It was my great pleasure to give a workshop for the catechists of St. Mary's Church in East Islip, last night.
Now, I'm a very high-energy person during the daytime, but this was my first time teaching a workshop in the evening, and -- let me tell you -- it was very different for me and for attendees. It was a real challenge for all of us to keep focused and stay energized at the weary end of a very busy day. With the setting sun, my sparkle nearly melted into the horizon, and I felt real sympathy for the tired volunteers sitting politely in long rows of chairs, giving a visiting stranger time they really didn't have to spare from very full lives. It's humbling to face a room full of immortal souls; not knowing the specifics, but knowing that all of them struggled with personal and logistical obstacles in order to come and sit and hear what I have to say about teaching the Faith.
On my way to St. Mary's, I prayed a couple of decades of the Rosary -- the Luminous mysteries of the Baptism of Our Lord and the Miracle at the Wedding Feast at Cana. With His baptism, I prayed that the baptismal waters of everyone at the workshop would flow in earnest; to provide graces, to keep us safe, to draw us into the Heart of Christ. With the miracle at Cana, I prayed, "Lord, help me to do whatever You ask, even if it seems weird or nonsensical, like filling water jars and taking a sample to the wine steward." I asked Our Lady to manage the whole evening; to help us all to accomplish God's will.
It seemed to me that the evening went well in spite of our tiredness. The catechists were all great sports when I got them on their feet to do some lively, Bible-related activities. I had some lovely conversations, too; sharing ideas, asking and answering questions, listening to their personal stories. I loved it. It was so inspiring. I felt so honored to be with them and to hear what was on their minds and in their hearts. Every workshop is special in some way.
On the way home, it occurred to me that there were several new things I had shared that I hadn't shared before, and that there were a few old things -- items of moderate importance -- that I had failed to share. I had a moment of disappointment about the omissions. And then it occurred to me that perhaps what was said and what was left out were both the work of the Holy Spirit. And that what I had or hadn't said was all part of His plan for the evening. Perhaps somebody needed to hear the something "new" rather than the something "old." Perhaps it's true that I really can trust, and do whatever the Spirit leads me to do -- even if it means filling the jars with water -- knowing that it is He Who will take my plain, poor offering and transform it into wine of some rare and precious vintage.
It's funny how teaching others teaches me the very lessons I'm trying to teach! My "something old" is continually becoming my "something new." I have to laugh. We can only do so much. We work hard, we pray, we hope; and in the end, we have to trust that out of our small, frail, weary efforts, God can make miracles. He transforms and sanctifies us when we let Him. He makes fruit where there was none before. He makes wine come from water -- and good lessons from a tired teacher. When we are weak and clinging to Christ, then we are very, very strong. [2 Corinthians 12:10]
St. Mary's is a beautiful old parish with a new pastor and a new DRE. God bless them as they work to forge lasting and holy relationships in the midst of so much work. God bless the beautiful catechists at St. Mary's. May your school year be blessed with many miracles. May all your efforts bear fruit in Jesus Christ through the intercession of Our Lady. And may you have many joys and consolations as you sacrifice and pray for the coming of the Kingdom of God.
My heartfelt thanks to the new DRE, Linda Crowley, and her assistant, Peggy, who made me so welcome. Thanks, Linda, for buying copies of "Be An Amazing Catechist" for all your attendees. What an encouragement to meet such dedicated Catholics with a deep, personal love of Jesus Christ.
To Him be all the honor and glory, now and forever!
As I was driving up to St. Barnabas Church on Saturday, I was stressed out. It was my first catechists' workshop of the season, it had "been a while" since I'd done the whole program live, and I was following a lengthy list of driving directions into unfamiliar territory. I pondered the incredible courage of the apostles, setting out on foot for distant lands to evangelize hostile pagans, while I was safe in my car, bound for a lovely family-oriented parish in an inviting neighborhood in Yonkers. What was I so nervous about?
Well, ironically, I was having a little mini-crisis of faith. After all, who am I to tell anybody how to do anything? For all my pontificating about trusting in the supernatural power of heaven to lift up our efforts and make them fruitful, for no particular reason I wasn't feeling absolutely certain God would back me up like He had in the past. Even as I realized that I was giving in to fear and focusing on my own weakness and flawed humanity, I enjoyed the irony of the situation. I needed to hear everything I was about to tell the catechists at St. Barnabas. And I ardently wished somebody was there to tell it all to me, first.
So I did what I'm always telling everyone else to do -- I prayed and gave it all to Him in Whom I can do all things. I kept working through my anxiety, handing it over, telling Him that regardless of how big a failure I would probably be, that I would thank Him and praise Him afterward, and trust Him with the results.
After the workshop, which started a little awkwardly and then gathered momentum as I went along, I was surrounded by the good people of St. Barnabas, who encouraged and praised me, several of them actually calling me "inspiring." I was deeply touched by their kindness. But as grateful as I was -- and it felt incredible to be given so much credit -- I said to one lady, in all honesty, "It wasn't me. It was the Cloud of Witnesses that was here with us."
And I'm certain that I was right. In fact, I believe I understand the reason I was permitted to experience such intensity of suffering that day. At St. Barnabas Church last Saturday, God proved His point yet again -- and the point of my workshop and the point of my booklet -- that if we trust Him, we can do anything. When we are weak, it is then that we are strong. He shows His power by using the frailest and least likely of His children to do great and glorious things. That way we can't take the credit. We really wouldn't dare. And this liberating reality should never make us feel bad. It should make us all feel great. We don't have to be perfect or have the faith of the martyrs to do good things. We can just be ourselves, putting one foot in front of the other, clinging to Christ in His Church, and trusting that He completes what we leave unfinished, and makes fruitful that which we lay at His feet.
I hope this is a helpful insight as you persevere in your relationship with Jesus Christ, and as you learn and teach the Catholic Faith.
I'd like to extend a big thank you to the parish of St. Barnabas -- the pastor, Msgr. Barry; the Parochial Vicar, Fr. Richard Gill; Father Brendan; the lovely DRE, Carol; and all the attending catechists and aids. Some are brand-new, some veterans, some super-veterans -- but all of them are incredibly kind and welcoming, gentle and delightful.
Not at all like those hostile pagans.
Thanks be to God!
And to Him be all the honor and glory.
I'm so excited to be visiting St. Barnabas Church in the Bronx, this weekend, for their catechist formation day. I'll post about it after the workshop. I'm looking forward to meeting and learning from the catechists in this large and thriving Catholic parish. As I enter my busy season of teaching and learning at parishes around New York, I'll update you on my experiences and share the tips and insights I gather from great people like you! Please contact me and share your favorite teaching stories, techniques, insights, lesson ideas or ask a question, make a comment or suggest a topic for discussion. God bless you all!