Thursday 24 July 2008

The Journey of a Quester! - An Essay / Spiritual Biography

The Journey of a Quester!

One always begins a journey with the first steps. It may often lead you some place you never expected. My journey is such a journey. I was born and raised in Kingston, Ontario. My father was Irish Catholic and my mother was not. How I ever came to become a Christian is a mystery to myself and to many others. Yet this paper will attempt to examine some of the contributing factors.My father was very active in the Catholic Church until I was in about grade six. He was a third order Knight, in the Knights of Columbus. I remember wanting to be a squire, a junior knight when I got to be old enough. But then my parents started fighting every week about why we went to church. Eventually we stopped going to church because of my parents fighting over it. It was only years later when I discovered my mother's leanings in this area that I understood why. I was an altar boy at this point. In fact I had become a senior altar boy, which meant I lead the other altar servers in helping to officiate at mass. Whenever I hit hard times in life I always return to the Catholic Church, for mass, to say the rosary; both of these always provide comfort and encouragement.
Coming from such a mixed home it is not surprising that I was always attracted to religions and religious experiences, and that I struggled to establish my own beliefs and practices. So in order to examine the quest I have been on so far, I will look at groupings that have had an influence upon the shaping of the man I am today. These groupings are:

1. Events that profoundly affected me.
2. Books or authors who have helped to mould me.
3. People who have poured into my life.
4. Organizations that have helped to shape me.

By examining a few examples from each of these four categories, I hope to understand how I have come to be the man that I am and why certain people, places, or events have had such profound effects upon my development to date.

First, I will do an examination of some events. The earliest, profound spiritual event I can recall is the first time that I was a senior altar server. The priest lifts the Eucharist for blessing, and then the chalice, and then he lifts both, and these three times are supposed to be special times for prayer. The first time that I was a senior altar server, during the lifting of these three, I remember praying, "God what do you want me to do with my life?". I had a vision and heard a voice say to me "Be my priest!", and even at that age I knew how sinful I was and I said, "Not me". Each time the communion elements were lifted, I asked the same thing and the third time, I saw mass being said, yet I was the one at the altar lifting the elements, presiding over mass, not kneeling there ringing the bells. This event has always remained with me. As an adult I now try to serve God and others. My grandmother always called me the spiritual one, and she always wanted me to be a priest. But I never shared this event with anyone until I was a student in campus ministries at Queen's many years later. This event always comes to mind when I must make hard decisions in life. It has helped me to try to steer a narrow path. I have left jobs rather than lie, or compromise my principles. This event comes back to mind, when I have major decisions to make, or paths to choose in this world.

The second event I want to examine is my confirmation. It was a strange time; I had started to doubt the Catholic Church and even the Christian tradition. I was studying martial arts and Shaolin Buddhism, I was in grade eight, and we were never told how, if you choose to not be confirmed now, you could go about it later. So I remember going through the classes and doubting it. Even on the day of the confirmation, I remember thinking, as the Bishop anointed me, "Why am I doing this?", yet going ahead and being confirmed. This event left me doubting for many years - doubting God, Christianity, and even myself. It was like a test and I felt I had failed, and had not had enough faith. My salvation and spiritual life were in doubt for many years after. During any major decision in life I think back upon this event, and try to recall the mistakes I made then by not asking questions and seeking options. Now I try to do both of those things - seek options and continually ask questions about the processes I am in, the paths that are open to me, or the decisions I must make. I ask these questions of myself, my close friends, those who are mentoring me or whom I consider spiritual parents or advisors, and of the Christian community that I am part of at the specific time. I try to use these different sources as a form of discernment in all major decisions - my wife, the men in my bible study, Peter Frick … all the others who pour into my life.

