Death

Death

Many people have seen my skull ring and been curious about what it is and why I wear it. Of those people, some have expressed their distaste for it…sorry, mom, but I like it. Allow me to explain what it symbolizes and why I’ve chosen to keep it on me. The skull is a memento mori, a thing that reminds me of death. You might be asking yourself “What’s this nice boy doing thinking about something so grim?”

In the Rule of St. Benedict, monks are called to keep death always before them. The instruction is meant to call into remembrance their mortality and therefore remind them daily of the one reason to live. Like contrasting colors in a painting, life becomes more vibrant and full in light of death. I am reminded of why I live every time I put the ring on, yet I am constantly learning how to live life more fully. In a way, I’ve become obsessed with living.

I’ve started asking myself what would happen if I died today. Who would I have wanted to thank? Would I have given more money to the homeless guy? Who would I have told that I loved them? Would I have made certain jokes or comments about a certain person? Would I have saved more money rather than take a trip to another country? These questions have led to another adventure and several interesting conversations. I was able to see how the Lord works amongst people in going to new places and talking with people they don’t normally talk to.

Those abstract thoughts capture my whereabouts this January and my inward, thought-filled journey through the U.S. and U.K. I spent a few days in Columbia, SC, over the New Year connecting with friends. I visited other friends in Greenville and Hartsville, SC, and Fayetteville, NC. It was a really sweet time being with them again. Many of them have gotten pregnant or have just recently given birth to little ones. It is a joy to see these families grow and it is an honor to be a part of their lives. The memento mori, I think, helps me to see with open eyes that which is in front of me rather than live in the past or look to the future.

After visiting several friends I headed off to England for two weeks. I visited London for two days, Cambridge for two and a half, Oxford for five, and finally Windsor for one. I met a lot of locals and other travelers on the way. It was a time of reflection and rest. In that time I learned a lot about myself and got the pleasure at laughing at the silly things I worry about. At one point I was worried about spending too much money on food or lodging. Not that I was living lavishly in the first place. I stopped for a moment and thought about the immeasurable benefit of spending money to meet people with a different point of view, to walk in other people’s shoes, and buying a few pints of beer for a table of friends in a little eighteenth century pub at the heart of Oxford. The stories and laughs shared outweigh a few extra dollars saved in my bank account. I know that I live responsibly with what I have and even that enjoying my vacation is in fact living responsibly. You might say that I got a fresh dose of living in light of death, because what if I passed away? Would be it better for my money to be safe in the bank or invested in a time of joy with strangers and friends alike?

I visited a lot of different churches and pubs in England. The most striking thing was the history of (dead) people that have gone through both. I worshiped in the chapel where E.B. Pusey, a famous individual from the Oxford Movement is buried. I also drank a few pints in the Eagle and Child, the pub where the Inklings met and talked. It was neat to be in the same space as the people I look up to and consider the legacy they left behind. I wonder if they had the same fears and worries that I do? I wonder if they too had a drunken lady come up to them to say that ring they wore was a bit creepy.

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The Incarnation

Merry Christmas!

I’ve been enjoying the company of my family after the flurry of finals and term papers. I am now halfway through my Masters of Divinity program. It is surreal to think that I’ve been in Wisconsin now for the last year and a half. I know that the next year and a half will fly by, and believe me when I say that I will enjoy it thoroughly!

I have been working on maintaining my Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) certification over the last two weeks while my parents have been at work. It’s been a joy to engage a very different kind of material than that of seminary and to remember some crazy things that I’ve seen. I’ve been getting refreshed on vital signs and various EMT protocols while going through the online classes. I got to thinking about the incarnation while coming across terms like cardiovascular-system, perfusion, and fontanels. Those things made me think about the incarnation because of the physical aspect of humanity and because it is the season in which we remember that Jesus took on those things.

The Angelus is a prayer that teaches about the incarnation. I thought it would be beneficial to elaborate a little bit on the prayer, looking at the holiday in light of the method of prayer in order to teach about an essential part of our doctrine. The Angelus teaches us about the incarnation of Jesus, how the Word became flesh, and how the Lord used Mary as an instrument to bring forth the Son of God.

The angel of the Lord declared unto marry,

And she conceived of the Holy Spirit.

Hail Mary full of grace, blessed are thou amongst women and blessed is the fruit of they womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us now and at the hour of our death.

We remember the narrative in the gospel according to Luke in the first section. The Lord chose Mary as the vessel to outfit the Word in the likeness of sinful flesh. This is the moment of grace that the divine penetrated the physical realm in order that all people might have salvation. As believers we then keep our own mortality before us so that we might recognize the need for divine help.

