Getting ready to leave soon for a new assignment leaves me with many things to do (packing, researching the new parish, completing any unfinished business, etc.) and some decisions to be made (especially what to keep and what to throw away or give away).
I have a confession to make: I am a pack rat.
There, I said it.
If I didn’t get help this year I would probably wind up on Hoarders some day.
I had boxes of “stuff” in the attic, boxes in the basement, boxes in my room, boxes in my office at school—boxes inside of boxes!
This year I made a decision: have someone (other than me) go through it all. Decide what is worth keeping. Throw or give the rest away! Don’t tell me—just get rid of it!
I had tried many times to do this on my own. Most of the time I would initiate the ritual: get a box, pick up an item in the box, begin looking at the item, start reminiscing about that particular item, agonize whether to keep it or not—get nowhere.
Call it maturity, call it a moment of sanity, call it frustration, call it whatever you will but this year the pattern had to stop. I think spiritually it is called learning detachment.
I carefully read the instructions that Jesus gave to his disciples:
He instructed them to take nothing for the journey but a walking stick—no food, no sack, no money in their belts. They were, however, to wear sandals but not a second tunic. (Mk. 6: 8-9)
How were they expected to live without all of the “stuff” that we modern day disciples accumulate over the years?
I recalled my spiritual director at Mt. St. Mary’s Seminary who, after he died, was reported to have nothing but a few items of clothing left in the closet in his rectory.
Then there was my former pastor whom I lived with for over 10 years. He would give away gifts given to him faster than anyone I had ever seen. Usually by the next day it was gone!
Then there’s me. The collection of various t-shirts currently in my attic—many of which were given to me over the years and which I can no longer fit into because of excess baggage of another persuasion—would rival the shoe collection of Imelda Marcos.
In homilies I would often quote Fr. Benedict Groeschel, CFR when he cleverly cautioned us that “there are no U-Haul trucks in a funeral procession.” Honestly, I could not say that my actions reflected the words that I preached.
Much of the “stuff” is now sorted and a great deal gone for good. I still have a very long way to go to let go of everything. At least I have begun the process of detachment.
This lesson in detachment makes its point all too well when we have to say “goodbye,” move on and start again somewhere else.
We are really not meant to be here on this earth forever. And we take none of the material possessions of life with us.
It is a lesson of life we will all have to learn soon or later.
Some of us are slow learners.
Fr. Ed Namiotka
Imelda Marcos' Shoe Collection