The Last Post

In the last few months, my spiritual and religious journey has widened significantly and is taking me in many new directions, many of which no longer fit the intended purpose and mission of this blog. Therefore, this will be the last blog post I will be writing here. If you are interested in my ongoing spiritual and religious journey, please check out my new blog, The Inquirer’s Path.

Thanks to everyone who have followed this blog and supported me in my journey! I will leave this blog open for reference purposes, but will no longer be updating it.

Thanks again!

Matt Ciszek

Advocacy, Ministry, and Discernment

A little over a year ago, I embarked on the journey to becoming a priest in the Episcopal Church. I started working with a spiritual director, wrote a spiritual autobiography, met with the parish and diocesan leaders, and started meeting with a discernment committee to explore my spirituality, my faith, the shape of my ministry, and my suitability as a future priest in the Church. The “process” had its high points, and its low points, and I have tried to chronicle this here on my blog. Since I had not posted anything in more than two months, and friends on social media and elsewhere were asking how the “process” was going, I thought it was time to write this post.

After much prayerful consideration, deep conversation, reflection and introspection, I have decided to drop out of “the process” and discontinue my application for the ordained priesthood in the Episcopal Church. I did not come to this decision lightly, but it had become clear in working with both my spiritual director and the discernment committee that I am called to something other than the ordained ministry. As an ordained minister, I would need to be a spiritual leader and a representative of the Church. Priests are called not to be advocates, but to be ministers, serving the entirety of the Church. The more I worked through discernment, however, the more I felt called to a strong sense of advocacy, especially for marginalized communities both in society and in the Church.

As I was driving to work earlier this summer, I had an epiphany. It seemed so simple and right in front of me, but so elusive at the same time. I finally came to the realization that my true calling is to be an advocate and activist for marginalized communities, including the newly immigrated, those in minority racial and ethnic communities, and the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender communities. The shape of this advocacy was not as a priest, but as a lay person and as a librarian. I know that it may sound strange to many of my “non library” friends to think of librarians as advocates, but librarians and libraries have always had a strong sense of advocacy for the communities that they serve and the “common good” of society.

Being a librarian offers me the support, both financial and professionally, to work for change in society for marginalized communities. As a layperson, I can advocate for greater inclusion in the Church for the LGBT community, or persons or color, or Spanish-speaking populations much more effectively than if I were an ordained priest. A priest’s obligation is to the Church, after his or her obligation to God, but a lay person has no such obligation to the Church. It’s easier to be an agent for change and an advocate for the marginalized, often pushing the Church into areas of discomfort and change, when you are not an employee of the Church with obligations to the Church.

The silver lining behind the discernment process and the events of the last year is this: I truly have clarity and a sense of purpose moving forward in both my professional and personal life, for the first time in many years. Interest in my vocation as a librarian has been renewed and re-energized and I look forward to taking on new roles as a layperson in the Church. I needed to explore my call to the priesthood and am glad that I did so because it led me back to my true vocation: as an activist librarian working in the world for social change and the common good.

I’d welcome everyone to check out my library, information science, and technology blog, A Blog on LIST, for updates and information on my journey moving forward. The posts on this blog are likely to become more sporadic, but I do plan on keeping it up and available, if only for my reflection and retrospection of my journey the last 18 months.

Being a Generalist

Source: justinplambert on Flickr

Throughout discernment, I am finding many similarities between my current career as a librarian and my call to a vocation as a priest. These similarities have led me to “test” my call to the priesthood, both individually through introspection and prayer, and communally through conversation and direction in order to discern where God is leading me moving forward. As I read and work with my discernment committee and spiritual director, these similarities have begun to appear, often with interesting insights.

One area in which librarianship and the priesthood intersect is in the generalist nature of both. Librarians are the quintessential “professional generalists”. Our training and the nature of our careers require us to have a general understanding of information and knowledge, but no expertise in any one concentrated area (with few exceptions). The day-to-day work of librarians is extremely varied and this is what drew me to the profession. As someone who has the propensity to bore easily, librarianship has allowed me to guard against this quite nicely. I enjoy my work as a librarian and enjoy the varied number of venues and subjects in which I have labored. We may not know as much sociology as a sociologist, biology as a biologist, law as a lawyer, or music as a concert pianist, but we have a “wide angle” view of all fields (and most everything else), and make good use of this generalist approach to our career and vocation.

Priests, pastors, and ministers also share this generalist approach. As Martin Copenhaver writes in This Odd and Wondrous Calling: The Public and Private Lives of Two Ministers,

“Pastors don’t have an area of expertise…Pastors are generalists. In fact, we are among the last generalists in a culture that draws people into ever-narrower areas of specialization. And there is something wonderful about being a generalist.”

Priests are called to interact with the whole of God’s people, in good times and bad, in very intimate, but very generalist ways. Ordained ministers are not called to be experts in pastoral care, or biblical study, or liturgy, or church music, but to use all these skills and more to minister to others and share the Gospel message. This “something wonderful” of being a generalist is what I enjoy the most about being a librarian, and a large part of the calling that I have to the priesthood. Perhaps the training, experience, and wisdom gathered as a generalist librarian has been instrumental in my foundational formation as a generalist priest.

We Remember

Source: fkehren on Flickr

Almighty God, we commend to your gracious care and keeping all the men and women of our armed forces at home and abroad. Defend them day by day with your heavenly grace; strengthen them in their trials and temptations; give them courage to face the perils which beset them; and grant them a sense of your abiding presence wherever they may be; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Father of all, we pray to you for those we love, but see no longer: Grant them your peace; let light perpetual shine upon them; and, in your loving wisdom and almighty power, work
in them the good purpose of your perfect will; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

No Exceptions

Grace Episcopal Church in Randolph, NY posted this picture today on their Facebook page, and it is receiving a lot of attention. When I am asked why I am a religious person and why I attend church, I will think on this image. Grace Episcopal Church turned a desperate act of vandalism into a message of love and pastoral care. And that’s what church is all about.