Behold, the handmaiden of the Lord,

Be it done unto me according to thy will.

Hail Mary full of grace, blessed are thou amongst women and blessed is the fruit of they womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us now and at the hour of our death.

The gospel account tells us that the Lord has found favor in Mary. The saying troubles Mary, showing humility. We are to emulate her response to the Lord as he calls us to his service, no matter the cost. We remember again the fruit of the womb of Mary, God’s chosen instrument to purify a broken world.

The Word became flesh

And dwelt among us.

Hail Mary full of grace, blessed are thou amongst women and blessed is the fruit of they womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us now and at the hour of our death.

The moment has arrived that we remember that God has sent his only begotten son to add the humanity of flesh onto his divinity of God in order that he might die as propitiation. We find through church history an emphasis on the aspect of the addition of the incarnation rather than putting aside the divinity in order to take on the humanity. The emphasis guards us from heresy as we maintain both the divinity and humanity of Jesus Christ for the purpose of the work on the cross.

Christmas is about the incarnation of Jesus. We as Christians remember both the spiritual and physical aspect of life. We can take joy in this beautiful and broken world because there is so much to be amazed at, like how the parasympathetic muscles work at digesting food and making us sleepy after a large holiday meal.

We also remember how he held together the tangible world along with the spiritual and we are to hold both together as well. Likewise, we are to imitate Mary by approaching life in all humility.

Pour forth; we beseech thee, O Lord, your grace into our hearts, that we to whom the incarnation of Christ was made known to us by the message of an angel, may by his Passion and Cross be brought to glory of His resurrection, through the same Christ, our lord. Amen

Change and Un-Change

Over thanksgiving break I found myself musing about how things change. The more that I thought about it, the more I realized that change happens all the time and it is because of time that things change. Yet, when we think of the people that change, we think about how things really haven’t changed at all. They are still the same kid they were on the playground. They’ve just grown taller, been given money, had children, their skin has gotten more worn and, eventually, more wrinkly. Even though they’ve changed, they still worry about losing friendships, they want to have fun and laugh, or want to have their belly full.

People still have the same fears and doubts about certain events even if they’ve had 10 children or are the CEO of a company. Certainly circumstances have changed, but whether you’re the child looking ahead toward apparent success or the parent looking back at the bright-eyed kid, all are on the same footing wondering how to deal with the other and that of which they are in charge. The notion that more is better is crippling. It maims generations of people by distracting them from what it is that is to change, not account balances, cars, educational degrees, or addresses but rather virtues of patience toward others, justice for the oppressed, and endurance through trying times. The latter give life to the former, making it easier to let go of the former for the latter.

I visited those whom I love most this past week in North and South Carolina over Thanksgiving break. I visited familiar places and saw familiar faces. All of which seemed to have changed, or was it just me that changed? The buildings haven’t changed, the service at certain restaurants hadn’t changed, and the smell of the air was the same. The same jokes were made around the dinner table, the same interactions were had, and you could find the plates in the same place. Yet I still spoke the same way, thought the same way as I had before, and laughed at the same things. So why was there an air of change?

We’ve all grown a year older, a year wiser, and a year more experienced than the last while still maintaining similar inadequacies and insecurities that our younger selves had. So we’ve all definitely changed, but…not really.

So what? Why muse over seemingly pedantic and trivial things? I think that in the tension of change and un-change I’ve learned how to be present. At least, I’m becoming increasingly more present with every interaction. I noticed how my buddy held his hands and arms above his head while musing over ironic circumstances. I noticed how dad made another simple improvement to an evolving way of deep frying turkeys. I noticed how my friend carefully tamped the espresso grounds to make a perfect cup of coffee for a stranger. I noticed something in my mom’s eye when she told me something I needed to hear. And I notice how my friends covered their spare bed with clean sheets and tons of blankets because their spare room got a little bit colder at night than the rest of the house.

I saw virtuous qualities that I aspire to in those whom I love. Things that I want changed in me. Sure we all might have a little more or less stuff and we all move a little slower or faster than last year, but we’re the same changing creatures who want to belong to each other and ultimately to the unchanging creator of all things.

So in a season of change, I want to spend time changing in the midst of the presence of the lowly and the lovely people that I find myself with at any given moment. Not yesterday, not tomorrow, but today.

