Discovering the meaning of life has long been the butt of cartoons, as the pilgrim climbs the mountain to seek the truth from the all-knowing hermit. The film “The Razor’s Edge” even depicted this scene as the idealistic Tyrone Power sought to fight against the venality and tragedy of his privileged world, symbolized by Gene Tierney and the unfortunate Anne Baxter.
Forty years ago I entered a Catholic seminary to find the meaning of my life. I knew one thing at the time: that my life and mission on earth was to bring about some kind of universal unity through faith. Five years later I was ordained a priest. Ordination in the Catholic faith means that a deep change takes place in man’s identity that no one and nothing can take away. I felt that this change connected me with God as one called to intercede in love for others. It is a call that I still embrace today, even though I am no longer in formal church ministry.
Since leaving my life has turned somersaults. I’ve had jobs that have stretched me beyond my capabilities. They’ve helped me to realize that I am not cut out for today’s concept of administration or for working under others. I’ve discovered I’m an independent spirit, highly sensitive to the currents and drifts around me, and aware of psychic forces that flow through the universe. I’ve blended ministry, spirituality, body work, and coaching and have discovered that my intuitive spirit is a powerful tool to discovering the truth in myself and in others. I emphatically connect with moods, feelings, and unexpressed emotions bottled up within others and help to uncork them.
Since leaving I’ve also discovered my gay spirit. It’s just another facet of the human spirit, yet different in sensibility and sensitivity. I have found that being gay is a choice but not between being gay and being straight. It is a choice to be myself, as I am, without shame, without guilt, without fear, and with the joy and anticipation of discovering humanity from a different, less limiting, perspective.
Since leaving a man who loves me and whom I love has discovered me. He’s totally opposite me in personality, though we have much in common in our childhoods. He has a wonderful sense of humor in the irony of life, but most of all he is honest and open about himself. He grounds me and keeps me real by not letting me get away with the mental tricks I had learned to play in my previous 61 years of life.
Most of all since leaving ministry I have learned to let go of being a victim, to recognize when I’m feeling sorry for myself for whatever reason, and to stop blaming. I’ve learned that no institution, no bureaucracy is worth giving my life. The only sacrifice worth making is for other people, however flawed. And it is solely my responsibility to take find healing and care for my needs. My motivation must be that radical spirit of love and service I first learned from Jesus through my parents.
Yet despite the many changes I’ve gone through in the last 35 years I still cannot define the meaning of my life. I think it’s because my life has multiple meanings, each determined by differing circumstances. My life means understanding for the emotionally challenged man who calls me for spiritual direction. My life means comfort for the woman complaining about getting old and weak. My life means stability for the one who loves me as a brother, friend, and partner. My life means grieving for the human and animal tragedies that plague our planet. I embrace the universe as my own and know that I am as much a vital part of it as any galaxy or god.
I know more than ever that simply being is what God intends for me. And I no longer try to figure out God. God is much bigger than the various boxes that religions attempt to construct in order to contain God, no matter what revealed truth they use. If God is the supreme power and energy of the universe, then that makes me infinitesimally tiny. And if I’m one with God in my deepest soul it also makes me infinitely strong.
All artwork is copyrighted by the artist Michael Parise