The next event is one of the strangest. Some would call it chance and some people would call it divine providence. I was in the checkout line at A&P in Kingston; I grabbed a Horoscope from the rack and threw it on the belt. The guy behind me, Jeff Forrest, asked, "You don't really believe that do you?" I said, "I don't know, but if nothing else, it is worth a laugh." Then he said, "I believe something and I know it is true - Jesus Christ." Well Jeff and I ended up meeting weekly for a few months, then I came to believe he was a bible-thumping freak. I stopped returning his calls and even changed my phone number so he could not keep calling me. Yet our meetings, and having looked at Matthew in the New Testament together, would have a lasting effect on me. A few years later while I myself was a student at Queens and was involved with Campus Crusade for Christ, I went to an Easter service with Eric Rose, my mentor at the time. There I ran into Jeff Forrest; he was amazed to see me at
church. He asked what I was doing there. I said I had become a Christian. He then took me around and introduced me to some of his friends and family, who had all been praying for me since we had first met and discussed the Bible. This event caused me to realize the importance of community; a small community that you care about and help and who care about and support you - prayer being the greatest support you can give to someone else.

The final event I would like to look at is a strange meeting at a party at Queen's. At that point I was not practicing any Christian religion; I was doing tarot readings in the pubs on campus to make some extra money. I went to a party and while there I met a 'witch' who claimed to have clairvoyance. She started a reading on me, and while looking 'into my soul', she freaked out, said that I wasn't suppose to be here yet, that I was born a generation early and because I was here now I had to choose; either I would be the black knight and serve the evil one, or I could be a white knight and serve light. This incident really scared me; I knew I was capable of very evil thoughts, and it was always harder to choose to do good over evil. Like Paul in the New
Testament, it was easier to do what I did not want to do and always harder to do what I wanted to do. From this meeting with 'Alexis' I knew I would have to be deliberate about my life and spiritual growth, (for it would be so easy to become what I would not like or enjoy) and that I must learn discipline in the mental and spiritual life. As I had previously disciplined my body in martial arts, I now would have to seek a holistic approach to life and my personal development; I would have to develop body, mind and spirit and try to seek balance between them.Each of these events was a challenge or a test, a time of trial and choice. Through each of them I was forced to grow and choose and learn how to be, and to learn how to be good at being. Each was a tool used in shaping me, as were a series of authors of specific books. We will now examine a few of those.

The first is a group of books - books that I have worked through many times. Some of these were Dr. Neil T. Anderson's books, especially The Bondage Breaker, Harvest House 1990, and Victory over the Darkness, Regal Books, 1990, as well as Mark I. Bubeck's The Adversary, Moody Press, 1975 and Overcoming the Adversary, Moody Press, 1984. These books were worked through again and again, alone, with friends, and with pastors or counsellors. They helped me to break from the past; they helped me to see the possibilities for the future. They helped me to establish my identity in Christ Jesus. They were tools in my healing of both spirit and mind, of emotions and soul.

Next I want to look at the works of John Eldredge, specifically Wild at Heart, and Waking the Dead, both have been extremely useful in helping me to connect to my heart, to learn to listen to it and to learn to live from it. They have been the most recent tools used in my development. I have read them myself, worked through them one-on-one with a friend and pastor, and I have lead a small group that has worked through them. The main thrust is that God has a plan for each person and that plan is revealed by one's desires, and to truly live at one's potential one needs to listen to one's heart and follow it.

Another author who echoes the same sentiment in his books is Paulo Coelho, especially in The Alchemist. It is the story of a boy who has a dream and who becomes persuaded to pursue it. In doing so he has many adventures, and does come to fulfil them. Many times in the book it states, "If you pursue your dream the universe will conspire with you to make it happen." I believe that the universe in this statement could be interpreted as The Holy Spirit. I do believe that if you try to live your dreams you will receive help to make them happen. From both Eldredge and Coelho I am trying to learn to listen to my heart, and to learn to live from it.

C.S. Lewis is also a mentor to me, through his writings of theology or fiction. Every time I read one of his works, or reread them, I am challenged to grow. What first really caught my attention was his statement in his space trilogy that humans were 'bent' . This concept of fallen humans having a bent nature resonated with me. It challenged me to learn how to live in a way that was not bent. His belief that this world is not all there is, that it is like 'looking through a glass darkly' echoes my own feelings of life and spirituality. Thus reading his works is a constant reminder of a spiritual truth I believe and a challenge to live in that belief.
From these authors we will now look at specific people who have poured into my life and their influences in helping me to develop and grow, as a person. First I would like to look at my first mentor, Eric Rose. Eric was on staff with Campus Crusade for Christ, and was a worker at Queens my first few years there. I really struggled those years, wanting to change and grow but not knowing how. Every time I cancelled bible study or personal time with Eric, he would stand outside my apartment and pray for me. Even though changes, lasting changes, did not take place in my life and actions for years, Eric was one of the first to really work at helping me become the type of person I want to be. He modelled it by his words, and his action.

