Sunday, May 08, 2005

Finding God in All Things.

On Friday afternoon I escorted a family of Iranian refugees to a dental appointment. As of yet the parents speak very little English, but their children – ages fifteen and ten – proved amazingly able translators. The dentist’s office was in an almost entirely Vietnamese section of San Jose, in a plaza completely filled with Vietnamese businesses. Furthermore, with the exception of the Iranians and myself everyone in the office – employees and clients alike – was Vietnamese, and all conversation not involving the Iranians or myself was conducted, as you might expect, in Vietnamese. For the entertainment of waiting clients there was a TV in the waiting room – tuned onto professional wrestling, of all things. I did my best to ignore the TV, absorbed as I was in the book I was reading, The Cistercian Way, by Dom Andre Louf, O.C.S.O. On occasion, however, my attention was diverted to the screen by the enthusiastic commentary of the Iranian kids, offered in a mix of English and Farsi. Eventually it dawned on me that I was undergoing a strangely holy experience. Here I was, spending time with a group of Iranians in a Vietnamese dentist’s office in California, simultaneously reading a book on Cistercian spirituality and watching wrestlers pummel one another. Let’s just say that this moment of insight proved to me yet again that one really can find God in all things – and, just as significantly, that God often chooses to appear under marvelously odd circumstances. AMDG.

2 Comments:

At May 08, 2005 8:16 PM, Anonymous Thomas said...

This makes no sense at all. You claim the experience was holy and that God was present, but you omit to specify what it was in the experience that you recognized as divine. All you state is that the experience involved Iranians, Vietnamese, Cistercian writings and wrestling. What does that have to do with God? With Jesus Christ? With the Spirit? With Christianity? You claim that the experience disclosed that you really can find God in all things, yet you don't state how or where God was present in the experience. You clam that it proved that God often chooses to appear under odd circumstances, yet you don't state how the divine manifested itself. I believe you need to discern whether God really was eminently present or whether you have been seduced by a certain popular secular spirituality that asserts because God is in all things, therefore all things equally manifest God. Such a secular "spirituality" is really just a form of relativism that elevates diversity to the level of divinity. Based on your description, all I can conclude is that you were delighted by the eclectic features of your experience, but eclecticism is not constitutive of an experience of God.

 
At May 09, 2005 10:48 PM, Blogger Joe said...

Thomas -

Thanks for your comments. A hallmark of Ignatian spirituality, finding God in all things necessarily includes an acknowledgment that one can find glimmers of the sacred even in the profane. This does not mean that the sacred is always present in the profane, or that all things equally manifest God; I never said anything like that. I would say that within the context of a life guided by Ignatian spirituality - a life that, in my case, also includes eminently conventional encounters with the divine in the form of daily Eucharist, the liturgy of the hours and a good deal of spiritual reading and mental prayer - one can discern the presence of God in unusual situations. Because you asked for more specifics about the experience related in this post, I'll offer some below.

My work with refugees flows from Christian commitment - both the commitments I have made as a Jesuit novice and from the commitment that all Christians share by virtue of baptism. I encounter God in my work with refugees, in part because sharing in their experiences turns my thoughts to the experience of another group of refugees - the Holy Family. Serving people whose circumstances echo in some small way the circumstances that drove Mary, Joseph and the infant Jesus to flee from Bethlehem and Egypt and then to Nazareth (pointedly not returning to Bethlehem, though the Gospel seems to suggest that they wished to do so)is thus a part of the service I try to render to God within this least Society. So it's easy for me to find God in the refugees I work with. It's also easy to find God in situations like the visit to the dentist I described in my post. Left to my own devices, I would never have found myself associating with Iranian refugees, visiting a Vietnamese dentist in San Jose, or for that matter, going to San Jose in the first place. God led me here, I believe, to teach me something, and in seeking to discern the lessons in question (a project that will take a lifetime) I must necessarily acknowledge God's presence.

The above should at least give you a general sense of the spiritual motivations behind this post. I'm not usually so self-revelatory in my posts, so readers interested in my spiritual innards will surely be thankful to you for drawing me out on this subject.

 

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