Thursday, February 10, 2011

Structural Dissatisfaction

I recently read a short story by Jennifer Egan titled "Safari." It is a fitting story since it takes place in Kenya, where I am preparing to visit next week. Unlike the main characters in this story though, I am not traveling to Kenya for a "Safari" in the sense of visiting game parks in order to see the wild animals. It could be noted though, that in Kiswahili "Safari" means journey or any type of traveling.

While in Kenya I will be hosting a discernment retreat for a number of candidates who are discerning a vocation with Glenmary. Will also do some traveling around the country as I visit the candidates at their homes and meet their families. It is always a wonderful experience to travel and have the opportunity to enter into another culture. A common trait of our travel experiences is that we are often changed as we have new eyes to look at situations in our life and culture when we return from our trip. For the author of the aforementioned book this is called "Structural Dissatisfaction." Which she defines as "Returning to circumstances that once pleased you, having experienced a more thrilling or opulent way of life, and finding that you can no longer tolerate them." I enjoyed rereading that line in her story a few times as I pondered its meaning... I realized that this quote reminded me of another phrase, the unofficial motto of the Jesuit Volunteer Corps; "Ruined for Life." I think this JVC motto means that after being and serving in an intense mission situation and in extremely impoverished place their volunteers are unable to return to their previous state of life and live in the same way that they were prior to their experience. Not being able to return to our previous life could be a scary thought before one enters into a commitment such as volunteering for a couple of years, we have to ask, am I ready to be changed? I think that the same phrase can be said after we enter into a formation program to become a missionary priest or brother. We are “Ruined for Life” meaning we are unable to return to live our life as we previously had - our experiences gives us new eyes to see the world and prepares us to use that new vision in our service to the mission areas of the United States.

Are we ready to surrender who we are and allow God to guide us into who we are to become? Entering the discernment and formation program can be a big step but where else in life does one have the support of formators who are trained in guiding us in this process. Glenmary wants its members to be prepared as whole, healthy humans who are able to use their gifts to serve in the missions. A big step but one that is very doable. Are you ready to begin your "Safari" or journey in formation, and then on to the missions which will inevitably change you forever?

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