At the beginning of the discernment process for the diaconate, I was asked to submit a spiritual autobiography. These past few days have brought a section of it to mind:
Falling in Love
The other day, I was asked to meet with a young couple to answer some of their questions about the Catholic Church. They are planning to get married; she is a cradle Catholic, he is a member of a non-denominational faith community. He wanted to gain a deeper understanding of what the Catholic Church believes and his fiancé thought that it would be better if he heard it from someone besides herself. After my 2-1/2 hour meeting, Katie asked me to stop by the store for some groceries.
As I walked through the aisle searching for a can of ‘lite’ cherry pie filling, I reflected back on my day. I woke up early and recited Morning Prayer. I then went to work where, in my role as chief financial officer, I used my gifts and talents to make help make decisions that provide a living for my family and the families of my co-workers. I came home and enjoyed dinner with my family, helped bathe the kids and put them to bed. Then, I ran out to spend time with a young couple, sharing stories of our faith and helping them to discern God’s call as they travel on life's journey. Then, it was off to the store, to help Katie get ready for a get-together she was having at the house the next morning. I thought to myself, "Life is good. God is good. I am so happy right now." I remembered something that the late Msgr. Charles Kelly once said. "If you see a priest who is truly living his vocation, he will look like a man who is in love." How true of any vocation! It is certainly true about my vocation to married life. However, I have come to appreciate that another love has been at work throughout my life. It is a love of service to the church.
As I was sifting through my daily selection of blogs, I discovered that Julie over at Happy Catholic is hosting a 'cyber book tour' appearance by the Jesuit author James Martin. Although I have yet to find the time (go figure) to read one of his works completely, it is definitely on the top of my To Do list.
He related a wonderful prayer by the Servant of God Pedro Arrupe, S.J.:
Nothing is more practical than finding God,
that is, than falling in a love in a quite absolute, final way.
What you are in love with,
what seizes your imagination will affect everything.
It will decide what will get you out of bed in the mornings,
what you will do with your evenings,
how you spend your weekends,
what you read, who you know,
what breaks your heart,
and what amazes you with joy and gratitude.
Fall in love, stay in love,
and it will decide everything.”
I said to myself, "Yeah, that about sums it up!" People wonder how I find the time to do all I do for the Church. The answer, I have come to realize, is "Because I love what I do." I think many people view Church ministry as one in a list of activities, dare I say hobbies, in which they participate. They do it for the enjoyment they receive out of serving and helping other, or perhaps out of some sense of obligation.
I have to say that has not been the experience for me. As I discern a calling to ordained ministry, I have grappled with why I serve. I have held the words of Fr. Kelly close to my heart. I have reflected upon all the ways I have served the Church. Then I look at my relationship with my wife and family. The parallels are unmistakable. Fr. Arrupe's words today helped me to realize that my service to the Church is really no different than my service to my family. It is not out of obligation, or even because of the benefits that I receive as a result. It is out of love. A love of Church that can only be described as agape.
That is probably why it is so hard to answer the question, "How do you find the time to do everything you do?" The answer can only be found in the Love between a husband and her wife. A Love that is but a foretaste of the Love that God has for each and everyone of us. A Love that is so intense, so focused, and so passionate, that it excludes all else. What is amazing to me is how that kind of Love cannot be contained. It overflows into the rest of my life, whether I like it or not. It affects the way I treat my family, my co-workers, my friends.
May God continue to grant me the Grace to love him and serve him!
Thanks be to God!!!