Radio Silence – February

I apologize for my silence over the last few months. There is too much to process and synthesize for all my readers. I think most of you will understand when I say that life has a way of happening without letting up. I don’t see it doing so for Charity and I any time soon as we look for a place to land after graduation and getting married. There is a valuable insight that I’ve learned and that I want to share in the midst of a busy season that is applicable to all who sympathize with the sentiment of a relentless world. The lesson is about silence and being.

I became comfortable in the bleak silence of my evening runs. Darkness comes early in the north-western wilderness and temperatures often dip well below freezing. Sometimes it will even be warm enough to snow. These elements create difficult conditions to run in but I have found it beneficial to my soul to push through for the benefit of physical exercise. It was difficult to get into at first because of the biting cold gnawing on exposed skin, which I later remedied, and by the “you’re crazy” look given by my roommate. Once I got into the rhythm of running and warmed up, I was met by the calm silence of the night. The noise of the day dissipated into the darkness as if it was eating my worries away and giving me clarity of thought about my small existence in a cold, dark world. The presence of being on a road in the middle of a cornfield with gleaming eyes from within the darkness looking at me, the two-legged creature, reminds me of my vanity and the sobering truth that I don’t have any control over the movements of this universe.

The silence asks of me whether my fear or anger toward individuals is worth stewing over. It reminds me that stewing over resentment causes me to lose the hope and joy that I have as one who breathes the fresh, albeit, cold air and the ability to look at the endless expanse of a starry night while knowing that I have a warm bed to crawl into after a long day. This silence reminds me that whatever I decide to identify as matters not in light of the simplicity of being and being tied to the sustainer of life, who is known as the great I AM.

The beautiful tension of simply being is that it does not negate the business we carry or the consequences of our actions. We are given life and our ‘selves’ to produce threefold of what we have been given. The trick is to see that what we have been given is not dependent on how tightly we hold on to it but rather how easily we give it up to the God who gave it to us in the first place.

Charity and I are learning to live in the promises of God on a daily basis. We are learning to give up our control as we wait to see how our immediate life unfolds knowing that God has not lost us in our busyness. So, we ask that you pray for the continuance of that work and for plans to solidify at the right time.

Peace,

Fabien

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October – Grief and Happiness

On the 7th of October I found myself on the Mountain to Sea Trail in Asheville, NC. I had a small bouquet of wild flowers in one hand and a diamond ring in the other. I had lied to Charity about being at Orphee et Eurydice, an Opera in Chicago the night before, in order to fly down to South Carolina without any detection. I went behind her back to make arrangements with our families to have an engagement party. And lastly, I kept back my excitement about the details of the next time we would see each other. I was a monster: sneaking around and lying. Thoughts of doubt, excitement, fear, and love passed through my head while waiting to see Charity and her sister running toward me. A few people passed me; one stopped and told me not to do it. I got frustrated waiting for them to come to me so I ran ahead knowing they would be running toward me, I would finally get this question off my chest after a month of planning and several fake proposals which entailed me tying my shoes or “proposing questions.”

Then it happened. A dozen yards ahead of me she crest the hill. Her smile turned to disbelief at what she thought see saw. I went down to one knee. She stopped. I got up to run the rest of the distance between us. Then, went down on one knee again and said some things, some thing sweet, I’m sure. After twisting her arm and getting the ring on pleading with her, she said yes. I also apologized that I actually didn’t watch Orphee et Eurydice but rather got on a plane.

We had a great weekend with our families and celebrating this precious time in our lives. We are still in disbelief that this is real. I like feeling in love, especially with Charity. She’s so sweet and fun. I haven’t found anyone who doesn’t find joy in her presence. Sometimes I feel like a troll beside her because of how fun and beautiful she is compared to my brooding self.

Leaving her to come back to school is proving to be more challenging the more we know and love one another. Having a long distance relationship is difficult especially when we encounter hardship in our day-to-day lives. That proved to be true the last three weeks in the wake of the death of a friend and professor, Fr. Westberg. I am currently enrolled in a class with him and had shared a lot of meals together; we even went sailing a few times together. His death stirred up a lot of emotions and feelings. I’ve felt confused at the mixture of emotions concerning our engagement and new life together with the sobering reality of death in this world.

