“The Many Faces of Life”
By: Vincent DiPasquale
When October rolls around we think of how the trees start to show their other faces. Mother Nature once again reminds us that on life’s journey we will experience many different face-changes. Each one will bring us to a place of struggle and growth. During this month we also experience Halloween. Originally, Halloween was a time of sacredness, dressing up as the patron saint which we were named after. This would encourage us to look up to that saint for examples. Today we see many costumes and different faces which also remind us of life. Let’s look at some of the faces which have touched our lives. I will try to recall these different faces of my life’s experiences.
The child. As a little boy raised in the forties, my vision and face were different. I came into the world during World War II, into a world of uncertainly and fear, living in the city of Camden. The face of Camden was different then. The streets were safe and neighborhoods were divided. There was no air-conditioning or television. All ears were glued to the radio. Even baseball was always played in the daytime and some games were called because of darkness. The face of religion was based on fear and guilt. Yet there was a sense of community and caring.
The teenager. The face of my teen years was a journey that took me away to a new community; the seminary. There was fear and confusion and time to adjust to a new face of life for three years. Change came again when the next three years were spent in Blackwood at the seminary (which is now Camden County College.) Life was always adjusting to new people and new experiences. I experienced the world of stage and drama, a time to grow up in a controlled world.
The 20’s. As I entered into my 20’s the journey took me to a new school, Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Maryland. This was a chance to finish college and receive my graduate seminary training which led to my Ordination in 1966. Once again years of change, confusion, adjustment and growth ensued. It was a time when I thought I had it all together. My years of journey into the ego was a time when I thought it was my job to save the world. My final years of my 20’s were spent in much fear, guilt and craziness. My journey into my codependency and the world of addiction began. It was a time when I was introduced to the 12 Steps and the world of AL-ANON. I still didn’t understand why they kept telling me to work on myself when my ego told me I didn’t need to work on me.
The 30’s. Then came the 30’s, years of much confusion and craziness. I truly understand today that these years were the dark night of my journey. My life was out of control. I was running from life playing the savior and martyr on a journey into a deep hole of emptiness. During the seven years, 1969 to 1976, I was a runaway train. My workaholic instincts and addictions were fully alive. During these years I taught high school, ran a parish, was involved in the Civil Rights movement, prison chaplain and ran a halfway house drug program. I never took time to vacation, was too busy to go to the beach or boardwalk. I founded The Starting Point in Philadelphia in 1977. I was just running away from facing life and decisions. I played the game of avoidance and isolation. I was truly a rebel – against everything. Talk about codependency and control issues! Inside I was empty, lonely and scared.
The 40’s. The 40’s were a time of awakenings; time to face many decisions, fears; a time to awaken and move to a new era of life. My God was very patient with me and sent some very special people into my life to help lead me slowly out of the empty hole and into the light. God sent a new family which forced me to look at another new face, a wife and three beautiful step-daughters who at once helped me look to a new direction. I finally had to begin the journey of growing up. I was led by so many spiritual teachers who taught me to finally do my own work and journey one day at a time while discovering who I was. This journey continues to this day. God has blessed me in so many ways and has sent many people to touch me along the way. He has given me an opportunity to be a member of many communities with many different faces – who have all helped me on my spiritual journey.
Today. I have seven beautiful faces, my grandchildren, who have helped me to meet my child within in a special way. God has blessed me with so many gifts and given me the opportunity to share them.
As we look at the changing faces of the fall season, let’s be grateful for all we have been given. Remember an old and beautiful slogan, “Be grateful for what was, be open to what is and be grateful for whatever will be.” Look around at all the wonderful faces of all of God’s children. We are all connected in the circle of life. May we all be blessed on our life’s journey.
A Prayer for Self-Respect
“Oh God, teach me that self-respect cannot be hunted, it cannot be purchased ~ it is never for sale. Teach me that self-respect comes when I am alone, in quiet moments, in quiet places, when suddenly I realize that knowing the good, I have done it; knowing the beautiful, I have served it; and knowing the truth, I have spoken it.”