Earlier today, my kids were asking what I was writing about.
“My vocation,” I told them and explained further, “The thing I feel called to do. The thing that brings me joy and that makes me feel most alive.”
“Crocheting,” my eight-year-old answered.
“Not quite,” I said, “something deeper.”
“Like going to church,” chimed in my ten-year-old,
“Closer, but still no.”
“Telling that God is real,” says my five-year-old.
Bingo, sweet girl. Telling that God is real.
* * * * *
I was a student on a Six Day Ignatian silent retreat, wondering how such a long retreat would go, and what would pass the time. It was senior year in college so discerning marriage and work were on the agenda, but as I look back I mostly remember how God was there in the silence. I was loved and learning. I became aware that God is always present to us and of the need to listen regularly through prayer and contemplation.
I was teacher in an all girls Catholic Prep school outside Philadelphia. Many of my students had been in Catholic school for their whole lives. They knew to answer “Jesus loves us” to any question. They had been told that Jesus died for their sins and they had the distinct impression that holiness was reserved for priests and the sisters that teach at the school. We talked about salvation history and read the bible together. I wanted them to know a more complex and dynamic faith. And to know they were called to holiness too.
I was a volunteer at a small parish in Pittsburgh when the sister who ran the Religious Education program talked to me about her retirement and asked if I might be interested in a job. As she stepped down, all but one of the catechists left too (I’m still unsure how she was strong arming the volunteers all those years, but that’s a different story). I trusted that if God wanted me to do this job then God would bring forth the people who would do the work with me. The volunteers who came forward not only filled the classes, but grew into their own faith and knowledge of God. When it was time for me to move on from that parish, it was the first of those volunteers who took on the leadership of the program and subsequently began studies in religious education and ministry.
I was a parish leader, planning and leading a retreat for Moms in Henderson, Nevada. We shared meals, went hiking, explored scripture together. As we got to the Saturday evening session, what I had planned wasn’t feeling right, so I scrapped it and decided we’d spend some time just praying for each woman in attendance. I felt nervous because I didn’t have a script. I wanted to know what to say and how to say it. We prayed together and there were tears and healing and laughter. It was a sacred time and a reminder that when invited, God comes into our midst.
* * * * *
If I am to tell people that God is real, then I want them to know:
- God is present to us in every moment, even if we’re not paying attention. The more we show up and listen, the more we will know God.
- Everyone is called to a holiness that goes beyond simple answers to complicated questions.
- We are not meant to do God’s work alone. Each person has gifts, but we need support and encouragement to use them well.
- When invited, God shows up, and when God is present it is transformational.