During two summers in college, I was on a Totus Tuus team that traveled around my home diocese and ran catechesis for elementary through high school students. When I started, I knew I wanted to share the message of Jesus Christ with the youth of the diocese and I had encountered a zeal in teams from previous years that I desired for myself. By the end of the summer, I knew I had been thoroughly tricked. I wanted to share the Gospel and yet I found a deeper need within myself to encounter the Gospel personally. Returning to college, I told people that Totus Tuus is really about my own personal formation, not primarily about the youth I interacted with at the different parishes. It was a surprise, but it wouldn’t be the first time the Lord would change me despite my desire to be the one provoking change. Continue reading “When the Gift is More for Me Than Others”
A phrase I have found myself repeating over the last few months is, “A lot can happen in a year.” It has come up when reflecting on different friends and how their lives have changed. Sometimes it relates to jobs or relationships or babies. And, sometimes, when I’m being a bit more pessimistic and thinking about my own life, I’ll add to the end of that phrase, “…or not change.”
Yet, mostly, I utter this phrase in hope. Whatever state my life is in now, in a year, it could be very different. Who knows what the Lord has planned for tomorrow? or next week? or next month? His promises and blessings for this next year will definitely be different from what I imagine, but they will continue to change and transform me.
Sometimes change can be a bit scary. And at other times, change can be prayed for and longed for. I have numerous desires in my heart that I long for the Lord to fulfill. But I also can be led to worry about how He will fulfill them and if I am actually ready for Him to fulfill them. Whatever my current feelings may be, a lot can and will happen in the next year.
This week we are wrapping up one liturgical year and preparing for the advent of another. Now is a good time to consider how the Lord has poured out His blessings upon our lives. The past year of grace has changed and transformed us. What are specific ways the Lord has caused us to grow? What encounters have we had with the Lord and how have they changed us? How have they not changed us as much as they ought? The next year will continue to do the same in new and unexpected ways. As we sit on the cusp of a new year, let us pray to be filled with a deeper desire to enter into salvation history in a new way. May this next year not leave us unchanged. Come, Lord Jesus, reign in my life. Let a lot happen in this next year.
In one moment, I can give you more than you are able to desire.
(Jesus to St. Faustina, Diary 1169)
“No, I can’t. I’m too busy.”
I’m a bit surprised to hear these words uttered by my three year old nephew. I don’t think he really knows what those words mean. I asked if he had given a hug to his grandma and he said he was too busy, as he tiredly walked away from me. He has heard this phrase but he doesn’t understand how to properly apply it. My brain thinks briefly of The Princess Bride and the misuse of the word “inconceivable.”
Then I think about my conversations with my relatives and I realize that I am very quick to fall back on, “Life is busy.” It is a nice conversation filler but it doesn’t really tell one anything. Which is partially the point–life is filled with many things but I don’t want to fully articulate them right now. Life is either busy or nothing is going on.
Somewhere along the line I began to think of busy as success or as the necessary answer for how my life is going. Because I can’t say I don’t know what I’m doing with my life. I can’t admit in casual conversations that I’m at times frustrated with the Lord and myself. Or that I want to sit in my classroom and cry some days while other days fill me with over-the-moon excitement and joy.
Oh the contradiction! Here we are at the “busy” part of the year that revolves in essence around a quiet manger scene. The God of the Universe enters into our chaos, confusion, and hurt and the world for a moment seems to be still. We are enraptured by the glint in the newborn’s eye, in the soft giggle, in the squirm of chubby arms and legs.
I need to come up with a better response than, “I’m busy.” I’m present. I have time for you.
It is difficult to not be successful with such a simple task. Yet too often I feel as though my life is not filled with simple tasks. Instead of checking each item off the list and falling into bed knowing I did what was necessary that day, I am often going to sleep simply because I’m too exhausted to finish the task at hand.
The Camino was simple. Not easy, but very simple. I don’t think my interactions with everyone I encountered were perfect, but essentially every day ended successfully.
