Posted October 7, 2015
Sitting Still: When Doing Nothing is Actually Something
Keith Maczkiewicz, SJ goes back to school and discovers that sitting still can be surprisingly active
My sedentary life.
Back to school? All signs point to yes. On my
desk you'll find fresh highlighters, sharpened pencils, used textbooks, and a
semi-charged iPad. After two years of full-time campus ministry I'm back in
class, this time for full-time graduate theology study. I'm looking forward to
these next few years, not just because I'm in beautiful California, but because
I hope that these courses will touch upon the real questions I hold about God
and Church and prepare me for future ministry.
My life is good, full of hope,
but it's sedentary. I'm sitting on my ass. A lot.
As I sink into my Lazyboy
to pore through pages and pages of reading -- how do they expect me to do all
this?! -- I wonder how I will maintain my sanity for the next three years, or
more. I'm taking note of paper deadlines and -- worse yet -- group presentations,
all the while quietly longing to be somewhere else, doing something else.
really enjoyed my last two years working at the College of the Holy Cross; the
days were long, sure, but they were really full of life, of deep relationships
with students, faculty and staff members. The last two years were why I joined
the Jesuits in the first place: to be an apostle. And I was an apostolic
workhorse there: need someone to pray at a dinner? I'm on it! Could use an extra
set of hands for a weekend retreat? I'm there! Last minute chaperone to a
developing country? Put me on your list! Give a talk outside in the freezing
cold? Sign me up!
The last two years were a real gift to me because they were
an opportunity to say 'yes,' often. But now that I'm back in school, my primary
work is to study and I feel less inclined to say yes to my professors than I was
to my students. I'd rather be out there working, not in here sitting! Sitting
isn't the work of an apostle!
Or is it? For the last few years I sat on my
ass at Holy Cross every week and, come to think of it, it was the most
apostle-like thing I did.
Almost from the moment I arrived on campus, I knew
I wanted to practice some sort of "intentional loitering," to be in the space
where students are. So every Thursday I dressed in clerical shirt and hunkered
down in the campus coffee shop for several hours with a sign that read
"Holla@theCollar." (It's amazing what a little rhyming dictionary can do.) And
I waited to see what would happen.
Holla! Not much did and, yet,
everything did. There were many introductions and even more small talk. On your
way to class? Which one? What's your acapella group working on these days? How's
the food in the dining hall? Being visible and approachable led to interactions
of more depth later. Small talk invariably led to big ideas about vocation and
desire and introductions were soon replaced with pastoral counseling and
All because I just sat there, asking, listening and
reading what was on the hearts and minds of those students and staff members. I
miss Holy Cross and the people there -- some timid and shy, others gregarious,
loud and opinionated.
My Thursdays are a lot different now. No clerical
shirt, no sign, no introductions or small talk. But, like Holla@theCollar, I
still sit for hours. And the memory of that weekly experience reminds me that
sedentary doesn't necessarily equal bad. Although the setting and audience has
changed, I'm still asking, listening and reading hearts and minds, those of
theologians and historians, of course, but also those of my classmates and
community members, all fellow future ministers.
I'm sitting on my ass, yes,
but I'm also participating in conversations about a dynamic Church and listening
intently to the wide variety of perspectives. This 'nothing' is surely preparing
me for something: a future ministry where I meet people where they are, in
churches, coffee shops and every place where my nothing makes space for their