I have been able to grieve as one with hope. The hope of the resurrection flies in the stench of death. While we still feel the pain of loss, we let the pain wear away at our delusions of grandeur. Death reminds us of our finitude, while Jesus who trampled down death by death shows us that the way of life goes into and through death itself toward eternal life.

This hope puts into perspective our forthcoming marriage into a different light. The meaning of marriage is not merely a means of getting tax benefits but rather a means to die daily to oneself for the sake of the other in order that we might become like Christ. The meaning of marriage, when shared, gives way to endless giggling, laughing, tears, exhaustion, frustrations, confusion, shared interests, and endless friendship. I’m stoked to grow old with Charity. I feel like seeing the end of a life so dear to me is allowing me to not take for granted the soft warm smile of my lover knowing that we have so much more to learn from one another.

Peace,

Fabien

September

ἐλθέτω ἡ βασιλεία σου· γενηθήτω τό θέλημά σου, ὠς ἐν οὐρανῷ καὶ ἐπὶ γῆς·

(Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven Matt. 6:10)

I have been meditating on the nature of the division between heaven and earth this week in light of hurricanes and shootings. There is in us all an understanding that the things that go on in our day-to-day life is not as they should be. Even if we are not directly involved or effected by certain catastrophes, we still encounter broken relationships, hurtful words, and divisive actions. Yet, we know that there is something better out there even if some people don’t call it heaven. There is something “out there” that we know to be better than the “right here.” As Christians, we believe that the “out there” is actively invading our “right here” through the Catholic Church. The Church is the womb by which people are given new life through the tomb of Christ. He who was sent from heaven to earth showed the way to life through death. We who admit our own faults confess that reality and are baptized into his death and resurrection and receive life in His one holy catholic and apostolic church. He is the first born of us, the dead, being vivified by the Holy Spirit.

Many people have taken up arms against the nature of the tangible and institutional church because of its apparent messiness and hypocrisy. Something that hasn’t been discussed by them is the nature of the tangible body of Christ who showed us to be truly human. The reality of his humanity was disputed in the early years of the church because of the scandal of human flesh. Likewise, the scandal of our day is the reality of the presence of Christ in an institutional and apostolic faith. It is by this Church that God’s will in heaven becomes manifest here on earth.

Our faith in the tangibility of the church is that which will reach out to stop the bleeding of bullet wounds. Our words will become the words of peace and healing to those verbally abused. Our feet will become those that run towards those who have fallen in their own bile and vomit. More than that, we will become people who leave the safe walls of cathedrals to walk the cold, dark, and dangerous streets that many call home. For in the end, the use of Greek, Hebrew, and other theological terms will inevitably raise the intellectual bar of our churches in order to feed not only the mind but also the heart, which will cause the hands and feet of our bodies to bring heaven to the earth. The light shines in the darkness and the darkness will not overcome it.

As I have been thinking about these things I have been considering my last year of seminary. I have felt confident of the fact that I am weak and unable to do any of the things mentioned above. There is so much more to learn. There is so much to engage. There are so many broken people of which I am one. I am comforted by the words of Paul that it is in my weakness that He is made strong. That which I will preach and teach, will not come of my own will and agenda but rather of God’s will; for he has given His children, the Church, all authority in His only begotten Son who lives and moves within us who have died and been raised in Him to bring about His kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.

The tangibility of which I speak is very real for me as I continue on in this final year. All of us students have given up a lot to be here, one thing in particular is a full time job by which we would be able to pay for books, insurance, oil changes, and the like. Please consider partnering with me financially in this process of learning the will of God in our lives as we seek of live obediently to Him.

If you are able to help financially you can send money in the following ways. And A big thank you to those of you who have already been helping me!

