Finding Your Purpose

Nov. 17-30, 2005
Finding Your Purpose
Father Joseph Champlin delivers a concluding presentation at the workshop of a six week series at Stella Maris Retreat and Renewal Center
By Connie Cissell/ SUN editor
SUN photo(s) Paul Finch
Father Champlin’s Series Looks at Relieving Stress and Finding Focus SKANEATELES — Father Joseph Champlin recently used both his book, Slow Down: Five Minute Meditations to De-stress Your Days, and the Rick Warren bestseller, The Purpose Driven Life: What on Earth Am I Here For? to lead participants through a helpful program that left them feeling better than when they walked into Stella Maris Retreat Center six weeks before. His typical workshop/conference presentations are not especially designed to walk people through ways to better their understanding of why they are here on earth and to find time, even if it is only five minutes a day, for quiet time with God. Now that the six-part series is over, he’s decided to do it again in the spring at Christ the King Retreat and Conference Center.

The last evening in the series was spent discussing how one makes the decision to make the Lord a priority and how to give back to Him. And, he said, when one gives back to the Lord it should be a sacrifice of some kind, “something with a bite to it.” “Our culture is consumer-oriented,” Father Champlin explained. “It is very easy to transfer wants into needs.” Father Champlin also suggested that the giving should be connected with worship. He cited those parishes that bring gifts to the altar connecting giving to the Mass itself. And, he noted, when one is giving, giving a significant amount feels more like giving a gift. Tithing — five percent to the parish and five percent to the poor — is a good measure to begin with.

“John Paul II said that we in developed countries should share not only our surplus but also our sustenance,” Father Champlin reminded the group. He talked about slowing down and taking time to “smell the roses.” “Naturally speaking, if you take a few minutes every day for quiet prayer, it will reduce stress,” Father Champlin said. He spoke of Henri Nouwen and how he was puzzled by Paul’s writing in the Gospel, “Pray without ceasing.” Nouwen said that unless a person has quiet time to spend with the Lord, that person will not be able to transform a busy life into a peaceful life.

Father Champlin’s suggestions for quiet time include setting aside five quiet minutes each day for reflective prayer. He recommends in his book: Find a quiet space where one is not likely to be disturbed. Get comfortable but sit erect. Take two deep breaths and exhale. Repeat. Inhale a third time and sense that you are inhaling God’s goodness and light. Exhale evil and darkness. Those are steps to prepare one for a brief spiritual suggestion and a reflection on a psalm or a short passage of the Scripture. Then, he suggests, that during the course of the day, one recalls a word or phrase from the quote to bring back that sense of quiet time, even if only fleeting. In order to keep God as part of the day, it is wise to find His presence in the day, Father Champlin said. “When you see a blessing, thank the Lord. And, if you see sin, think of that too,” he said. For those who are running busy households, Father Champlin suggested telling children, “This is Mom’s God-time, or this is Dad’s God-time” so that they realize it is an important part of that parent’s day. And, he said, it will reinforce God in the children’s lives as well.

Father Champlin also spoke about living in the present moment. “Our lives are limited, unpredictable and fleeting. We need to live in the gift of the present moment; we can’t live too much in the past,” he said. He told a story from the movie Chocolat where an older gentleman wanted to ask a woman out for a date but he said he couldn’t because the woman was still grieving for her dead husband. Another character in the movie asked how long it had been since the man died and the gentleman answered that he had died in the war. Thinking he meant World War II, the other character said, “Well, that was 20 years ago.” “No,” the gentleman replied, “It was World War I.” The mixture of storytelling with practical, helpful information was a format that appealed to those who attended the program. Sharon Catalino from Holy Family Parish in Fairmount said the program was “awesome” and worth attending again. She brought the books home and her husband struck up an interest in reading them as well. Catalino gift wrapped a copy for him because he complained that she had “marked up” her copy and it was hard for him to read.

Elaine Mack, also from Holy Family, said that the presentations helped pull her back to what is important. “Today we have cell phones, beepers and things that keep sucking us away. This pulls you back into focus on the important things,” Mack said. “We listened to others bring in their interpretation and we had good interaction. We got to see how this affected everyone and we learned how your life can affect the person next to you.”

The concept of using the books in tandem was just an idea Father Champlin had, and he went into his newest venture with no idea how it might end. Each session was very well attended which reinforced the notion that people are willing to commit a significant amount of time to learn about ways to grow closer to God and to find ways to allow Him to be a participant in their lives.

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