Chaplain’s Conference: On Detachment, Integrity, and Identity

Chaplain’s Conference
Sacred Heart Catholic High School
October 3, 2018


integrity

Let us pray.

Clothe us, Lord God,
w
ith the virtues of the Heart of your Son
and set us aflame with his love,
t
hat, conformed to his image,
w
e may merit a share in eternal redemption.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.

Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us.
St. Benedict, pray for us.

I would like to reflect this morning on a few key principles in the spiritual life: detachment, integrity, and identity.

First, some definitions.

Detachment: to let go, to not be attached to something.

In order to follow Jesus, to live as he calls us to live, to become the men and women he calls us to be, we must become detached from those things that keep us from following him and from becoming who he calls us to be.

When I was in junior high, I hated going to the sacrament of Reconciliation. My priest at the time was Fr. Joe Richards. He was, and still is, a holy man…a good priest…someone I look up to. As we grow and mature, we start to have a greater awareness of sin than we had as younger kids. When we were younger, we confessed disobeying our parents and fighting with our brothers and sisters. As we get older, we become aware of bigger things – things that we’re too ashamed or too afraid to admit to ourselves or to say to a priest: anger, gluttony (overindulgence), lust, gossip, envy & jealousy, cheating, stealing, greed, laziness, cowardice, pride.

I had my own struggles with these things. And I was too ashamed to admit them. So, I avoided the sacrament. My parents would bring me to the Sacrament of Reconciliation periodically. I couldn’t bring myself to say them in the confessional, especially to a priest who knew me. So, I confessed the same things that I confessed as a younger child, and I purposefully left out the very thing that I knew I needed to confess.

I was too attached to my need to look like a good kid.
I was too attached to my fear of being judged or of disappointing someone.

And, in clinging to my sin instead of clinging to God’s mercy, I started to lose my integrity.

Integrity is one of the Benedictine values we’ve been highlighting this year. Integrity and integration come from the same word. Those who are new to the Sacred Heart community this year are hopefully, by now, integrating into the community. Soon, if not already, it will seem as if you’ve always been here.

The opposite of integration is disintegration: dissolving, falling apart. Integration is wholeness.

A person of integrity is a person who is integrated. They don’t act one way with one group and another way with another group. They are who they are. What you see is what you get.

Becoming a man or woman of integrity, of integration, takes a lot of work. And part of that work is to detach ourselves from whatever it is that has us acting one way in some situations and another way in other situations.

For me, I acted one way in the world, and then lied to the priest in the confessional. I was two-faced. I was not acting with integrity. Or, I would act one way in the world, and then avoid the priest in the confessional. I would show myself as a “good boy” – a boy of integrity, but I would not act that way around others.

This lack of integrity, this disintegration, finally got to me one year at a high school youth rally. There were 10 priests hearing confessions. Trembling with fear, I went to a priest that I didn’t know and finally confessed everything, and I also confessed that I had purposefully hidden things from my parish priest in previous confessions. It was a huge step forward in my spiritual life – a huge moment of growth. The priest was merciful – he made God’s mercy present to me. And I walked out truly knowing God’s love and forgiveness of me.

The Lord accepted me for who I was and not for what I had done.
I finally knew his love when I was able to detach myself from my fears and from my sin.

Grace abounded.

Brothers and sisters, we don’t practice detachment just for the sake of detachment. We don’t give up things that are sinful in order to be in pain and misery. No, we detach ourselves from things in order to attach ourselves to God and to find our true identity.

You are sons and daughters of the Heavenly Father.
You are made to be saints.
That is your identity.

Yet, how often do we attach ourselves to other things that don’t jive with this identity?

What are you attached to?

Are you attached to popularity or a need to be liked?

Are you attached to the need to have a boyfriend or girlfriend?

Are you attached to being funny, to being accepted by older students, to being smart and having perfect grades?

Are you attached to being a star on the court or on the field?

Those can be good things in themselves, but…
if you find yourself getting your self-worth from any of those things…
if you find yourself changing who you are depending on who you are with…
if you find yourself willing to compromise your true identity as a son or daughter of God in order to get those things…

then you have an unhealthy attachment, and if you cling to that unhealthy attachment, you will not be able to become the man or woman of integrity…of integration…of wholeness…that God calls you to be.

Unhealthy attachments lead to anxiety, fear, and misery. Ultimately, they make one two-faced.

Detachment leads to peace of soul, courage, and happiness. Ultimately, it makes one a person of integrity.

How do you find the strength to detach from things that keep you from your true identity?

Prayer. The primacy of prayer. Make time for silence in your day – every day. Doesn’t have to be a lot. Start with 10-15 minutes. Same time every day. Speak to God for a bit, then listen. Spend more time listening than speaking. Prayer is what God uses to help us become integrated.

Regular Confession. Don’t make my mistake. If you find yourself avoiding the Sacrament of Reconciliation because of fear or shame, I want to tell you again that you cannot say anything in the confessional that will shock me or any other priest that hears confessions here. I have heard it all. I can honestly say that I have never found myself disappointed in a person for what they have said in the confessional. Quite the opposite – I greatly admire the courage that it took for them to admit that and I feel the joy of the Lord who has seen a son or daughter return. (And, to be honest, I don’t remember what was said…)

Last month, I challenged you to consider who you want to be when you leave Sacred Heart.

Do you want to be a man or woman who failed to make use of the means present to them here to become the saint that God calls them to be?

Or do you want to become a man or woman of integrity, who had the courage to face your struggles and to overcome them, with the Lord’s help.

The choice is yours, and you make it by your willingness or unwillingness to take action in your time here.

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