Give straight to the school: https://www.nashotah.edu/support/fabien-pering

-or-

Send a check with “Seminarian Fund” in the memo line to my sending parish at Church of the Apostles 1520 Bull Street, Columbia, SC 29201

-or-

Give online at the church website making the same indication of giving to the “Seminarian Fund”: http://www.apostlescolumbia.org/giving/

In him,

Fabien Pering

May-August

I would first like to apologize to all my supports for not keeping up with my blog the last four months. I found myself sitting down several times over the course of that time to write but nothing came. I resigned myself to the fact that I was simply done with writing for my studies over the course of the year were tremendously difficult. I had no words to write although the thoughts continued. I entered into a time of processing the things that I had read and learned over the course of my middler year. I spent the summer in Wisconsin at Nashotah House working with the maintenance crew, facilitating daily worship in the chapel, and working at a local Mexican restaurant. I was able to do a little bit of traveling to see my best friend, Charity Hubbard, who is also my girlfriend (more about that to come).

One of my tasks on the maintenance crew was to scrap paint of a building and then sand the rough parts in order that I could then paint over it later. It was incredibly relaxing to scrap bits of paint 10 feet up on a ladder. I’m not being facetious. The mundane task required no mental effort, other than keeping balance, and allowed me to simply be in the presence of the previous year. I listened to some books on Audible. Daniel Kahneman and Malcolm Gladwell facilitated brain activity by forcing me to think about something else other than my studies. By being distracted I was able to then revisit what I had learned with a different perspective on what I was doing. I don’t think that it was necessarily the content of what they were talking about that made me revisit my studies with a different perspective but simply the act of thinking about different topics. Although I will say that Kahnemen’s study in Decision Theory is really fascinating and has seeped into that which I am pursing as a priest.

One thing that I thought about over the course of the summer was the imperfection, yet completely satisfying nature, of what actually happens in life. I had in my mind that seminary would be really good and devoid of trial or hardship. Specifically, over the course of the year I anticipated getting good grades while participating in the community with no emotional expense. What happened was that I got ok grades and participated in the community with almost all of my emotional, intellectual, and physical energy being depleted. Despite the depletion I felt really satisfied because I learned a lot about human nature and myself. Moreover, I learned about the world that God entered into as Jesus Christ to help us who come to the end of ourselves to find life and peace through death and chaos.

The reality of the incarnation of Jesus Christ is that he shows us how to be truly God and Man. He shows us how to come to the end of our physical life by expressing inability to go on and submitting to the fact that we have no control over the alignment of the moon and sun in our lives. In submitting, we find something we never anticipated. We find satisfaction in seemingly imperfect things in our life because we know that they point to the perfect reality of the being and essence of God, that is, that we see hope even in a broken world. We can scrap paint off a building and know that things break down and fall apart, requiring maintenance. In scraping, sanding, and painting we know that we have purpose in taking care of a breaking and falling apart world. We have a moral duty and obligation to take care of all things, not because of who or what they are but because of whom they were created by and in. The bottom line is not race or gender but humanity. Not that race and gender are negated but rather accentuated by helping each other see how to serve one another. Gender and race are a provision for us to help each other to die to one another much like in the manner that Jesus died for us. But, I digress.

As noted above, I visited my best friend a few times. I met Charity through a mutual friend who is my other best friend from grade school. He and his wife told me about her in February, we ended up writing each other via snail mail which then culminated in a visit to where she lives in Seneca, SC. We started dating shortly thereafter and have loved getting to know each other over the course of the last five to six months. She loves running, backpacking, and doing anything active outside. She is getting a Master’s in Recreational Therapy at Clemson University, loves helping people, and simply makes me a better person.

We spent two and a half weeks together at the beginning of this month. We vacationed with my family, flew to Dallas, Texas, for a wedding, and then vacationed with her family. We had a lot of fun laughing and getting to know each other’s families. We ran a lot, laughed a lot, and even miss-communicated. All in all we had a splendid time together and are counting down the days till we can be together again.

