Prayer is not just spending time with God. It is partly that —but if it ends there, it is fruitless. No, prayer is dynamic. Authentic prayer changes us —unmasks us —strips us —indicates where growth is needed. Authentic prayer never leads to complacency, but needles us —makes us uneasy at times. It leads us to true self-knowledge, to true humility.
-- St. Theresa of Avila
Ed and I met in a church group, and sharing our faith was important. It was our faith that was the anchor we could trust in during the storms we have weathered in our marriage. We have evolved and grown in our relationship with God, even though we might have been at different points in our journey.
Ed and I recently wrote a Marriage Encounter presentation—marriage, faith and service. As we discussed what we would say, we talked about how we both have been feeling a strong tug of the Holy Spirit toward something, individually, for quite awhile. He is calling to us in a deeper way in our lives of service. We both have been praying for discernment for where this is leading us. Although we have both been praying individually, in talking this over we discovered that in our dialog we were both being led in a similar direction.
Ed started by saying, "We both went to church, although Marcia was more involved. Still, I felt a nagging call to do more over the course of our marriage. I engaged in debates online where I used Catholic apologetics to explain and defend our faith and doctrine and looked for other outlets for scholarship and in-depth knowledge. Still, that was tempered by a reluctance to commit fully, even though I became increasingly aware of a gap in my life, in meaning and destination.
"Our trip to Rome was a kind of watershed in my life, and an unexpected one. Marcia and I had always wanted to see Rome, for overlapping but not identical reasons. I joked with Marcia about 'getting our Catholic on,' but that's exactly what happened. I've spent the last year since trying to discern what I should do to commit further to the church, and where my talents can best be used—even if at times in that period I stubbornly clung to my distance from engagement and commitment."
I added: "Surviving through the serious health issues I went through a few years ago, I have looked at my life as something not to be taken for granted. I want my life to be purposeful."
Rome was one of those "bucket list" things I had always hoped to do, and when we actually did get to go last year the trip was even more than I expected. While we walked and walked through the streets of Rome and visited the beautiful ancient churches, the thought was always with me that it was a miracle that I was even able to be there, and this was more than just a dream vacation. Ever since that trip I have been searching for where and what I can do in serving God more in my life. I am involved in ministry work, but still I have been feeling that He is taking me in a new direction.
Last fall I wrote about a vivid dream I had where I was in a beautiful marble and gold church. As I walked up to receive communion, I couldn't see the face of whoever was handing the paten with the host on it to me—I could only see the flowing white robes and hand holding the plate with the host, which had bright red flames shooting up. The hand and host weren't burned or consumed, and I was reaching out to receive it, but I awoke at that point. I knew it wasn't an ordinary dream. It was a picture of God—the Father, son and Holy Spirit. I have been reaching for what God is handing me ever since trying to figure out what it is that He is calling me to.
Ed finished our talk by saying, "In all of this searching, it's been important for me to find a path where both Marcia and I can serve together, at least in some aspect. The impulse in me to delve deeper is firmly attached to our relationship. Without my marriage to Marcia, I would not have been capable of connecting to my faith as I have done over the last eighteen years. In Marriage Encounter, we used to have a poster that showed an equilateral triangle, with the husband and wife at the bottom and God at the top. The closer both spouses draw toward God, the closer their union becomes. We have lived that experience in our marriage, and perhaps I understand its truth better now than ever before."
On Mother's Day, Ed served for the first time as an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion. We sometimes hold hands in church, and I commented that his hands were as cold as ice—not like him at all—I am usually the one with the cold hands. He was very nervous at the prospect of serving the Eucharist. It was a very special gift to me that day that I was the first one that he presented the chalice. As we left church he expressed to me that something he didn't expect was how emotional he was. He spoke to Deacon Greg Kandra, which the Deacon wrote about in a blog post.
We hope to attend the Archbishop Harry J. Flynn Catechetical Institute for a two-year program this fall together, as a step toward discerning where this is all leading us. One thing we both believe is that, just as in that Column I wrote last fall, as we walked the path around the beautiful lake and listened to the breeze move the branches in the tall trees rushing like a wave reminding us of the movement of the Holy Spirit, we know that He will direct us on this path.