Finding a New Way of Being – by Dixon George
At different points in my life I’ve found myself reflecting on where I have come from, where I am now, and where I am going. The answers that I get from prayer, meditation and conversations with people in my community are that I come from ten years of the experience of the Agape Community, first as an occasional volunteer, then as a full time resident. I am now half-way through treatment for cancer, very recently baptized and confirmed into the Catholic Church. I am going into the last decades of my life at a time when scientists tell us we have ten years to dramatically reduce carbon dioxide emissions to avoid climate catastrophe.
Where I had come from before Agape gave me a range of skills in practical matters, but no solid foundation on which to build a spiritual or religious life. Agape exposed me to the habits of the heart that would gradually lead me to a regular attendance at Mass and the birth of the idea that I might find a home in the Catholic Church. I began doing spiritual direction with Fr. Thomas McMurray SJ, a Jesuit priest, who, after close to a year of working together, suggested that I was ready to be welcomed into the Church. At that moment what had been a somewhat abstract idea became a vivid reality, touching deeper parts of me than anything else in my life.
The original thought back in January was that this would happen at the Easter Vigil here at Agape. Then, of course, Covid 19 changed everything. The community was now thrown into a state of waiting and watching and trying to figure out how to handle ourselves. Personally, I was going through a lot in coming to terms with prostate cancer. I was receiving a form of hormone therapy that had some serious side effects, so I was less disappointed than I otherwise might have been about postponing the Baptism.
As I look back on this past year, I see two divergent trends. On a physical plane, I felt I was on a gradually descending slope, each day robbing me of a little bit more of my strength and energy. On a spiritual plane, I was discovering a confidence that I was entering a new way of being which included “…the discovery of joys unimagined and a spaciousness undreamed of,” as Steven Levine puts it in Healing into Life and Death. It was almost as though, trite as it might sound, the more I worried about my diminished capabilities and possible further decline, the higher my spirit rose in answer.
During much of the spring and summer, we considered various plans for a baptismal ceremony. Finally, a date in October was chosen. On October 24th, I was baptized and confirmed by Fr. McMurray at St. Aloysius Church with Fr. Richard Lembo co-officiating. I can now say that where I am now is within the Catholic faith, a member of the Catholic Church, able to receive Communion, all of which makes me feel complete in a way I have never felt before.
As to where I’m going, I know that whatever our world is heading toward, I feel immeasurably more prepared to meet it. I find my growing faith that there is more to life than my merely physical existence gives me a peace greater than I have known. I have found a place to be that feels as solid as a rock, able to withstand whatever storms come, an eternal home.