Pierced Lips


To create something out of nothing,

There was an astonishment. To create something out of nothing. There was an astonishment to discover the universal feeling, to know how lost most twenty-somethings feel. In the invisible wrestling match of youth, in the search for meaning in all the world. In a world filled so much with ideology.

Ideology. Ideology was the wrestling match. Presidents and presidential candidates got caught up in it. Popes did too. It was a result of a focus on law and order. Orthodoxy. Rules. Until the Obama Administration, the conservatives have ruled the era in the United States, for those who have come of age. And youth for the most part eventually rebelled over too much rigidity. Perhaps like the youth in the Arab Spring.

My view of the generation in their twenties in the United States was that there was a palpable sense of rebellion. American kids had been walked to the bus stop all of their lives. Their parents had attended all of their soccer games. In “organized” sport. Life had never, in human history, been like that for kids before. There was some underlying desire for revenge, an expression of grievance over too much attention which was seen by adults as only a reflection of love. And the world had never seen so many voluntary body piercings, tattoos, markings, on so many people. To make some kind of statement about freedom.

There was in each life some kind of battle between alienation and unity. Maybe that was why people went on pilgrimage. Mostly, alone. To find a direction. A personal direction. In reading a couple of old issue of Company, from 2008, there is a story of pilgrimage. Every day you met people from all over the world in a quest, along the path of St. James, at el Camino de Santiago de Compostela. In A Vanished World, Chris Lowney questions as he travels across Spain why three religions that worship the same God and deeply respect human dignity have so often turned on each other. It was a book really about spiritual direction? I had read an article about this pilgrimage in Spain. In any life, we all had a spiritual direction, though few talk about it. It was a lot like that teen-age feeling when you got you first zit.

When you are in your late twenties. And you have these burning questions inside. With the battle over your fertility. To create something out of nothing. Something everlasting, like your children’s children. That astonishment. Over and over again, in each generation. So what are you gonna do when you learn how to pray? Beyond the petitions? In a relationship? When it was time to change the world, and amend your own life.

In the life of any 22-year old after completing their formal education, the challenge was coming to the understanding that the change would be through what looked to be some fairly mundane things in everyday life. I re-read another article about being moved on pilgrimage – not all that different than retreat, in a search for God in all things, in all lives, which never changed. Briana Colton wrote about her World Youth Day experience in Australia, in search of clarity and perspective in her life. Ms. Colton, a graduate from Marquette University three years before, writes of then struggle of all 25-year olds, of “becoming” after all this formation.

Ms. Colton described what I always thought of as the mundane things in a day. In the course of her days in Sydney, she walked, she listened, she sang. At the end of the trip, she reflected and she prayed. Ms. Colton did not figure out in a matter of days, or so she says, who she was or who God wanted her to be. But she did discover the importance of her Catholicism and experiencing the Eucharist (going to Mass) in the ongoing formation process of her life. In a sense she seems to still be moved by hunger, looking for her own passion about life, to experience more things Catholic.

What to do after “becoming”? To realize that today was sacred. And I was sacred. If I tried to live a more reverent life, tilted in the direction of God. If time is sacred is to see that part of the GLORY BE prayer…. ‘As it was in the beginning, NOW, and ever shall be.’ And if I was sacred, if my wife shared the ideal, and we pointed our kids in a certain direction, then maybe the people who believed, as I had believed, would help to form a better world.

What are you gonna do when you learn how to pray? Now! ONCE YOUR PRAYERS ARE ANSWERED, THEN WHAT? To realize that today was sacred. That I was in the presence of God. Now! After you land your first job out of college. After you are married? How often will you pray? As you create something out of nothing. What will you ask for? Or will you do nothing?

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