I don’t feel this success as a teacher. I don’t feel this success simply as a working young adult Catholic. Most days I feel as though I am miserably failing. Then I wake up the next day to fail again. The stack of uncorrected papers grow, the lesson plans become less than plans and more like ideas that are half-taught. The sleep dwindles, the time I take for prayer lessens and I fall asleep during it anyway.
I am not successful.
The world measures my life by a standard of success that I do not have the luxury of choosing. Even if I had the option to choose my own standard, I would still fall short.
Thankfully, the Lord measures success differently. He desires my faithfulness and not simply my apparent (or unapparent) success. With honesty, however, I am lacking in the faithfulness department, too.
All of this draws me back to the simplicity found on the Camino. I had no papers to grade, no lessons to plan, no time to waste on Facebook, and very little distractions apart from the beautiful scenery and the pain in my feet. It made me wish that all of life could be like that. That life could be a simple, clear path. I would wake up in the morning and know exactly where I was to go and I would take the necessary steps to get there. I would nourish my body and try to consistently be in my bed by 10 pm. It was a forced balance that I find myself not adhering to on a regular basis. I knew what I needed and so I did what was necessary.
How do I take the simple beauty of the Camino lifestyle, the necessary discipline encompassed within that, and apply it to my daily life?
How do I encounter success through being faithful?
How do I simplify?
Perhaps I am not alone in feeling this way, but I desire a great mission for my life. I want to do big things and transform society. When I look at the different passions in my life, I wonder how I will ever be able to use them all, how will God be the fulfillment of all of my desires. Taking a look at where I am at the present moment can cause me to feel impatient and claustrophobic. I want to travel, to live life, to have adventures, to be incandescently happy. There are moments, like on Thursday, when I look at my life as a teacher and I wonder what in the world I am doing. Some people are able to say that every day they go to work they are filled with a desire to go to work and that because of that, they never feel like it is work. Unfortunately, I cannot say that the same is always true with me. There have been several times over the past few months that I didn’t want to go to work, that the thing I wanted most was to extend the weekend. My heart desires something grand and beautiful. Yet when I look at where I am in my life, I begin to wonder if it is ever possible to attain that. Am I simply missing God’s will in my life? Will I be my own worst enemy? Everyone desires a great love and a great adventure and too quickly I begin to wonder where mine is. I’ve spent half of the past semester longing to live life fully and the other half praying to enter into eternal life. At times I am filled with a passion for teaching and with gratitude that I am able to do what I wanted to do right out of college. Nevertheless, I wonder what else there is for me and how the plan will unfold.
Maybe much of this is natural–the transition years after college, the quest to find stable footing, the desire to be a saint, the longings to be fulfilled. Yet some of this is perhaps the temptation of the evil one. If he can make God’s will for me now seem to be unimportant or too little, then he is winning in a sense. God could have a grand mission for me next year but His will for me is to be a teacher now. If I focus on the future grandeur and fail to do my duty in the present moment, then I am effectively not doing God’s will out of a misappropriated desire to do His will in the future. I need to learn patience without succumbing to passivity. How will I know if God is asking me to step out in faith or if it is my own desire for the grand that will cause me to run contrary to the will of God. I have this desire to be a saint and although I know there are many saints of the ordinary, I don’t want to be ordinary. While I don’t want to stand out especially, I long for a great mission, something where all of my desires are fulfilled. Maybe this is just my melancholic nature coming out and longing for the ideals that can only truly be found in Heaven. All I know is that I long for a beautiful adventure that will be personally transforming and will transform others. A little daisy wants to be a bouquet of roses.
What a different view of me my students would have if they read this blog. I know they don’t think I’m perfect but I like to think I look generally put together and collected. At times I wish I could tell them how ridiculous and confused I truly am. The facade would be destroyed. What does God want me to do now? He has placed me here for a reason. I forget that reason, though, in moments of frantic worry and a desire for my will to be done. So, Lord, if Your desire is for me to be here now, please teach me how to do Your will in the present moment–and to love doing it.