Propulsion for the Journey

/ 21 January 2020

On January 11th I attended the annual Stirring the Fire retreat with the CSJs. As part of this retreat we were given some time to reflect on the following question: What person, place or aspect of your story continues to influence and propel you forward along the journey? What follows is the reflection I began drafting that morning . . .

Maybe at its most basic level, what aspect of my story that continues to influence and propel me forward is faith. Perhaps not even, at least entirely, as organized religion, but rather the community that surrounds it with me. That community, these days, really are the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet here in St. Paul. Not a parish, not even a community in the complete leadership tree of Rome to the Archbishop, but a community of vowed religious sisters and various forms of lay folk who all congregate under the sisters’ charism: Moving always toward the profound love of God and love of neighbor without distinction. I have been a Friend of St. Joseph since graduating from CSB/SJU, and been involved in its this form’s migration from a proposed form of relationship to the community to a fully recognized part of the community here in St. Paul. We Friends are listed in their community directory and participate in their community assemblies, as well as many other activities of the sisters’ community.

Family and friends are a definite part of the propulsion as well. These are all people that share my general path and beliefs (and some blood), which include everything from the aforementioned charism, to being Roman Catholic, to being a Democrat, being a web and software developer, and lots else. It is the feeling of connection to these communities that defines a lot of what makes up who I am. Why else do I not hesitate but to say “CSJs” when asked what my faith community is? It is not a parish but a fully encompassing community. Similarly I don’t shy away from stating my political views or what my professional life is.

Meaningful work that is more vocation than job also propels me. The reward for such work is not monetary so much as knowing my worth in the world is helping others. At its core this vocation of mine is helping people tell their story. Mostly this is the website work Tenseg does that fulfills this aspect of what influences and propels me forward along my journey. I care about the individual clients and their people as the individuals that they are and not just as means to the capitalist end of payment.

But it is also the fostering of various forms of community that welcome openness, care, compassion, and equality without severe judgment that feels like a vocation of mine as well. Certainly my involvement with the Friends reaches into this. I always try to bridge what gaps I find myself on the precipices of and find ways to connect people, to the extent I can. Certainly helping others tell their story tends to be aligned with this, but I do it in my own right in a number of aspects of my life.

I recognize how both go somewhat against the grain of modern western culture. But, truly, neither of these should go against any cultural grains. I mean, we are all unique, but more so society has lost something in the rise of the purely monetary driven individual. Relationships and whatever you call Family is the heart of it all for everyone, but fewer and fewer see this. Our society is simply, yet unfortunately, too fast paced to leave room for what is more important, these relationships and goals that are more spiritual perhaps than tangible. But it is those goals that are the true needs in our human society. I even recognize direct overlaps like my memorization of hymns as somewhat the same skill and part of my brain used to memorize and recall so much programming knowledge and advice. That is an example of the importance of some aspect of one’s life bolstering an entirely separate aspect of life. One feeds and assists the other, in what to many would seem like entirely disconnected spheres of life.

Deep sense of place helps ground me which in turn allows me to focus on the journey I’m on without distraction of wherever I’m supposed to be not being the place at which I’m currently at. One cannot fully rest in the faith and community without being first grounded personally in place and mind. Maybe that is one of many things I picked up alongside my education in Collegeville, who knows. But as social relational animals, we humans do need to have a positive sense of place before we can think much beyond that about what journey we’re on, much less what propels us along its path.

We must also remember how the journey is unending so it is somewhat circular in actuality. Yet linear time lends its lessons to us constantly, and we do best to listen closely to them. In that sense all leads to and assists in the propulsion forward of my journey. But what I’ve discussed here is a portion of that propulsion as recognized from my current vantage point.