Spirituality of Running

 

The other day I went for a run at a near by park called Lapham Peak. I’ve been running on those trails a lot lately. I’ve been finding that I get lost in my runs, not geographically speaking, but lost in my thoughts and in the lovely sights. I started my run near ‘the fields,’ a place filled with gently rolling hills and grass trails. There are a lot of birds singing and a few occasional roaming deer. I got to the main area where the majority of the trails are and continued to run and found myself going up to ‘the peak’ and then up and down like a roller coaster on the backside of the peak. I ran past a few people as I made my way through the serpentine trails enjoying the changing colors of the leaves and the smell of fall. I found myself going through a few different sections of trail and eventually back to my car. I looked to see how far I ran and was shocked to see that I had done 10 miles in just an hour and a half. How did that go by so quick? And why was it so enjoyable? Deep down I knew the answer to be so simple.

I was wholly present, unhindered by the cares of the world, and in a desolate place.

Isn’t that what we all want in our lives? We hear of an ever-ensuing struggle in the Middle East over homelands in Iraq. We feel the struggle between brothers and sister in the streets of major and minor cities alike. We also see the damages done by earthquakes, monsoons, and hurricanes. We have this sense that something just isn’t quiet right in the world. But does that drive us to despair?

It shouldn’t.

I often think about the nature of the world while I run. I consider whom I should vote for, what I should do to help my neighbor, or how to prioritize my time and money to be an effective and responsible human being. I don’t ever come up with an answer in my seemingly ‘zen-like’ runs. What I do realize is that there is one thing that I can do…and that is that I can find ‘shalom’ (peace) in my life and practice: the peace that surpasses all understanding, the peace that comes from the triune God as is known and passed down from the holy catholic and apostolic church, of whom Jesus is Lord and King.

Running for me is an exercise of submission in that I realize I’m not the fastest and strongest runner. I realize I haven’t read enough on the candidates voting tendencies or which local politician to vote for. I realize that I’m not as organized as I wish I could be. Most importantly, I realize I’m not in charge of the universe…and I don’t have to be. I’m submitting my ego to someone bigger.

There’s something about running on top of the wide world, whether it’s in the mountains of Peru, the Sinai desert, or the hills of the Kettle Moraine area. Those places don’t care if I’m smart or dumb, rich or poor, or what I do with my time. That forces me to realize I’m not as important we humans think we are.

Therein lies the key to feeling unhindered. If we realize we’re not the center of the universe, we then are able to be more joyful and accepting of the peace the comes from Jesus, king of the universe. When we see where we stand in the economy of God, we are then able to do and be the most good for we become conduits of the goodness and blessedness of God. In submitting we are able to ask questions that will lead us to know the truth. In submitting we loosen our grip on our lives and monetary possessions. In submitting we only focus on what’s in front of us, every rock, tree limb, and trail. Sometimes we trip, fall, and break bones. Only to get up and keep going.

That, then, shows that we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed but not driven to despair (2 Cor. 4:8).

So where will I run to next? Well, wherever the wind blows next.

Until next time,

Fabien

The Nomad: Part 2

In my last blog I wrote about how we all wander through this earth either in the wilderness or in civilized places. While I took the metaphor quite literally to explain how I see the world, I alluded to a figurative understanding of a wandering life. In this next installment in the idea of wandering, I want to illuminate its necessary counterpart, stability. Stability is not contradictory to our wanderings but rather paradoxical. It is like how a map and compass gives a sense of direction on unfamiliar trails and unpredictable weather on a mountain. For example, some friends and I got lost while on a backpacking trip on the Art Loeb trail. We were unfamiliar with the trails since we had gotten into a wilderness area. We finally sensed we were heading in the wrong direction so we pulled out the map and compass and found our way back to the right trail.

This idea of stability comes from the Benedictine Rule of monastic life, which is how I’ve come to know about and experience it in my own wanderings. I’ve come to understand that you don’t have to live in a monastery to be able to have this guiding light of stability in your life, in fact, you can work a 9-5 job and have the same sense of thrill and security. So how do you obtain this stability? You pray.

Life here at Nashotah House is centered around chapel where we pray the prayers of the church, and of course, our own. The prayers of the church are the prayers that have been passed down through every generation. The Phos Hilaron, a prayer that dates from the 3rd century, says “Now as we come to the setting of the sun, and our eyes behold the vesper light, we sing your praises, O God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.” The faithful prayers of God’s people teach us the orthodox faith and connect us with Christians throughout the ages. These prayers then allow us to pray extemporaneously within the realm of orthodoxy, which are added to the prayers ascending to the heavens. Engaging in prayer requires discipline therefore creating in the foundation for stability.

