Dear All Saints Family:
The three books I read all or part of while in Oxford are Heavenly Participation by Hans Boersma,Richard Hooker and the Vision of God by Charles Miller, and The Vision Glorious by Geoffrey Rowell. My whole life while being in the worship at Pusey House and also a recurring theme in all the books and central in the first was the idea of Heavenly Participation. I feel this was the foremost experience of the trip, and it was brought up and has stayed with me for three main reasons. First, the huge place it has in the three texts. The authors of the texts and therefore the theologians and the early church fathers who they studied obviously thought our participation in the Father through the Son by the power of the Holy Spirit was of the utmost importance. These readings were further grounded by hearing Hans Boersma speak and preach. He came to do both at Pusey House and I got to spend the better part of a day in his company. Second, something about attending Mass every day, feeling the presence of God, corporately and privately worshiping Him, and participating in Christ through the Blessed Sacrament–something about all that gives a strong sense of the Divine being on earth and a desire to find and participate in it. Third, while exploring Oxford early on in my trip, I ran into a group trying to evangelize the entire street. The leader somehow singled me out as the devil incarnate and walked over to talk to me. It did not take him long to realize that I was already a follower of Christ, but he felt it necessary to attack my Catholicism, primarily the Eucharist. I was more than a little disturbed afterward. He had essentially called me a heretic for believing that the Blessed Sacrament could be more than just a tool for remembering the death and resurrection of Christ. He had called my tradition and pretty much everyone I loved best liars. Moreover, what he said seemed to deny something that in my heart I knew had to be true. There was Christ on earth. So, as I approached my studies from then on, I looked desperately for Him in everything. And He is there. I haven’t practiced enough to have anywhere near as good a grasp of the biblical and traditional roots of heavenly participation as Hans Boersma has, but I do, as I am sure he does, have a sense that is more than intellectual, that Christ does bring us into the Trinity and that our destiny is to become children of God.
As far as my future in ministry goes, I had two conversations and one trip long experience that stand out the most. The first conversation was with one of the priests who attended Hans Boersma’s lecture. He had been a lawyer in the States. He felt that he had been called to the priesthood for a while but because of the wishes of his parents had ignored it. He was hesitant to call the years he spent as a lawyer wasted but gave the impression they were. I spoke to him about the purpose of my trip and gave him some of my story. Summed up, his message was that if I was called to priesthood, do not ignore the call or waste years, or even more concise: be attentive for God’s voice. The second conversation was with Fr. Barry, the priest-librarian of Pusey House. I talked to him more than any other priest or person at Pusey House. I will try to paraphrase. “Every young man that feels an attraction to the church immediately thinks, ‘Oh, I’m supposed to be ordained,’ but there are many places in the church for strong Christians outside of the priesthood. In fact, there is a need for them. So, my advice is to stay out of the priesthood as long as you can. If you are called to it, the call will not go away.”
Finally, the experience that relates to ministry: This experience lasted the entire trip. I made a point of talking to some new people every day and asking them questions, and possibly learning their story. Sometimes they picked me out and talked to me, though mostly I picked them. I don’t mean a five minute conversation, I mean a half hour, an hour, two hours, I would sit down and talk with them. I picked mostly homeless people. Sit next to a homeless person who is begging, talk with them, watch as people walk by trying as hard as they can to avoid even looking at them. After an hour of this you will understand how inhuman it makes you feel, maybe you will see why they smoke, why they drink. I too would want drugs to make me forget that much of society sees me as no more than dirt. Listening to them I heard many strange stories and many sad ones. Some of these outcasts had hope and were trying to turn their situations around, but some didn’t care what happened. The little I learned and the little I helped them I would like to make into more. If I am called to the ministry, I think it may be a ministry to feed the hungry and care for the destitute. This is where I feel led.
I haven’t throw away the idea of Holy Orders, maybe that is in store for me. Also as Fr. Barry said, “How old are you? Nineteen! You have plenty of time.” I’m primarily a student now anyway. That of JMU and of the Church. My job is to learn. If I can enrich the lives of those around me, I should take every opportunity to do so. I will continue to look for heavenly participation and to attempt to dive into it.