Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Introibo ad altare Dei

“What can we gain by sailing to the moon if we are not able to cross the abyss that separates us from ourselves?”

- Thomas Merton

The trusted “member of the band” recently recalled for me in an email correspondence the fist line of dialog in Ulysses by James Joyce, he wrote:

- Introibo ad altare Dei (“ I will go to the altar of God.)”

One of my initial reactions was to respond by using the church’s formal retort by the altar server to that celebrant’s proclamation at the beginning of mass, I responded:

- Ad Deum qui laetificat juventutem meam (“To God who gives joy o my
Youth “)

Admittedly a little scholarly assistance was required to accurately recall the precise Latin verbiage and it’s translation. to the presider’s “Introit.” It is said that Biblically this prayer of the priest is requesting deliverance from oppression and affliction while the assistor expresses gratitude for the experience of innocence and trust in the unconditional love of God.

It is no surprise that this correspondence facilitated a diversity of personal explorations into my own spirit, which is a little deeper and more frightening than Cyclops’ cave. It would probably take volumes to decipher and articulate the intricacies of contemplations and obscure images that churned throughout this pilgrim’s interior. It would also be erroneous to misconstrue that any recorded log of this cursory journey would in any way be comparable to that of Homer’s Odysseus and Joyce’s Bloom. Though, what was discovered in the recording of this chartless journey does provide some insight into the salvation history indicated by selective footprints marking modest progress of the pilgrim, or lack thereof.

Telemachiad Phase One (“in which Doris gets her Oats”) - Summary

Twelve years of age has been selected for centuries as the benchmark identifying a person’s passage from youth into adolescence and adulthood. It is expected that intellectual, emotional and spiritual maturity are to be in complete sync with that of the maturing of hormones for the transition to be considered somewhat successful. But then again boys never really seem to “grow up” but that’s another subject for another entry isn’t it? As this pilgrim turned that page that marked the twelfth birthday everything seemed to be falling into place for the transition into adulthood. Hopefulness reigned and great dreams were beginning to be translated into defined plans. However, in retrospect most of these were more dreams and fantasies than constructive strategies.

One of a multitude of cultural celebrations and symbols that recognize successful passage into the next chapter or life’s phase was found in the pilgrim’s involvement with The Boy Scouts. This organization provided an environment where one could be his authentic self and explore new worlds within and without. As a matter of fact on the very first night of becoming a scout this newbie pilgrim gained the attention of the older ones as he tested out of being a Tender Foot to the next level of being Second Class. By the end of the first twelve months as a scout he had achieved the levels and classifications of First Class, Star and Life and earned multiple Merit Badges while being appointed as a Patrol Leader in charge of twelve scouts. These achievements and progress were reported as quite rare and unusual.This phase marked off "successful!"

While rapidly moving forward in the Boy Scout world this accidental pilgrim had also become the “altar boy of choice” by the new pastor in the local church. The pilgrim only lived a block away from the church and it was quite convenient for him to be the one selected to serve most of the early morning masses. Besides, he knew the Latin responses without referring to the cards placed on the stairs of the altar. It was also coincidental that this newly assigned pastor had come from same old hometown of Bayonne, New Jersey as the pilgrim. The pastor often spoke about how he knew many of the family members of this young server including the uncles and grandfather. The pastor fondly referred to this family as “Polish Mafia.” When the pastor realized that this young adventurer was in the parish scout troop he encouraged the pilgrim to work towards a special award reserved for Catholic scouts , “The Ad Altare Dei Award.” Catholic Boy Scouts could work towards and receive a special award in recognition of their Christian journey by living and acting on their values of faith and service. The young pilgrim’s father was pleased with the boy’s progress as a scout and faith-filled believer.

Working hard to complete everything that was required to receive this award diverted commitment from studies and other social activities. Fortunately it was wintertime and baseball playing did not suffer from this diligence. Then came the scheduling of the big interview with the local Bishop, the pastor and the scout troop leader. Filled with abundant confidence it was obvious that the “it (the award) was in the bag.” and “nothing could stop this train now.” The scout-altar boy overflowed with confidence. A note was sent to each candidate’s home. In the note was the schedule for the interviews and an explanation … “It is important to please reserve this time…etc and so on.”

Just twenty-four hours away from this interview the boy’s family received word that the pilgrim’s paternal grandfather had died. Though the boy’s father was the youngest of seven children, the baby of the family, he took control of organizing all the funeral arrangements. He expected that his family members would be present and available at all times, at the wake and funeral. Emotions ran rampant throughout as the youthful searcher attempted to sort out a newly found dilemma. The grandfather’s wake was in conflict with the scheduled interview for this perceived prestigious award. The father insisted on presence of each of his family member but he did make an effort to intervene by speaking with this pastor, who knew the father’s father, for some understanding and hopefully a rescheduling his son's interview. The pastor was uncompromising and said that the young altar server scout could reapply the next year. That dream of achieving the award along with the exuberant youthful innocence was buried along with the grandfather.

That particular event marked the launching of the pilgrim’s vessel away from the church and possible religious and spiritual considerations. Anything and everything Catholic or even religious seemed unimportant and naturally unreliable. The great unplanned odyssey then began that would last almost twenty-two years. There was no consideration of the possible influence of any great protector and grace provider during the storms encountered along this series of passages. However, the action of that pastor and his insensitivity did spark a fire that would fuel a burning light illuminating the journey. Without this pastor initiated incident the great adventure would not have occurred and the lessons would not have been learned and nor the discoveries made. He thought that through his departure he had left God but God had never left him. As the accidental pilgrim's salvation history indicates grace was present all ways and carefully gradually guided this pilgrim back home to the altar of God. When the spirit was ready - the real metanoia commenced


'Til I Die

I'm a cork on the ocean
Floating over the raging sea
How deep is the ocean?
How deep is the ocean?
I lost my way
Hey hey hey

I'm a rock in a landslide
Rolling over the mountainside
How deep is the valley?
How deep is the valley?
It kills my soul
Hey hey hey

I'm a leaf on a windy day
Pretty soon I'll be blown away
How long will the wind blow?
How long will the wind blow?

Until I die
Until I die
These things I'll be untill I die
These things I'll be untill I die
These things I'll be untill I die

- Brian Wilson

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