There are many forms of prayer that we are able to practice. We have prayers from the Old Testament found in the Psalms, to the Lord’s prayer, to contemplative prayer, discursive prayer, and lectio divina… to name a few. These forms of prayer ebb and flow from season to season depending on our wanderings, giving us always a connection to the divine Father in heaven. The beauty of praying is that you can do it anywhere and at anytime, and some might say, at all time and in all places thus guiding us through the wilderness of life by connecting us to the Light.

There is a story of a desert father who was visited by a pupil of his and said, “Father, according as I am able, I keep my little rule, and my little fast, my prayer, meditation and contemplative silence; and according as I am able I strive to cleanse my heart of thoughts; now what more should I do?” The monk rose from his seat and stretched out his hands to heaven, and his fingers became like ten lamps of fire. He said: “Why not be totally changed into fire?” (Desert Fathers: LXXII). Making a habit out of prayer should not produce a sour old human bur rather a joy filled individual full of life and love for others. We become like the light of the world that shines in the darkness that is our world in the work of prayer. So, why not be utterly be consumed by Christ and be stability for others in the wilderness?

I’ve been praying in gratitude for feeling content in my present stage of life. I’ve been content being single, something I didn’t think could happen. Things that I would have never imagine to come in life has come through this time of being content. I’ve met some cool people in the little city of Delafield, done a lot of reading/studying, and completed another triathlon. These things seem like minor events, but they’re what have been occupying my time and giving me a lot of joy. So making prayer my practice has allowed me to being content which in turn has allowed me to be fully present with the people around me in the midst of what I perceive to be a wilderness.

Until next time.

 

Here I am after my triathlon.

It took 2 hours and 48 minutes

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The Nomad: Part 1

I’ve often wanted to ask people how they view the world. It’s an odd question to ask. It’s an even odder question to answer. As I’ve thought about asking that question, I’ve started to think through how I would answer. My answer is multifaceted, one part of it, I think, ties into why I’ve named my blog “The Nomad.” I wanted to take some time to illustrate how it is that I see the world and how it ties into what I have been up to as of late.

I often close my eyes when I’m stressed, or have been really busy, and think about specific places I’ve been in my life. It’s like going through a personal photo album that’s infinitely more vivid having my memories tied to deep emotions and enriching sensations. Although I do retreat back into those memories for some sort of solace from stressors, it is not to escape but rather to find a sense of pleasure and a spirit of thankfulness in order to continue the work that has been placed upon me. These memories are often set in wild places like on the Ocoee river in the mountains of Tennessee, on Mount Currahee in North Georgia, or high in the Andes Mountains, southwest of Cusco. They can also often be in busy city streets like on the Via Delarosa in the Old City of Jerusalem, near the Rua Augusta Arch in Lisbon, Portugal, or on a bridge over a canal in Amsterdam. So with the spirit of a nomad, I’ve been blessed to be able to wander in some wild and civil places. Which in the end, describes how I see the world. We are all wanderers, whether in the wilderness or in the midst of the most civilized places of the world.

Recently, I’ve been thinking about one particular memory of a rafting trip down the Ocoee River on a summer day. The conditions were favorable for rafting that day; the sun was out with clear blue skies, which made the chilly water extremely refreshing when it splashed on us going down rapids. The trees were a deep green, a green that only the summer heat and rain can produce, and the rolling foothills of the Smokey Mountains populated the wild landscape. I had laughed a lot seeing my campers fall out of the raft, all the while feeling a sense of danger from the perilous rushing water that traps anyone against a rock or in a hole or rapid if given the chance. These feelings of glee and peril captured me at one moment and then fled immediately while going around a bend of the river. There was a giant face of a cliff baring itself to us as we turned a corner. I had a sense of awe at the sight of a cliff that stood high and wild with brush dangling precariously on ledges and moss covering certain sections of the face dripping with moisture from the earth behind it. The sun was not directly on it so it gave the face a mysterious, old, and ominous look to it as it looked down upon us, this single raft full of young human beings oblivious to all it has seen in its life time.

This memory has been with me recently mainly because I’m getting back into the routine of class and going to chapel and I would love the chance to unwind by going down a river. It doesn’t help that the weather here in Wisconsin is beautiful. Furthermore, I’ve thought about this memory because it makes me feel small, which is a freeing feeling. I think about that moment of seeing the cliff, hearing the rushing river, the warmth of the air, the smell of the water, and the sense of pleasure from trying to stay alive. These feelings remind me of how fleeting life is, that we’re to take pleasure in the twists and turns of life, and to give ourselves to our creator. In seeking to lose our life, we find it.

