as we lived in non catholic communities that were dominated by the Baptist or United Church faiths. I often went to services with friends from these denominations; however, I still attended Sunday mass. My parents managed to instill in us four children a deep love and loyalty to the Roman Catholic Church. Even during periods of my youth when I was not living a good Catholic life, I self identified strongly with my Catholicism. I am fortunate and blessed for the parenting I received.

I walked through the doors of Newman College for the first time when my boys joined a Catholic boys club. Neither the college nor the seminary was affiliated in any way with this club but they allowed the facilities to be used on Wed evenings. I do not have a clear recall how I discovered this Catholic boys club, but I am grateful I did. I enrolled my two boys who were of age to attend. Initially I would drop them off and utilize the time to complete errands but as winter dawned I would wait inside and read. I always took a few moments to sit with the Lord in the chapel. The time spent in the chapel increased with each Wed. Anyone who has spent time in a quiet chapel with the Lord knows the peace and tranquility such a visit places into ones heart. I began to anticipate Wed evenings.

Then tragedy struck our family- unexpectedly events pertaining to one of our children unraveled and literally brought me to my knees. At times I was not sure I could carry on, but Gods’ grace always ensured I did. The ensuing year I spent hours and hours in the Newman College Chapel -quite frankly to be in the presence of the Lord was the only place I experienced tranquility during this time. Catholics believe that Jesus is truly present in the Holy Eucharist. Consecrated hosts are placed in the tabernacle which is why you will see Catholics genuflect when they enter the church. It is an acknowledgment of the presence of Christ present in the Tabernacle hidden under the guise of bread (John 6:53).

During my time praying I experienced a profound transformation- suffice to say I began to see that the ‘good Terri’ I thought I was needed a great amount of fine tuning. Thankfully God works in slow incremental steps because if I was to experience all of these personal epiphanies in one shot I may not have survived. I say this without exaggeration I had no idea how far away from God I actually was. It was little things that inhibited my relationship with him- personal quirks that I needed to let go of- past wounds I had to confront and forgive- putting who I was in perspective and so on and so forth. I endured an internal struggle to let go and accept Christ who true to his word guided me through an often painful but liberating journey to personal freedom. Freedom from myself most of all- freedom discovered in letting go and letting God. Words I heard and repeated many times but never actually experienced. Here I found myself in moments with me and the Lord- I was surviving an excruciatingly painful episode in my life, and that of my families, while simultaneously experiencing the deepest peace and freedom as I drew closer to God. I remain on this journey- the fine tuning is far from over.

This experience enticed me to read and read whatever I could about spiritual growth and grace. I read the writings of the saints- unfortunately so much of what I read I had to re-read because it was “over my head”. Eventually I became curious to take a class at the college. In the meantime the boys continued their Wed evening club. Wed. became our day off together where we would attend mass at Newman; go for lunch in the cafeteria-where dearest Shelly provided the best kids meal in the nation. A peanut butter sandwich, chocolate milk and a cookie for $2:00. One priest in particular was very happy and kind to us. Otherwise for the first year we were relative strangers to others and them to us, but we always enjoyed the time we spent at the college.

I recall with clarity the day I prepared to register at the college. I engaged in conversation with the Lord as I was preparing my makeup still doubtful about my decision. I reminded him this was expensive and I was not certain I should be doing this.Here I was 44 years old, a mother of a large family and employed. Prior to the previous year studying theology was so far off my radar screen-it was never a consideration. So Terri of little faith reminded him- “Lord can you give me a sign that I am doing the right thing”.

I left the house heading for Newman to enroll but I stopped at the post office first. An errand I rarely perform my husband usually performs this task. In the mail that day was an unexpected cheque with extra funds sent from a deceased Aunts estate in the amount of $580.00. The amount of the cheque was a small amount more than what I needed to pay for the tuition for my first class. I headed to the college with all doubts assuaged and enrolled in my first class-"The Church."

A new Journey had begun!

1 comment:

  1. It's amazing how He leads us to major events in our life if we let Him. I love your story.