Next I want to look at Rob Bartman(not his real name). Rob was a fellow student at Queens, and Ron and I did bible study together over many years. Rob and I both struggled with sexual addictions. Rob fell sexually and confessed it to his church. He was punished by the church and removed from leadership for a year. I stood by Rob through this, and later when I had some problems and struggles, Rob stood by me. He once stated, "What I admire most about you Steven is that you don't give up; you may stumble and fall but you always get up and press on." Rob was always in my corner because I was there for him. Having that support and encouragement even in tough times, helped me to make the changes I really wanted to make in my life. I
t also taught me to be there for other people, to stand by them through thick and thin, to stick to them, sometimes even when they try to push me away.

Peter Frick is the next man we will discuss who has helped in my spiritual journey. Peter is currently one of my mentors. He receives his spiritual direction from the Jesuits in Guelph at Loyola house, and in turn he provides spiritual direction to me. He is like a sounding board for my emotions, spiritual struggles, intellectual endeavours and my relationships. Peter plays the role of teacher, counsellor, guide and friend. We have met regularly for three years now, sometimes weekly, sometimes every few months as needed. When I call, he always makes time to be there and listen and encourage.

The final person I will discuss is Pastor Bob Bauman. Bob and I met when I was a manager at Starbuck's; Bob was a regular customer. I suggested that we work through John Eldredge's, Wild at Heart together. We did so and are now working on a second book together. Bob is like a brother; he is there for me, but because we travel in different circles, we can share stuff with each other that would be hard to share with those that we know in a different way. Bob and I each play the role of guide and confidant to each other. We both truly seek the best for the other. We are there for when one stumbles or struggles, to encourage, challenge and lend a hand up. Currently, next to my wife, Bob and Peter are the two most important people in my life. I know I could call them at any hour of the day and I believe they know the same about me.

Finally let me move from individuals to organizations. There are a number of organizations that have contributed to my spiritual development. They have each played crucial roles at different periods of my life. Each of these four is a Christian Para-church organization. They are Campus Crusade for Christ (CCC), Promise Keepers (PK), Cursillo and The Navigators Campus Ministry (Navs).

CCC, was instrumental in my becoming serious about being a Christian, about being a man, and a man of faith. It was through Eric and many others that I saw, for the first time outside of the Catholic Church, true examples of what it means to be a man of faith, to try to live that faith daily, to let faith permeate every aspect of your life. There were many examples, from Eric, to different speakers at conferences, fellow students and student leaders at Queens and other schools with whom we interacted.

After many struggles with who I was versus who I wanted to be, I went to a Promise Keepers conference in Detroit Michigan, at the Silver Dome. It was amazing to see 75,000 men in one place, wanting to be men after God's own hearts. At my first conference, after lunch, one of the Musicians started, impromptu, the 'Our Father'. To hear the deep rumbling of so many men praying that prayer as a song together, was life-changing. I went on to be in men's bible studies for the next three years working through different books and studies put out by this organization. That was when real growth and change started to happen in my own life - growth that was visible to those around me with changes in habits and behaviours. Finally my actions started living up to my theology. Choosing to seek out this group and to stay committed to it, was a pivotal point in my development.

The next organization I would like to look at is the Navigators. When I was a student at Queen's I lived in the Navs' house on campus with six other Christian men. Later, as a part-time mature student at the University of Waterloo, I worked for The Navigators Campus Ministry for three years. I was responsible for student and staff development across the country. This included running retreats, conferences, short term and long term missions' projects, and overseeing the day-to-day support of the Campus staff across the country. This was my first major ministry job. I was now doing what my heart desired, working to serve others and pour into them as I had been poured into by so many others. It was a challenge, in that working in ministry, your life comes under a microscope. You must live above reproach. So many people have fallen while in ministry or leadership positions, and hurt the Church's name or Christ's name. I did not want to be one of them. So I needed to apply what was learned through individuals and groups discussed earlier, on an even more vigilant level. This has continued to help me to realize that every aspect of my life must fall in line with the word of God, and must be for the good of God, others and myself if it is to be fruitful and worth the effort.