I realize I can make the best of every situation and acknowledge that some things aren’t able to be fought (much like the currents of a river). Going along with unpredictable currents sometimes brings you to unknown but breathtaking places. So whether we tend toward wild or civil places, we all end up in places we had never thought we would be.

I never thought I’d be getting a Masters of Divinity at a neat, semi-monastic community in Wisconsin. I never thought I’d be on track to become an Anglican priest. However, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’ve met so many cool people along my path and have learned some really interesting lessons. Most of all, I’ve learned more about the Creator of the Universe who watches over the wanders of this world. He knows and cares for all, and I want to be the same with all who I come across either in the wilderness or in the city.

Getting Started

Dear friends,

I am sure that if many of you would see me you would smile and ask me how I was doing. I, in my own way, would smile back and say, “great,” or “fine,” and ask you how you are doing. Such pleasant interactions are missed since this is a newsletter of sorts. I am in fact doing well. I am currently in Tallahassee, Fl working as an intern at a parish called St. Peter’s Anglican Church, where I am fulfilling internship requirements for my Masters of Divinity program at Nashotah House Theological School in Wisconsin. It is a blessing to be able to be doing and applying this specific kind of trade that I have been studying the last year. I am teaching an 8 week class on the book of Ecclesiastes, preaching, and helping with services.

Nashotah House is a unique place in that it forms future clergy for the work of the ministry by a very old way of practice. We all live on a semi-remote piece of land in between Milwaukee and Madison on Upper Nashotah Lake where we have a rhythm of life much like many monasteries throughout history. A large bell calls us to worship three times a day, every day of the week. The first bell rings at 8:00, the second at 12:30, and the third at 16:30. We have breakfast together after the morning service followed by class then lunch. Depending on what day it is, after lunch we either go to another class, our designated work crew, or to the library to study. Then our day (officially) ends at the last appointed time of prayer. After the evening prayers, I usually get some exercise, have dinner, and get back to work.

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This way of life has been really formative for me. I have learned is the importance of quietness and patience. Our lives are very busy and we are prone to different struggles, even in a monastic community. I found the value of being diligent in prayer regardless of the how ‘busy’ I felt I was. I learned that the times of prayer helped me to focus not on just what I was doing buy why I was doing it.

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I am studying to get a Masters of Divinity in order that I might continue on in my ordination process. I am in that process because I believe that I am on a path of becoming like Jesus Christ, as the scriptures say, and because I am part of the larger body of believers I have been gifted by the Holy Spirit with certain gifts that help build the body. Therefore I am humbly pursing the call to ministry so that I might be used as an instrument for the body of Christ.

Along with learning to be quiet, I have learned to be patient. We live in a culture that is to get things really quickly. So moving to a different state in order to study for three years to get a degree takes time and patience. Studying to learn the depths of scripture and 2,000 years of church history takes time and patience. Most of all, letting go of old relationships and forging new one takes time and patience. I have been learning, continue to learn, and will learn my entire life to be patient for good things to come.

Learning to be quiet and patient is what has been forming me to becoming a future priest. With those characteristics, I hope the Lord will use those things to help shape a generation of people who are waiting expectantly on the Lord to use them in this chaotic world as people of peace.

If you think this endeavor of bringing peace on earth is important, then we can partner together. I need help to get there. School is a full time endeavor that takes a lot of energy and is rather expensive. I have a small part time job at a local restaurant as a server on the weekends, however it does not completely satisfy the expenses I have. If you are interested in helping me, please keep me in your prayers and consider how you can help financially. This blog will keep you updated with prayer request and other happenings in my life.

You will find below ways to give money.

Sincerely,
Fabien Pering

  • Donate online by going to nashotah.edu, clicking on ‘give,’ then ‘support a seminarian,’ and find my name
  • Make a check out to Nashotah House Theological Seminary, writing my name on the memo line, and sending it to 2777 Mission Rd, Nashotah, WI 53058
  • Donate online by going to apostlescolumbia.org, click on ‘giving,’ ‘click here to donate online now,’ ‘continue to online giving,’ and write SEMINARIAN FUND in the memo text box
  • Make a check out to Church of the Apostles, making a special note to write SEMINARIAN FUND on the memo. Then send the check to 1520 BULL STREET, COLUMBIA, SC 29201