All my life I have wanted to belong. To whom do I belong? It was a seeking, a wanting, of which I was not aware. When I was growing up in the Bronx, for the first 12 years of my life, I bounced from one group of friends to another, always trying to sense a belonging though I did not know "belonging" was the issue at the time. When I moved to the suburbs before the 7th grade, I was lost. Other people had their place in relationships, and I did not, nor did I know how to fit in. High school and college were good times when I felt I belonged. After college, this quest for belonging came up again and has not left me since.
I did not belong in corporate America, so I left it to join the Paulist Fathers and become a priest. But I always felt like an outsider in my own religious order. It was not the fault of the Paulists. I simply had not found to whom I belong. I would belong in a parish community to some extent, but every Sunday after everyone went home to family, I was left with me. Sunday afternoons were lonely times. Every few years I would transfer to another parish, another city.
For years I felt that I belonged especially to my parents. I would visit them often. They were my friends as well as parents. I was so very happy when I visited with them. I have come to realize it was about belonging. When they died and I became an orphan, I felt again that empty space of not belonging. I have tried lately to make a community of people my place of belonging in a particular town where I work.
This all came to a head one day at a community luncheon. Everyone was talking to someone, except no one was talking to me. I sat there and said to myself, "I don't belong here." Whether I do or don't, it brought the whole belonging issue into the forefront. I sat there and recalled being at some big meetings of the Paulist Fathers about 6 years ago. One day, I was the first one into the large ballroom filled with tables where we were to have our next session. I sat down at my table and watched as every Paulist came in and no one said anything to me. That was the last time I ever went to a large gathering of our community. It is not some one's fault. I have this belonging issue. When I feel ignored, that empty space pops up.
So back to the recent luncheon in which no one was talking to me. I went to my room and suddenly realized that I had been trying to get people to take the place of God. I belong to God. God is "My Belonging." It is my name for God now. From when I was a little boy, I have always felt this God attraction. It is what has attracted me to Church, prayer, priesthood, silence and solitude. I run from the Belonging as much as I seek it. That is the sin in my life. Sin for me is all the substitutes I have for "My Belonging."
Now I am home with God. God does not go away and even puts up with my ignoring of God. I worry less about my work or its success. God will give me what I need in this area. It seems that my priorities have shifted some. God is less of a project to whom I devote segments of the week, and more of an ongoing part of me. We are One.