I was 26, in my second year of volunteer life, and not feeling very secure about my life. I had just received a letter from a priest-relative telling me I should get back to normal life and settle down and stop living off other people (we fund-raise our own salaries) and give up adventure for reality. I was upset and shaken and started questioning everything. It didn’t help that team life was hard at that time, and our ministry seemed haphazard and not very obviously fruitful. In other words, we didn’t know what the heck we were doing.
“Perhaps I should go back to college and study some more? Maybe get a more ‘normal’ job? What am I doing? Does this life really make sense? Is this how everyone sees me? How do I really know what God wants?”
I happened to be a on a personal retreat when all this soul-searching was happening, but in spite of the appropriateness of the setting, I wasn’t really feeling like praying about it. But God had something to say, and He wanted to make sure I heard it, so He sent some... wait for it… religious sisters.
Yup, although I was technically on a two day personal silent retreat at a retreat center, some sisters who were also on retreat, and were staying in the room next to mine, came up to me the first night. “Mass is at 6 am. We’ll knock on your door at 5.45 am.”
“ Really Sisters? 5.45 am?!!! I didn’t ask you to! DO I have a choice about this? This is my personal retreat and if I want to sleep in, I’m going to sleep in!”
Er, no, that’s not what I said. What I said was, “Oh, okay, thank you so much. Sisters.” While gnashing my teeth of course. Talk about holy dispositions to retreats! (This was some years before my commitment to daily Mass began.)
Anyway so the next morning, they faithfully woke me up, and I walked with them to the Mass. It turned out to be the Feast of the Transfiguration. You know, when Jesus took Peter, James and John up the mountain, and then they got to see him shining in all his glory (like a laundry detergent commercial, only better), and Moses and Elijah appeared and then Peter is so freaked out that he just says the first thing that come in his head- “It’s so cool that we’re here! Let’s make some tents and hang out!” The cluelessness of the apostles is always such a relief to me. And then there’s a Trinity get-together and the Father gives Jesus a shout-out.
So as I was sleepily (and somewhat grumpily) reviewing the Transfiguration in my mind as Mass began, I was trying to remember the point of the story. You know, each event or story in the Bible has SOME applicable lesson or moral or point. But I just couldn’t remember.
Then the Bishop spoke, slowly and authoritatively. “As we all know, the Transfiguration is all about the Father confirming Jesus in the mission He had already given Him. All of us here have already received our mission. The Father is confirming us too in the task He has given us. We have to move forward in faithfulness to what He has already asked us to do.”
That was one of the clearest messages I have ever received from the Lord. I took it to heart, prayed about my priest-relative’s letter, and responded in detail with quotes from Church documents about the validity and need for the work I was doing. He responded accepting my answers and saying he would pray for me. I continued as a volunteer, and saw great fruit borne from that seemingly fruitless time.
Showing up for Mass, reading the bible, going on retreat – all these have often been ways the Lord has continued to speak to me in spite of my own bad attitude and bare minimum approach. Six years later I’m grateful I didn’t run away when I faced opposition or criticism, and that the Lord in His mercy spoke to me even when I was not super-interested in seeking His guidance.
God gives each one of us sufficient grace ever to know His holy will, and to do it fully. -St. Ignatius of Loyola