Friday, February 12, 2010

Swag in the seminary?

Everyone is aware of the unfortunate shortage in the priesthood that has taken place in the Catholic Church for the past 40 years but how about the real unfortunate shortage of swag in the Catholic seminaries?
I was eating lunch the other day with some random people and one of them said, “Hey you are the one who brought swag into the seminary, right?” I said, “Absolutely. Jesus gave me my swag”. For those who are not too familiar with the term “swag”:

Swag: su-w’agg
Verb, noun, adverb, adjective [swÓ•g]
1. Using the gift, talents and style Jesus has given you to proclaim His kingdom.
2. Appearance, confidence, and the way you represent yourself.
3. Being Joyful
Middle English, from Old French, from Latin swagger, swaggin.

One of the great saints I admire is St. Benedict Biscop who died around 690 AD. He was a Benedictine monk who spent most of his time as a builder an architect. In his travels throughout Europe to complete the monasteries he was asked to design he had the unique opportunity for a monk at the period of time to become familiar with popular culture and was one of the first to introduce chant to the Western monastic experience. I'd like to think that if he were alive today he'd use his style and popularity with modern culture to preach the kingdom of God, though not being part of the culture but simply being of the culture. Along with other notable saints: Saints Cecila, St. Gregory the Great, Pope St. Leo the Great, St. Francis of Assisi, St. Odo of Cluny also used their own gifts and talents to bring the message of Christ.

All throughout the history of the Saints (Not New Orleans Saints, but congrats anyways) God has called us to love, discern, and bring the message of salvation in our own personalities. If discerning a vocation to the priesthood is simply about being molded into what they want you to become, I’m not interested. I am ready for a Catholicity that is dangerous, adventurous, and orthodox and surpasses the poison of dullness. My first week at Holy Cross, my friend introduced me to one of his friends and said, “ I want you to meet Ryan, he is in the seminary with me” she stepped back and looked at me up and down and hesitantly said, “ hi”. I do not know if she was in a hurry or surprised or scared or angry that a seminarian was wearing a hat with adidas shoes, who walked with a small limp. But I can guarantee that I did not fit the mold of what she thought a seminarian should look like. But, that's OK. - Jesus didnt fit the mold either.

I come to understand that the Christian life is more than finding Jesus- it is following Jesus and His church. It is following Jesus to the fullest. Jesus Christ knew how to play as well as pray; how to laugh as well as to cry; how to be serious about life but not take himself too serious. It means following Jesus through the joyful times and yes even to Calvary. I once heard that God tells you and me that “I can make last place more significant than first place. I will use prostitutes to teach others about gratitude. I will use lepers as examples of cleanliness. I will take the dead and give them life. I will take uneducated fishermen and make them fishers of men.” And yes I will take Ryan Ayala and give him swaggg..

Do not be afraid to be who you are and have confident that God gave you personality, gifts and talents for a reason. St. Paul tells us in Romans 12: 4-5, “For in as one body we have many parts, and all the parts do not have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ and individually parts of one another.” I know on this journey of faith, I will get people who do not like my style or not like how I do things but my message is clear, if you don’t like how I do it, then you do it! It’s that simple. For Jesus reminds us in Matthew 10:14, “Whoever will not receive you or listen to your words--go outside that house or town and shake the dust from your feet.”

In conclusion, St. Jose Marie Escriva reminds us that, “we are only dumb clumsy instruments in the hand of God” and the job is too never bring people closer to us but to bring people closer to Jesus Christ. John 3:30 says, “He must decrease, I must increase”. It means looking at ourselves for who we really are and without excuses, realizing that we are hardly worth anything, it is until we open ourselves to God’s greatness: that we find it is there where our greatness lies.

Jesus gave me my swag.