Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Sea of Albs

“Sea of Albs”
(Casual Blogging Series #3 – Wednesday, June 24, 2009)

By Deshi Ramadhani, SJ

I was at the Cathedral the other day with our Bishop Cardinal and hundreds of priests. [For you who have never seen so many priests in one place together, it is highly recommended to come to the Chrism Mass during the Holy Week, or to an ordination, either to the diaconate or the priesthood]. Let me tell you a little secret. I usually enjoy such occasion, not for a pious reason at all, but rather a human one. Being among my brother priests is like being immersed in the unconceivable richness of God’s love. How so? Just look around.

You will see very thin priests who make you think that the Church do not feed them enough, but you will also see obese priests who make you think that they have taken more food portions from their brother priests. You will see priests dressed in lousy and wrinkled shirts, but you will also see priests dressed in crispy neatly iron-pressed shirts fresh from a professional laundry. You will see priests with worn-out strap sandals inherited from a deceased elderly priest, but you will also see priests walking around in their shiny Prada shoes. You will see priests with last-century cell-phones heavy like a corner stone, but you will also see priests with the ultimate feather-light model of Blackberry or I-Phone. [Well, if you know me, you can easily tell which category I will fit in]. The list can go endlessly.

Then, it was time for Mass. All took off their shirts and put on their albs. Of course, some look whiter than the others. [If you don’t know what an “alb” is, it’s the “white gown” priests wear while they’re on duty]. I had had that experience of “mass changing room” many times before with my brother priests. Yet for some reasons, it was so touching. Well, after all, we all share the one and same priesthood. That convinced me about my idea of God. For me, one adjective that would perfectly describe God is “crazy.”

God must be crazy. No, I’m not quoting a title of a funny movie decades ago. I’m saying it, because it is this God that appears in my mind every time I think of my priesthood, as well as that of others. Being in the midst of the sea of those white albs brings with it a bit of uneasiness. Yes, we wear white, while we know perfectly how our hearts are so far from white! I began to think that it is white because it is a way of saying how God always sees each and all of us. This is not a self-justification. We priests do need conversion. I’ll be the first who desperately cries to God for another deep conversion. Yet, again, if I think of my priesthood, I know for sure, that my God is indeed a crazy God. There are many good men out there, but why on earth did God pick us?

For you who have been wounded by priests (including me), I ask for your apology. May this “Year of Priests” (from June 19 this year until the same date next year) be a year of profound and sincere conversion for us priests. Believe me, while there are certainly many, many, many, good priests on this planet who far outnumber the bad ones, the idea of becoming good priests can appear to many as counter-cultural. Join us in this not-so-easy journey into the most intimate precincts of the hearts of priests.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

A Split-Second

“A Split-Second”
(Casual Blogging Series #2 – Sunday, June 21, 2009)

By Deshi Ramadhani, SJ

Remember Naomi, my lovely-black-lady-car? Well, I’ve got a bad news for you. Naomi was hit by a motorcycle. I had switched the left-turn-light on, looked to my left side… clear! I had just made a slight turn to the left when suddenly a motorcycle hit the passenger door from my left side. [Well, I should have known this. Jakarta’s motorcycles are dangerous!]. Still worse, the young man riding it just ran away speeding. Well, at least, it was obvious that he knew he had been guilty. I was so so so angry. [Bad words even came out of my lips. Please don’t tell my Superior].

As I continued driving, my mind immediately began to elaborate a story about the accident. Strangely enough, all I could come up with was a list of that young man’s mistakes. Yet at the same time I knew I was not honest to myself. At last I decided to claim also my own share in the accident. You know what? Just a split-second before the accident I had put down my cell-phone after declining a request for a school Mass. So, yes, the accident took place because I was not completely focused on my driving. I remember I said this to one of my Jesuit brothers. Once I had admitted, “I was distracted by the cell-phone,” I began to feel a deep sense of relief. Peace returned to my heart.

I knew I had learned something precious: as long as I see all the wrong-doings are only somewhere out there, I will never ever gain a true peace within. I was stunned by the fact that I had even been willing to lie to myself about myself. Yes, that’s a sad irony: we are the most dangerous and deadly liars to ourselves. I still wanted to convince myself, “I’m just a victim.” The problem with that statement doesn’t lie on the word “victim,” but on the word “just.” I was in a sense a victim of that reckless motorcyclist, yet I was clearly not just a victim, since I also had my own share in what eventually led to the accident.

I also learned not only to admit that I had been wrong, but more importantly, to own the pain caused by my own mistakes. The beautiful paradox was clear: once I had owned the pain, it immediately disappeared! Just as my mistake took place only in a split-second, so did the healing! But believe it or not, so many people out there prefer to delay [some even until their death!] that split-second of the promised healing. God forgives me. The problem is: I don’t always forgive myself. Bottom line, I still want to be bigger than God. And if this is the case, learning to forgive myself is indeed a very serious business!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Silly Corrections

“Silly Corrections”
(Casual Blogging Series #1 – Wednesday, June 10, 2009)

By Deshi Ramadhani, SJ

I’m a teacher. Giving exams is always exciting. A lot of good lessons can be drawn. Here’s one. Someone can be so sure with the answer. He or she writes and writes and writes (perhaps with thanksgiving prayer to God and with a stronger belief that those candles lit in front of the statue of Mary really work!). At one point he or she realizes that the answer already written is completely wrong. I can see three options here for this student.

First, he or she can apply the correction liquid to cover all that is written with sheer white coat; then he or she write on it. Problem is, some pens are simply not made to write on those shiny-slippery white coats. Even worse, the first page will not look nice at all to the eyes of the teacher. Second, he or she can simply make a line across the first page and write the right answer on the second page. The wrong answer is still there and can be seen clearly, but that line across the page will tell the teacher not to bother with what is written there. Fair enough. Third, he or she can simply toss the answer sheet to the trash bin, walk to the teacher’s desk, and say “I’ve made mistakes. Could I have a new answer sheet, please?”

Imagine I have three students taking those options respectively. Suppose also that the three of them give the “correct answers.” Well, beyond the grading, I can see at least three different ways of dealing with mistakes. Option one: you focus on the mistakes and have a hard time to brush over them, and then pretend that everything is normal and under control. Option two: you recognize the mistakes, but you still hold on them along the way. Option three: you admit that you’ve made mistakes, focus on the new possibilities in the future, and move on.

Now, you see, that this is actually a miniature of our life-stories? Sadly, I’ve met many good Catholics who opt for number one while dealing with their mistakes. Fewer take number two, and not so many are willingly take number three. Why so? Because in a sense many of us like to feel like heroes or heroines while focusing on the mistakes. Many of us enjoy performing on the life-stage and tell the whole world that we are just victims and that we still desperately wrestle with the mistakes done to us.

We all make mistakes. The difference is, some make silly corrections, while some make smart ones. Whatever you choose, it will determine your life story after the mistakes.