(migrated from my Tripod blog on 11/05/2011)
It's that time of the year where bloggers of all stripes write about a common theme in an attempt to raise awareness for a given topic.
Yes, it's Blog Action Day, and this year's topic is FOOD.
Food. That which sustains us.
As I've mentioned once or twice, I've been attending church faithfully for the last few months. I've thoroughly enjoyed the experience, and decided once and for all to join the church permanently... I started RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults) classes two weeks ago, and am on my way to becoming a full-fledged Catholic.
This has come as a bit of a shock to a number of people, particularily people who "thought they knew me".
I was asked a number of similar questions: "You're an intelligent, logical guy who studied history, science, and human behaviour. How can you believe a bunch of man-made hooey like religion?", "Man made God, not the other way around. How can you let yourself be brainwashed by a bunch of drooling zealots?", and so forth.
Actually, it's because I studied these things that I turned to God.
I've spent the last twenty years, since I graduated High School, trying to find my place in the world. To find the answers.
I've read books, attended classes, lectures and talks, watched programs and videos on many different subjects (history, humanities, psychology, sociology, "life science", etc), trying to find the whys and wherefores of the great mystery called Life.
Even after making a right pig of myself at the all-you-can eat buffet of knowledge, I was still left hungry.
I'd try to stave off the hunger by having a few snacks here and there, but it didn't stave it off for long.
After twenty years of searching, I'd found no satisfaction in material goods, money, or relative success any more than I found in my studies.
Then I met Jillian for the first time since 2002. We reconnected, fell in love, and got engaged shortly before Christmas last year. We often talked about starting a family, and decided that we'd want to raise the kids with some sort of faith.
I was game, so we made it a point to attend Mass at a nearby Catholic church (St. Anthony of Padua on Burrin Ave), Jill having been Catholic herself.
After hearing the pastor's homily, I realized I wasn't hungry anymore, despite only having had an appetizer. So we returned the following Sunday... and the next... and the next, feeding my soul little by little, and getting to know (and genuinely care about) a few people in our community.
Here we are, nearly eight months later, and I am only too happy to say I'm no longer hungry.
Now that I'm well-fed, I've decided to learn the recipes, so that I may help to feed others.
Let me tell you a story.
One afternoon this summer, as I was heading home from work, a panhandler came up to me and asked for change. He was a short aboriginal man, kind of rough looking (and a tad smelly to be honest). I told him in a polite but ultimately firm voice that I had no change... (I did have change in reality, but I'd be damned if this smelly bum was getting any of it!).
He looked at me with sad eyes and said, "Oh. I'm kind of hungry, eh?" before walking away.
"Oh yeah," I thought, "Here comes the guilt trip."
Then my bus came, and I mistakenly thought I'd seen the last of this guy.
That is, until he came to me in a half-dream that night.
I was lying in bed, not quite asleep but not quite awake, when the smelly bastard appeared to me in my head.
He was standing in front of me as he had earlier, with those same sad eyes... but something was different. He was slowly changing.
His scruffy beard slowly started to thicken and he started to transform before my eyes... the stubble and dirt on his cheeks started to disappear and his hair began to untangle itself... his appearance transformed completely, going from filthy to immaculate, all the while staring at me with those sad, sad eyes.
I looked away in disbelief, and when I looked back, this smelly bum with the sad eyes had transformed into Jesus.
The Son of God was standing before me, looking upon me with those same sad eyes.
I woke up immediately, feeling a greater sorrow that I've ever felt in my life. The dream seemed to be a stark reminder that Christ is in all of us... I felt like I'd failed Jesus by failing my fellow man.
The dream has haunted me since.
A few days later, I had another dream.
This time, Jillian and I were house sitting for our good friends Larry and Susan. They'd had the good fortune to win a contest, and were able to take their children on a trip.
On a particularily wet and cold day, I was in their kitchen grabbing a glass of water when I heard a rustling noise out their back door.
I looked down and, at the foot of the door, was a wet black growling mass of black and brown fur, wailing and gnashing its teeth. Its fur was standing on end, and it looked rail thin... it was writhing around and was in such a state that I couldn't tell what sort of animal it was.
I opened the door to let it in, but the animal wouldn't come in out of the rain and cold.
Taking pity on the poor thing, I grabbed a plate from the kitchen and took a large honey-garlic bratwurst I'd been saving out of the fridge. I set the plate before the beast, and it immediately gobbled the sausage up.
Then, right before my eyes, the beast started to transform before my eyes, slowly drying out and growing fatter, until it turned into the most beautiful black Doberman pup I had ever seen.
It looked at me with these big soulful eyes... and said in a human voice, "I was hungry, and you fed me."
At which point I woke up.
Ever since I made the decision to convert to Catholicism, the name Wenceslas has been appearing to me all over the place... in books, music, even in webcomics.
Wenceslaswas the Duke of Bohemia, known for his generosity to the poor and hungry. He was murdered by his brother Boleslaw, and is since venerated as a saint.
I've been seeing his name more and more, and took it (and my previous dreams) as a sign that I'm being called to be more generous to my fellow man, perhaps even to help feed the poor.
At Easter, when I've completed my RCIA program, I'll be Confirmed in the church, where we have the option of taking a Saint's name... I'll be taking the name of Wenceslas.
In a couple of years, once I've had a few lessons in the "kitchen" and learned all the "recipes", I intend to help feed my fellow man spiritually by joining the RCIA program as an instructor, and physically by donating and volunteering my time, love, and whatever money we can spare.