The final organization I would like to look at is Cursillo. Cursillo is a renewal movement that started in Spain, in the Catholic Church. It came to North America, via some pilots that were training with the U.S. military. Since coming to North America it has spread, and there are now Anglican, Presbyterian, Lutheran, and other chapters. Cursillo is a four-day retreat weekend, with guided talks and discussion. Its focus is on the fact that as Christians, we are all called to live a spiritual life and to be involved in practicing the spiritual disciplines, that we need to meet with small groups for accountability and large groups for fellowship. It also has a strong focus on the fact that we are to serve - serve God, our Christian community and the world. Throughout my Cursillo retreat weekend in 1997, I filled a whole two-hundred-page journal. I came to see my life as a whole and not compartments - the work Steven, the church Steven, the jock Steven - but just Steven a Christian, called to live and love, to laugh and cry, to serve and allow myself to be served. If I had chosen not to go on this retreat I could not be here in school now studying for the ministry. I would probably be dead in a gutter somewhere. Cursillo was also pivotal point in my seeking wholeness in my life, instead of living different fractured and contradictory lives in different circles.

It is difficult looking back at where I have come from; there is a lot of pain and hurt there. Yet I have always been surrounded by good people, caring Christians who have supported me, challenged me and called me to be more than I believe I could be alone. God deserves the credit for that, and the people who were open to being used by Him.

Appendix #1
TimeLine of Steven R. McEvoy

  • 1970-Present Member Roman Catholic Church
  • 1970 February Baptised in the Roman Catholic Church
  • ? Learned to do Tarot Readings by grandmother
  • 1980 1st time as Sr. Altar Server
  • 1985 Made Senior Rugby team in Grade 9
  • 1984 June Confirmed in the Roman Catholic Church
  • 1986 February Rugby Tour of UK
  • 1987 Jeff Forrest
  • 1989 Spiritual Gifts Course in Catholic Church
  • 1989 Met Alexis - Witch @ Queens Party Tarot Cards
  • 1989-1993 Student @ Queens University Waterloo
  • 1989-1998 Involved with Campus Crusade for Christ @ Queens University, Carleton University, University of Guelph
  • 1990-1993 Attended Pentecostal Assembly's of Canada Church Kingston
  • 1990-1993 Involved with Navigators Campus Ministry @ Queens University
  • 1990-1993 Involved with St. Mary's Catholic Youth Group
  • 1990-1995 Counselling for abuse, Kingston, Cambridge, Ottawa, Guelph
  • 1991 Steubenville Franciscan University Charismatic Catholic Conference
  • 1993 Member Baptist Convention of Ontario and Quebec in Ottawa
  • 1993 Promise Keepers in Detroit MI
  • 1994 Member Fellowship Baptist Church in Kingston
  • 1994-1998 Member Presbyterian Church of Canada, Guelph, On
  • 1994 Promise Keepers in Detroit MI
  • 1996 Cursillo, Toronto Presbyterian
  • 1998 Week of Divine Healing, Youth with a Mission Course at Jacobs Well Ministries St. Petersburg, ON
  • 1998-Present Student @ University of Waterloo
  • 1998-2000 Member Congregation at Renison College University of Waterloo
  • 1999 Staff at Waterloo MB Church
  • 2000-2003 Work for Navigators
  • 2000-2002 Member St. Michael's Catholic Parish Waterloo
  • 2003 Member Lincoln Avenue Church Waterloo,
  • 2003 Return to Catholic Church
  • 2005 Started attending meditations from Opus Dei
(First written for RS 270 The Psychology of Religion Fall 2004. - Sections of this essay were removed for personal reasons and some names and places were changed.)

Other Articles Examining Who I Am:
Mad Celtic Warrior, Poet and Priest! - An Essay - 2003
The Journey of a Quester! - An Essay / Spiritual Biography 2004
New Year's 2006
Who Am I? Who Am I? -2008
Confessions of a Bibliophile #5 - How I Became a Bibliophile, From Dyslexic to Addict - 2009
New Year's Goals 2010
Steven R. McEvoy Interview - 2012
2014 My Goals

Who I Am - 2014

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