This is a very exciting weekend for those who are steeped in cultural pride. Saint Patrick’s Day was today, followed by a day to recover, and the next day is Saint Joseph’s Day. On the 17th everyone is Irish, and on the 19th everyone is Italian, the irony is, neither Saint was of the heritage that celebrates them with such pride.
Both men were very unassuming, and ironically little fact is known about either of them. Much of what we do know is surrounded by tradition and legend. We uphold that both men were motivated by dreams. Joseph, according to Sacred Scripture, was warned by an Angel in a dream to take the Christ Child, and His mother Mary from Bethlehem, and flee to the land of Egypt when Herod ordered the infamous Massacre of the Innocents. After hiding in Egypt, he was again guided by an Angel in a dream to take the family, and return to Nazareth when the plight was over. Patrick, according to legend, was visited by an Angel in a dream while he was in captivity in Ireland, after being torn from his home land of Britain. He was told that it was time for him to leave Ireland so he fled back to Britain, where he remained until returning to Ireland, again guided by an Angel, as a missionary. Two men, both guided by a dream; Joseph’s dream protected Christ from harm so that He could go to His people, Patrick’s dream led him to find Christ for himself, before bringing Him to the people of Ireland.
We are all moved by dreams. We all have dreams. Not the kind that are illustrated with the presence of angels, and messages from the divine however. We have dreams that are the construct of hopes for future accomplishments. We have dreams of finding “the one” with whom we will spend the rest of our lives. We have dreams that the one we have found is “the one”. We have dreams of buying property, paying off those debts, driving that nice car, and living in that perfect home. We also know what its like to have dreams dashed before our eyes. That’s what makes them dreams.
What we sometimes fail to realize however is the amazing blessings that sometimes come with those dreams seemingly falling to pieces. The lessons we learn along the way help make us who we are, weather we achieve those dreams or not. I’m sure Joseph and Patrick both had dreams that were different from the ones that God gave them that were decorated with Angels, and messages of living life in flight. Joseph was a Carpenter, who in all likelihood dreamt of building a successful career out of his trade, and making a quiet peaceful home for himself and his wife Mary. I’m sure that the adventures described to us in the early days of the Gospel were not in his original plans. Likewise Patrick I am sure had dreams of his own. He was the product of an affluent family, who seemingly had no solid religious background. His father was a Catholic Deacon, but history tells us that was likely due to tax incentives and not so much religious conviction. His years of imprisonment after the Irish Raids on Britain were certainly not in his original plans, nor were his later years as a Missionary his original life goals.
The point is, sometimes the dreams that God has in mind for us are different then the ones we would have for ourselves. I have certainly seen that in my own life. The life I have now is certainly not the one of which I dreamed while growing up. When I was in High School and looking forward to graduating and moving on to Seminary I dreamt of an Ordination day in the Cathedral at 25. I dreamt about the challenges of a Celibate life, and concerns like running a large Parish, with a school, and being a part of the lives of a large Congregation of Parishioners.
God certainly did have other plans. Instead I find myself as a “working Priest” with a Parish and a secular career. My parish has no school, nor is it large, nor does it sit on an endowment. Instead we are a small community of faith, united in our belief that Jesus Christ came for all of us, and we work together everyday towards the coming of His Kingdom. I’m involved in the lives of LGBTQ youth, who everyday teach me lessons about life and love that I could never learn in a classroom. I find myself involved in things like Marriage Equality, and other forms of advocacy that will someday impact the lives of people who I will never even meet. My life is so full, so joyful, so happy, and to be honest. . . I cant imagine it any other way.
It’s certainly a lesson learned on my part. We can have as many hopes and dreams as we want, but we wont find happiness until we have God’s dream, and find the life that He is calling us to! Unlike Patrick and Joseph the odds of that dream being painted in so clear a picture as it was for them are slim. The angels of God’s dream for us comes in the form of human beings, apparent failures and disappointments, heartbreak, and trials. When we are going through these experiences they couldn’t seem anything less like a dream, but rather more like nightmares. When they have passed though, and we look back on life’s incredible journey we can smile with confidence, and know that in all of that God was there, is there, and continues to be there, even though we may not see Him.
So let’s all keep having those dreams. Let’s all keep working towards those goals, great jobs, nice cars, and fancy homes that we enjoy in the details of our imaginations. While we are trying to achieve them, God will do what He has to do to show us the way to what He has in mind, and what we will find is happiness, joy, and fulfillment beyond all telling.
The last part of the popular Serenity Prayer is the part least known by most, yet the most powerful;
“Living one day at a time; enjoying one moment at a time; accepting hardship as the pathway to peace. Taking a Jesus did this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it; trusting that He will make all things right if I surrender to His will; that I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with Him forever in the next.”