Friday, June 1, 2007

Measure Twice, Cut Once

I am a fan of wood working shows. Keep in mind that until recently, my hands-on experience with carpentry was limited to my years in middle school shop class! However, my wife, Katie, gave me a certificate for some woodworking lessons as a Christmas present a couple of years ago. In my professional life, I am expected to call upon my experience and technical knowledge to make decisions all day long. There was something very relaxing about being a student in a class about a subject that I knew nothing about! I guess some of the sawdust must have gotten into my blood, because, I have been working on putting together a small shop in our basement ever since.

It wasn't until last year that I made the connection between my hobby and my patron saint - Joseph. Furthermore, there was something that one of those woodworking classes taught me that carries over to my faith life. The instructor said that the key to fine woodworking is not making every piece perfectly the first time. It is in being able to work around the inevitable mistakes, to recover from them and make the finished piece look like it is perfect. Before I took the woodworking classes, I already knew how to use a saw, a drill, etc. What my teacher was able to show me, however, was what to do when the saw, or the drill did not do exactly what I intended them to do. How can I make that mis-cut look like I intended it to be there? How do I make it appear to disappear altogether?

An important adage in woodworking is to "measure twice, cut once." If I prayerfully reflect on my decisions in life, I am a lot less likely to make mistakes. However, when I inevitably make one, I need to draw upon my experience to fix them. Just like a piece of wood, I cannot simply 'erase' what I have done. But I can work with what I have to make it as good, or better, than I intended. I am sure these were the lessons that Saint Joseph taught a young Jesus as they worked side by side in his shop.

I have been very active in Catechetical ministry for seven years. As the coordinator of my parish's RCIA process, I have the privilege of accompanying people from all walks of life on their journeys of faith. I make it very clear at the beginning of each year that RCIA is not a class in church history or a course in theology. It is an apprenticeship in discipleship. The medieval guilds were on to something when they set up the structure for training future tradesmen. Christianity is not something we can learn from a textbook, or even a lecture. We must learn by doing. Those seeking full membership in the church are the apprentices, the catechists (and all the faithful, for that matter) are the journeymen. While we have grasped the basic skills of our craft, we still have much to learn from the Master!

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