Monday, November 7, 2011

Philip’s Questions and My Responses

Fr. Dale Matson

It is strange how sitting in front of the blank screen of a word processor ruins my thought train.
In addition, I have not had such an experience, so I can only guess how I think it might affect me.
YOUR VISION How has this changed?
Your view of yourself
Your thoughts about the Church; Church Hierarchy; Mass; Your Homilies; the congregation
Your memories of childhood; your parents
Your day-to-day lifestyle
Your thoughts on running
Your expectations of yourself as a first responder
Your energies as a priest
Your thoughts about death? Your own? Other peoples?
These change questions above imply some change. Like “do you still beat your wife?” If there have not been changes of the sort implied, why do you think so? (I ask these questions because surviving my accident has had a profound ‘ripple effect’ on my life and the way I look at it and others.)
Have you been able to share this experience? How has it been received? Can people relate to it? Do they think you’re nuts? On something?
How did you feel during the experience? Just before? Immediately after?
Was this an out of body déjà vu? Kinda?
Do you feel more important as a priest now? Less? Same?
Does this make you more a provider than a server? Or vice versa. Or neither.
How does this vision compare to a normal experience?
Have you been taken aback by this?
How does the feeling you have about it now compare to that of your first love, Finishing the Iron Man? The birth of your first child, Being a grandparent, Quitting Dixon and Ryan?
Will this change the way you think about death?
Does the vision have an effect on the way you tolerate others?

Phil, I continue to think about myself being on a journey. Most of what I have written about is from the perspective of a seeker. I often think to myself, “Who am I that I should call myself a priest?” It is really a better question to ask, “Could I be anything else than a priest?”  That is what I was called by God to be from the beginning. As I stand by the altar, there are two thoughts running through my head. “I am not worthy to be here and yet I belong here.” I am only a clay pot but I contain a treasure. (Second Cor. 4:7)
I love the Church in general and the Anglican Church in particular even more. Without the Church, there would be no restraint on evil.  I believe in apostolic succession and know the liturgy of the Word and Table is what our Lord intended. The truth of Christ’s Church is evident to me and the mystery beckons me forward. As a priest, I am called to be a steward of the mysteries of God.  My homilies are always an attempt to demonstrate the application of the Gospel message to shine God’s light on sinfulness on one hand and offer His forgiving grace in Jesus the Christ on the other. He is our only hope of salvation and wholeness. I love our congregation. They and the other churches of our diocese have been obedient to their bishop, said "no" to false teaching, suffered persecution and poured themselves out on behalf of their neighbors.
There is a general restructuring of my past. As I stitch together the historical thread, I am please with what God has done orchestrating a life that seemed so aimless, self destructive and unproductive at the time. The curing process was lengthy but, as they say, “No wine before it’s time.” I was intentional about not just forgiving my parents but loving them. I am not repressing or denying things, only the good memories remain.     
I think my day-to-day lifestyle is informed by my vocation but realize that there is still much of the old Adam in me. I worry about a “hot microphone” and when I am driving, I do not wear my collar. I am also very much aware of the authority God has given me and try and keep in mind that when I speak, I  speak for His Church. I regret some of the public statements I have made on the blogs.  
When I am exercising in general and running in particular, He is with me, teaching me, offering ideas, telling me not to be so defensive, not to take things so personally, and to be more trusting. As a first responder in search and rescue, I have an opportunity to serve others. It is a chance to find those who are lost in a different sense. It is also an opportunity to submit to the authority of those who are in command and have authority over me. Finally, it is an opportunity to be in God’s wilderness.
My energies as a priest are limited because of my age. I observe the younger priests including our new Bishop (Menees) and wonder where they get all of that energy. God bless them for it and their optimistic zeal. I believe I have a different quality that comes with age that others pick up on. They give me the benefit of a doubt. Sometimes I am just thinking about candy when it appears that I am deep in thought.
My visions have been an unmerited and unrequested blessing from God. I asked for the gift of tongues years ago and received this gift. I mention this simply to say that both the Charismatic gifts and visions have strengthened my faith and diminished my concerns about my own passing. I have been both edified and humbled by the visions that God has provided to me. It is my hope that everyone has an opportunity to hear the Gospel message and accept it before they die. They may have begun work late in the day but their wages are the same.
I have both wanted and needed to relate these visions. I believe the people who are aware of these things in their own lives understand and are encouraged. You are the only one who has gone into such detailed questions. Perhaps others worry about my emotional stability at best and my sanity at worst. I think the fact that my life is disciplined and teaching orthodox, testifies to my credibility as a witness. In the most recent vision, I was simply an observer captivated by what I saw. Before that I was simply “Doing the dishes” as we say. After that, I investigated visions as a psychological phenomenon. I believe there is a general acceptance by psychologists that there are both normal and pathological possibilities. Generally, if you are left feeling humbled and more connected to others, I believe it is of God. I think being a psychologist has helped me sort out the reality of the experiences and comforted me. There is no rational explanation for what occurred. I did not even know at the time of the vision that the Corporal symbolized Christ’s burial linen. This was not an out of body experience at all. I believe the vision did not authenticate my priesthood nor enhance it. It was something God could offer to any believer. As I think about this answer, because it occurred during the cleanup portion of the mass, God was also reinforcing the servant role of my priesthood.
I believe this vision was different in kind than a normal experience. There was no visual stimulus there for my eyes to see. It was not a hallucination or a distortion of reality. I believe it was a vision that was not bounded by time or space perceived by my spirit. It was what Jesus talked about, when He talked about those who have ears to hear and eyes to see. He did not mean bodily senses. I am not taken aback by this because these things have always been a part of my world since childhood. I saw evil spirits in my grandparents’ home when I would awaken during the night. My brother never saw them. I sensed them in your mother in laws home and told you about it the next morning.
How does this compare to the other big experiences. I do not believe it diminishes them. It puts them into a new context and provides a patina. I am theocentric. God is at the center of my worldview. I hope to come to the place St. Paul was at when he said that he longed to depart and be with Christ. The world is a beautiful place. It is hard to give it up.  I still have difficulty being a self-designated “cop of the world”. I am prideful and self-righteous. I pray that God would help me to see Christ in everyone I meet.
Phil, I love you my brother,

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