I am starting my final year of seminary. I am looking forward to this year. I was glad to find out that senior year is historically not as difficult as middler year, so I’m happy about that! I am in need of some financial support going into the next year. Although the majority of my tuition is projected to be paid for, I will be in need for living expenses. Over the last year and a half I have been working at the Mexican restaurant on the weekends to pay for various bills and needs. The owners are moving to a different location and so I am not able to move with them or find another place to work with as flexible hours as they offered. Although I do have a few jobs on campus, my funds are dwindling. Please prayerfully consider sending both prayer and financial support as I finish my senior year and move into a new stage of life following graduation.

If you are able to help financially you can send money in the following ways.

Give straight to the school: https://www.nashotah.edu/support/fabien-pering

-or-

Send a check with “Seminarian Fund” in the memo line to my sending parish at Church of the Apostles 1520 Bull Street, Columbia, SC 29201

-or-

Give online at the church website making the same indication of giving to the “Seminarian Fund”: http://www.apostlescolumbia.org/giving/

Thanks!

Fabien Pering

April: Lent into Eastertide

How is light appreciated but by being in the dark first? And how is joy had but by experiencing sorrow and pain? How is the resurrection of Easter enjoyed but by first going through a season of tangibly experiencing the need for Christ and the stripping away of carnal desire? Surely all those things can be had without its latter, however there is a fullness that the counterpart brings that makes things all the more beautiful and sweet. The month of April has been gracious to me in showing me a fuller understanding of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

I wrote a paper for my New Testament class on Colossians 2:11-15 where I explored the idea of baptism being the new form circumcision the four weeks leading up to Holy Week. I spent a lot of time researching and showing how the ‘circumcision of Christ’ is to be understood in the sense that Jesus’ physical death on the cross is the body of flesh that is cut off as our spiritual circumcision. The understanding reveals the importance of baptism in the process of our salvation in that we have been circumcised through the waters of baptism. We have been buried with him in his death and just as God raised Jesus from the dead, so have we been by the same power of God.

The nature of the paper and the practice of Lenten disciplines (I have to admit the failure of my specific discipline) revealed to me the weakness of my flesh and the necessity of my union with Jesus Christ in his death and resurrection. The primary thrust of the passage of Colossians and the main idea of Easter is God’s active role in unifying us with him through his Son, our Savior! This unification with the Godhead is more than simply the forgiveness of sin but a comprehensive process of making our nature more like the nature of the Trinity in order that all that is wrong in the world can be made right and all that is beautiful can be appreciated for what it is.

I have the sense of a new birth in light of the Easter season. I hope that I feel the same thing year after year as the nature of the gospel message becomes more full as each year brings new experiences and perspective on life. I think that this sense is captured in the Church’s teaching of “conversion of life.” We are to each day turn from our disastrous tendencies and live in light of the law of freedom.

I’m reminded of our need for a daily conversion of life in the midst of the final push toward the end of the semester as many of us here are short tempered and generally weary from the term. I know surely I don’t have it as tough as other might, but there is a lot of work to be done from now until May 26th. I ask for your prayers and continually support for all of us here at Nashotah House. For we hope that this environment of study will be worth it in the end when we go forth into the world by shining light in dark places, spreading joy in times of sorrow, and living in light of the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ, our Lord and our God.

Peace,

Fabien

March Update

I mentioned in my last blog that I was preparing to teach an adult Sunday school class on evangelism. My desire with this update is to briefly describe that which I taught and what I learned over the course of March.

The main idea that I taught over the course of the four-week class was a character driven creativity. The first two weeks I talked about how addressing how our character effects how we interact with people. Then the next two weeks I talked about how to creatively think about engaging people relationally. The idea, therefore, is that if we first look at Christian anthropology, that is, if we see that knowing one thing over the next doesn’t make us superior to others, we can then speak honestly and truly to anyone and everyone that might be in our life for a long or short amount of time. For if we see that all people are equal, then we can engage in a loving manner and with compassion no matter what kind of perspective people might have on life. The conversations had and actions done by those whom profess Christ as Lord must stem not out of pity, but of love. Once love is the motivator and initiator then the needs of people, whether it’s an intellectual inquiry, an emotional heartache, or a physical need, can be heard, seen, and appropriately engaged. That engagement with others is none other than Christ himself, if indeed we believe that we are spiritually unified with Him.

