Since I finished Camp Maccabee this last week, I have been reading a book by FR Larry Richards called "Be a Man", a book that Fr Joe Corel, the diocesan vocation director, gave to male campers and attendees on both Camp Maccabee and Christpower. I cannot recommend enough that those who received this gift actually read it. I also recommend to any young man who has not got it to go out and get it.
This book has been hitting me hard. I have been a priest now for 14 years. I returned to my Catholic faith almost 20 years ago. I have dwelt on the subject of Catholic masculinity for almost 5 years. My homilies have been peppered for 15 years that God wants a relationship with each and every one of us. I have repeatedly pointed pointed out that it is a familial relationship that God desires. I knew the right vocabulary. I knew the rights concepts. However, it has struck me that I have been circling the airport for decades on not landing the plane. What has struck me to this conclusion is a passage from the above mentioned book. IN it he describes a horrific nightmare he is having. The nightmare doesn't end till he professes "Father, I am your son!" He isn't saying anything that is new, he is saying something that he now understands on a a deeper level.
It seems in the all of the times I have prayed, that this little nugget escaped me. It isn't that I didn't know it as a piece of information (or know about it). it was that I didn't know it. This little phrase has stuck in my head since I read it and refuses to leave.
So many times, especially in dealing with young men, I have seen a deep isolation they experience from God on a relational level. Some bravely go through the motions and attend Mass and try to be a good person, but struggle with why God seems so far away. It is easy for them to gradually wander away altogether. The topic of the divine only comes up when they struggle with a tragedy or try to make sense of the world around them. So many times they will fill that empty spot with things that will numb them to that emptiness: promiscuity, alcohol, reckless behavior, narcotics, endless electronic diversions. These side tracks only numb for a while. Prayer, when they try it, seems an exercise in futility. God is as distant as the farthest star.
I wonder how that changes when we take to heart that little phrase, "Father, I am your son!". I can hear God saying, "Well, it is about time!" I am still processing everything going on in me right now, but I feel that it is possible that God is going from a business that I was in (and probably really good at) to a relationship that I share with others. Right now, I would love every guy out there, every young man who feels isolated in life and with God, to have even a fraction of what is flooding my head and heart right now! I know I will blog more about this and this book. But this little phrase is serving as one of those epiphany moments. I invite every man that reads this to reflect on those words "Father, I am your son!"...I will be praying that it hits you like it is hitting me.