May, 2014. A monastery in County Tipperary, Ireland. Sitting in the middle of a lush, green, quiet environment. It’s quite idyllic. A small river running by. Placed under what looks like a willow tree. And an old Catholic priest… who would slap me for calling him old… hammering me with question after question.
“How much do you care?”
“How real is that?”
“How real is your caring?”
What? How real is it? I began to list all the things I do to show I really care, but he interrupts me.
“You don’t look like someone who takes care of himself.”
Priest or no priest, this guy was looking for a beating! “What do you mean I don’t look after myself?”
He then begins to list a number of things… from my weight, to the bags under my eyes, to the biting of my nails, to my incessant need to get up and not just sit down…
“You have all the signs of a man who is not looking after himself!”
Thanks very much. Now I feel much better. But then he hits me with the punch line.
“If you can’t look after yourself, you have no right looking after others. If you really care about others, you really care about yourself! It cannot be any other way.”
That was the beginning of my week in an Irish Catholic Monastery! Praying, eating like a rabbit, and spending no other time than just sitting, listening, journaling. Learning to care for myself so I that I can truly care for others!
It was certainly a shift in my thinking. Being a doer, caring for me meant what could I do to help others. It never began by thinking how can I help myself. But it is no different to helping people grow spiritually. If I’m not growing how can I help others grow.
And that’s the challenge for you. Caring in church begins with you. Spiritual growth in church begins with you. As a good friend of mine once said
“You are your first customer!”