“My whole spirituality, everything, my studying for the diaconate, everything for me is framed by the Passionist charism. There is no other way for me to see my spiritual growth or my prayer life or even the diaconate other than through this prism of the Passionist charism.”
Sharing Our Stories
So what is it about us that still connects you to us as Passionists?
There was time when I thought that being a Passionist meant having to wear the habit and the sign and follow the rule book —and that unless one did all of these things, one was not truly a Passionist. I thought being a Passionist meant living simply—to get up in the morning after sleeping in a very simple cell, on a wooden bed, on an old army surplus mattress. Over the years I have come to the realization that all of that is not the essence of being a Passionist. I am still understanding as I get older what the essence of being a Passionist is.
For me, certainly, the signature logo of the Passionists is their sign and after that, the gift the Passionists have that continues to attract me is, proclaiming Christ crucified. My attraction to Passionists is still in the whole realm of retreats, of silence, and the contemplative aspect of it. Dying to oneself in that silence and trying to understand who Christ crucified is, brings about the centrality of the cross in my life. Christ crucified is more easily heard here, so that I can go back into a very noisy, busy, buzzing world to proclaim Christ crucified by how I live.
The Passionists have changed along the way, and I think that’s important. It’s certainly the missions and the retreats that keep me connected. There is also embracing the suffering of the world more, embracing the poor, the homeless, which makes the Passion more relevant. Passionists’ understanding of Christ’s suffering in the world today is constantly evolving, moving them to understand more deeply and live the Passionist life in a radical way. I can see this, and I can take part of this understanding with me wherever I go. Others like me, who learn from the Passionists, gain a deeper understanding of the Passion and make it their own. That is what is really important to the Passionists.
How has the Passionist charism affected the way you pray or the development of your prayer?
One of the dimensions that has become more and more meaningful to me has been silence, has been making personal, silent retreats. I have come to the Retreat Center for a week at a time or more, to be alone and be absolutely in silence, to fast and to learn how to pray better. Learning how to pray better for me has meant using fewer words, to the point now that I use no words, simply wordless prayer — simply sitting in centering prayer and being utterly in silence. There are moments when it can be terrifying. Silence can be thunderous.
The words of Paul the Apostle, “I am crucified with Christ, it’s no longer I who lives, but Christ who lives in me” were once lovely, poetic lines. Now when I sit in silent prayer, in contemplative prayer, there is part of me, the ego, that is dying, and I’ve learned what those words mean now. The ego is crucified with Christ, it’s no longer the ego that lives, but it is Christ who lives in me and that has come through just hours and hours of being in silence and learning how to pray in silence, with Paul of the Cross, in contemplative prayer, solitary prayer. From that, I am learning how to live in community with my Passionist partners, to proclaim Christ crucified.