“I hear your call, but I walk with trepidation.
Both the seen and unseen are strong motivators
for a want of change towards a healthier expression of our faith – and yet…
I, for one, have doubt.
I am the Thomas needing to place my hands in the wounds,
which sometimes causes me great distress.
I should be willing to see and feel without seeing or feeling,
or at least be willing to see beyond the obvious into the depths of love and unconditional acceptance.
I pray, Blessed Creator, that my Sisters and Brothers may forgive my moments of weakness so that we
may continue to walk forward into our roles as living examples of our Christ – as +He taught us.”
~ Fr. Mateo, 2016
I consider it a blessing that every morning I can walk downstairs (into the far below) to check my email, update my websites, and commune with the Blessed Creator through prayer or the celebration of the most holy Eucharist. I have a dedicated chapel in the rectory and immediately next to it is my office; the view from my office chair is the tabernacle in which our blessed Savior is reserved for those mornings I have only a few minutes to collect myself, my thoughts, and my spiritual center. There is no greater joy than the mystery that is the transubstantiation – the miracle of our Lord’s true presence in the Eucharist. It is, perhaps, the only thing I allow to break up my often hectic and overloaded days of service.
My day begins roughly at 6:30am every morning. I get up, go downstairs to make and get coffee, then back upstairs to make myself presentable for the day. At about 7:30am I go down to the far below for email, check my calendar, make phone calls to clients, and celebrate 15 minutes of peace and quiet before the Blessed Sacrament. From there it’s a rush to my office either a half an hour to the south or fifteen minutes to the north. I see roughly six to eleven clients a day depending on the week, four days a week – anywhere from twenty-four to forty-four clients a week in four days.
When I get home from work on the four workdays, I greet my wife, have a quick meal – sometimes my only meal of the day, and relax on the couch for an hour or so before going to bed. I fall asleep somewhere around one or two in the morning. Then its lather, rinse, repeat until Friday.
I recently took Fridays off to do chores around the house, go foraging for food, or tending to friends and parishioners as needed. Rarely do I get the off day where I can just relax and veg out in front of the computer or television. So why am I relaying all this miscellaneous information, and why is it salient to the topic of creating change within the independent sacramental movement?
Throughout my life I have fought to find balance between my work, personal, and spiritual lives. For years the three would clash and conflict, and I would always regret not doing enough to find that ever elusive balance. Slowly, over a very long period of service to the People of God, I found myself blending the three together, but I never forgot the one most important thing in my life – that I was drawn to service because of my deep desire to serve others, and my longing for a deeper relationship with my Savior through the Eucharist. These two things have never changed throughout my 17 years of service in the Church, and have always existed in my life since as far back as I can remember – deep into my childhood.
For me, it was never about the power and control one could command from those who would put servants of the church upon pedestals meant only for hard falls from grace. It was never about the authority one could command from a centralized focal point of beating long-winded castigations into submissive followers. It was never about gathering pew-warmers in large numbers to show off how popular I had become. It was also never about the fabulous (and not so fabulous) garbs and vestments one could wear in carefully prepared celebrations, though I do admit I do love a good-looking vestment.
It WAS, and continues to be, about drawing closer to my God through the teachings of my Savior, Jesus, through dedicated service to the PEOPLE and not to the ever-present underlying assumptions of power and dominance. I serve in the independent movement because I, like many of my flock, have been disenfranchised in one way or another. I came to the independent movement because of the horrors I witnessed and was victim of while in seminary for the Church of Rome. I could no longer abide by what I saw, heard, and had done to me and others. I left one to save my life and entered the other because of the possibility of serving those who, like me, were “lost and could not find the way” (from the 1975 edition of the Sacramentary for Mass) to our Lord due to the horrors we faced. I took a stand in the hopes I would find like-minded individuals. What I found instead is that the grass is not always greener on the other side of the fence – sometimes you have to fertilize the side you’re on to see real growth.
I have chosen the latter – to fertilize rather than continue to run towards an elusive greenery that may or may not exist. I chose instead to remain firmly planted and renew my call each day through the sacred Eucharist that first called me to service. Since making that choice a few years ago, I have… felt …a strange sense of peace and at times blessed pain that persists during each and every consecration and sacred moment I share with others.
“The thorn in my side deepens
with every breath
and has become a knife; deftly wielded by an invisible hand,
it prods me on to continue my journey;
it has become my lover and my most hated friend.
My mind is full of awe and wonder for things I can never understand.
My soul cannot separate from mysteries better left to those who understand such matters while
I wander in anticipation of my beloved fool who returns in every celebration.
Through the invisible pain, I celebrate;
the pain deepens and I am satisfied,
until again my soul is filled
with awe and wonder for things I can only hope to understand.”
~Fr. Mateo, 2016.
The Independent Sacramental Movement is a journey; a road of potholes and freshly laid asphalt. It is a path of hardship and grandeur, failure and new beginnings – and so much more. But it takes work and dedication. It needs attendants who are willing to look at themselves critically and who can take responsibility for their words and actions. It needs people who are hungry to serve in ways they can only begin to imagine and be open to the possibilities that lay before them.
WE – as servants to both the Divine and the People of God – are the endless possibility we seek if only we would allow ourselves to move beyond our human failings and limitations as taught through our Savior, Jesus the Christ. +He, and others throughout the ages, have shown us we can rise to a higher level of being – one of love, forgiveness, compassion, understanding, and – HOPE. These are the teachings we have espoused, and the ones we entrust to those who follow in our footsteps through the celebration of ordination.
As our Christ sent out the first apostles, “he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal the sick” (NIV, 2011), so too must we be willing to be healers and proclaimers, NOT of our own agendas, but of the teachings entrusted to us through the disciples and servants scattered throughout time. In order to do so, however, we must be willing to heal ourselves, as well as those we encounter.
I find my healing in the sacrifice of the Most Holy Eucharist, and I return to it as often as needed for comfort and strength.
Ours is a movement that can change the world, and ourselves, if we let it. First, we must return to the source – to our God and to our Savior. We must return to the teachings our Christ offered, not those of the Sanhedrin, or of the Pharisees and Sadducees. We must return to the Christ as the center of our ministry to the People of God.
The Rev. Father Kenneth Nelan is the pastor of the Sacred Wandering Pastoral Center in Milwaukee Wisconsin. He is also the celebrant of the Sunday Mass broadcast on Facebook.