My intent in teaching on evangelism was to connect the deep theological truths of the catholic faith with a fresh approach to where we are socially, politically, and economically. As I mentioned above, we engaged this idea of Christian anthropology. We talked about how humans are primarily loving creatures rather than thinking ones. Descartes’ “I think therefore I am,” unfortunately promulgated the notion that our identity is based off of what we know or think. Rather, the reality is that we do things based out of what we love. If we consider the habits in our life, we might see what we prioritize most. St Augustine wrote that our hearts are restless until they rest in God. The understanding is that our physical bodies were created in the spiritual realm, creating a spiritual and physical desire to fill that which our deepest need seeks, which can only be filled by the infinite and eternal God of the old and new scriptures.

Moreover, the one holy catholic and apostolic church holds this salvation. It is passed on by the laying on of hands and the transferring of the memories of the church within its teaching. The church’s creed is the bedrock, which we are anchored to in order to be the safe harbor for those seeking peace in the chaotic seas of the world. So our evangelistic efforts are not that of simply selling an item, but rather we are actively creating peace in various situations. Whether someone is seeking an answer to a difficult question about God, Jesus, or the church, we can speak to that need. To those who are emotionally distraught over the loss of a family member, we can know how to sit silently being an encouragement to them. Or physically, we can give our jacket to a homeless man who needs it for an impending cold night.

I was intentionally vague concerning specific models and methods of evangelism because I believe that humans can creatively overcome obstacles when needs must be met. Rather, I spoke to the nature of ordering our own life in line with the love of God so that we can be instruments of peace when we encounter disorder outside of the church. Lives are changed through relationships and words of truth spoken at the proper times.

These thoughts and lessons have come and gone in the midst of a busy semester here at the House. It often feels surreal to consider that I’m doing precisely that which the Lord has called me to do. Albeit, not yet being ordained I can still engage the local church in a way that is beneficial not only the community but for the sake of the Kingdom of God.

I am enjoying my studies. Although there is a lot of information to engage, it is good to have an outlet to teach different things that I learn both in the parish and in the larger community. So not only do I get to teach what I learn, but I get to practice what I learn and teach. The draw back is that I feel tired and have developed a nice little eye twitch.

Peace,
Fabien Pering

February Update

I hope that this update finds you all well! Things are going well for me here in Wisconsin. Another term has started and I’m already feeling the strain of study come over my fellow students and me. I would simply ask for your prayers in this busy season. As is expected, middler year at Nashotah House is quite taxing with the onslaught of classes and various responsibilities and duties on campus. Moreover, lent starts this week followed by Holy Week, which is historically a busy but incredible time of year. We who are in the ordination track learn what it takes to put on the various services that lead up to Easter Sunday. It is an active participation in setting aside the various calendars the world operates on and taking up the church calendar as it follows the life of Christ.

In addition to my studies and the Lenten season, I’m going to be teaching a class on evangelism over the course of five weeks at St. John Chrysostom. I’m excited to be teaching again in the parish! I have a lot of fun engaging with parishioners with different material. The parish wants to grow and make a difference in the Delafield. They have recognized the need to love people and share the message of Jesus Christ with their neighbors. So I have the opportunity to equip them with what they need to and dialogue with them about how to be effective ministers of Jesus.

As this is the main reason why I am studying, please keep me in your prayers that I might find the energy and excitement necessary to teach and engage people, equipping them to do the work of the gospel. Pray that our time might be fruitful and that many people might become disciples of Jesus Christ through our effort.

In other news, I ran an Ultra Marathon at the beginning of the month. It was a 50k which took me six hours and four minutes to complete. I am happy to say that I still like to run. I also completed the necessary requirements to maintain my Emergency Medical Technician certification for another two years. I don’t have any direct plans to use the certification other than always being ready in case someone where to need my particular set of “life saving” skills.

Peace,

Fabien Pering