For the past five years, I’ve taught ninth grade. One thing we spend a great deal of energy on, is teaching students to write and reflect. We want them to understand, themes are everywhere, even if they go unnoticed.
The other morning, I woke and discovered, my watch didn’t charge. Neither did my phone. When I got to work, my computer took twenty minutes to warm up, and the Promethean board decided sound was for suckers. I told my class, the theme of the day was,
“It’s not going to work the way you planned.”
My whole day ran that way and in frustration the next morning, I started my litany of complaints to Saint Francis on his feast day. I told him all the things I wanted God to fix. Everything that hurt, I poured out, all on my commute to work. It didn’t help that the morning mass I listen to en route wouldn’t pull up on my phone. Finally, I sighed and just asked, “Help.”
Saint Francis and I go way back. I visited Assissi on my birthday back in 1988, went to confession, saw the relic of Saint Anthony. It remains a favorite place in my memory. The guy dressed in beige and brown, wearing sandals and playing a flute, clearly playing on the sensibilities of Saint Francis and his vow of poverty didn’t strike me as corny. It felt oddly authentic. I took a picture. I asked for peace.
The phone started working and I put on the mass for my drive. I did not recognize the immediacy, still feeling too irritated at everything. The priest talked about the papal conclave and a little exchange between the not yet Pope Francis and another cardinal. They’d been counting the votes and saw that then Cardinal Bergolio would be the likely successor to Peter.
“Remember the poor.” the friend whispered to him.
A thousand moments in that one word of prayer poured out. Pope Francis took those words deep into his heart, to the core of it, and his papacy has reflected that as the primary love of his ministry. Pope Francis loves those Jesus loves that the world does not.
I sat thinking about Saint Francis and Pope Francis and the call in Mother Teresa’s ministry, and in so many of the orders and Saints lives. They go out to love the lost sheep, to serve the lost sheep. They are to be Christ to those who do not know Him by their words and their actions. I tried to hold onto all these thoughts, but the day crowded them out until this morning. However, the words and the sense of what is being asked, stayed.
I was being told, be Christ to others, that’s the whole job. That’s the whole mission. That’s the whole reason for being.
The list of what I need to do, what I want to do, and what has to be done whether by me or others still loomed, but the dirge of it ebbed. Be Christ for Others. It fit with so many saints –A peacemaker, is Christ. Being merciful always, is being like Christ. Those who feed the hungry, act like Christ. The people who see the pain, wherever it is, and tend to the wounded, emotional or otherwise, are Christ like. Their motivations may not be articulated in their own souls, but the reality of their actions remain. Every sacrifice is a gift on the altar. Every withholding of one’s self, a step away from the Eucharist.
If I wanted peace, I needed to stop trying for equalibrium or some form of worldly calm, and go to the core, to will to be a source of peace, a source of healing, to want to do that for its own sake, not my own, because I knew the objective of a Catholic life. Did I know what it would mean yet? No. Except I needed to be intentionally a witness of the bigger reality even if it were not voiced.
The theme of the day is, what the world offers doesn’t work, it runs out of juice –I had too. If I wanted a life that still would hold all the chaos and trials and challenges, but not draining, I’d need to infuse all of my life with that interior prayer to be, “Help.”