Today was the feast day of the first Sudanese saint, St. Josephine Bakhita. She was remarkable because her life clearly didn't go the way she'd expect. Born to an affluent family, she was sold into slavery in the middle of the nineteenth century. She was passed from one slave owner to another until she was purchased by a member of the Italian consulate. She was to impressed by the kindness of her Christian owners who eventually brought her to Italy and gave her freedom. She eventually joined the church and became a nun, in fact and was a well sought after speaker by the end of her life.
She couldn't have imagine that that was the way God wanted her life to go but that's the way it went. If it hadn't she would have never known our Lord.
Wednesday, February 07, 2007
Sunday, February 04, 2007
I’m fascinated by the television show Monk, I hope not in an unhealthy way but in one of those ways that well written shows can make you fascinated. It’s one of the four or five shows that I set my VCR to tape each week just in case I miss it. If you haven’t yet seen this show, it’s about this obsessive-compulsive detective who finds unusual and unique ways of solving crimes. And, when I say he’s obsessive compulsive, I’m not being anecdotal in the slightest. This character has all the phobias and fears of almost any other OCD person; needing to wipe his hands after each handshake, measuring and leveling and releveling all the paintings on his walls and the walls of any place he enters, and, my own personal favorite Monkism, trying to make sure there are an even number of every thing in his house, whether that be marshmallows, pens, books, or any other object. Part of me likes this show because there’s a part of me in Monk, a part that doesn’t like dirty places and a general lack of order. I mean, I’ll admit that the worst day that I’ve had at St. Thomas thus far had nothing to do with ministry. It had nothing to do with a family who had lost a loved one or a college student who was struggling with difficult grades. No, my worst day was when I discovered a bat flying around in my apartment at 1:00 in the morning and spent the rest of the night, locked in my bedroom trying to convince myself that the bat had not flown through the small crack under my bedroom door and landed on my feet. So, I admit that I have some fears that are like Adrian Monk. Only, his fears are mine multiplied by a million. Yet, despite all these fears and foibles, when the police cannot figure out who it was who committed the crime, the know they can turn to Adrian Monk who will notice that one detail they all missed that will help him solve the case.
I was thinking about this in the context of vocations, a topic our readings seem intent on focusing us on. Being the associate director of vocations for this diocese and having walked with a few people that seem on their way towards priesthood, I know that oftentimes vocations come from people’s involvement in church. Especially for vocations to priesthood and religious life, there seems to be a kind of sense that people who pay attention to the church are the ones who will want to be connected for the rest of their lives. This seems true of the Prophet Isaiah as well, although he wasn’t a person that hung around the church inasmuch as the Temple. Isaiah has this incredible image of the heavenly Jerusalem in the Temple in which God is the celebrant of the model for all liturgies and, in this context, Isaiah is called forth to service. This is a great passage to reflect upon for all of us who feel called to ministry, weather that be to priesthood, being a sister or a nun, or being a lector, eucharistic minister or hospitality minister. God often influences our call when we come together to pray.
Yet, God also works in more unexpected places as well, as we heard in the gospel. I imagine that Peter had no idea when he went fishing the previous night that he would be called to ministry the next day. Here he is by the side of the lake getting finished from a long night probably looking forward to a day of rest before another night. He probably feels frustrated and angry because of his bad luck the night before when, all of a sudden, this guy that he probably doesn’t even know, this carpenter-turned-traveling preacher decides to tell him how to do his job. Peter’s response very easily could have been to tell Jesus to mind his own business. Peter’s the professional fisherman. Jesus is not. But, in humility, he throws out into the deep. And the reward for his humility is such a large catch of fish that he needs two boats just to pull it in.
It doesn’t matter where our call comes from, it matters how we respond to that call. In both Isaiah and Peter we see humble people who feel totally unworthy to be called to the ministry. I imagine all of us feel unworthy to be called to a particular ministry, weather that be as a parent, priest, or some other ministry, we should feel like we aren’t worth. But, all too often, God doesn’t call the perfect to ministry: he calls the imperfect in order to perfect them. We should feel like we aren’t deserving of the gifts God has given to us. But we also need to know that God can take our weaknesses and use them in ways that make them strengths. Our job, when we hear God asking whom shall I send, is to echo the call of Isaiah and say, “Here I am, send me.”