Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Trust in God, Don't Be Afraid, Be Ready to Say Yes

Easter Week is Divine Mercy Week.

We have prayed the Divine Mercy Novena from St. Faustina's diary every Easter Week of our married life (and me also the year before, in a way that was very significant).

In the Spring of 1995, I was nearing the end of my first year of teaching at Christendom College. I had been through a lot of discernment, spent a year in Rome, and was following the path that Msgr. Guissani and others who were guiding me in my life had indicated. Now, I had a teaching position. It seemed like the time to give my life in a deeper way.

I had once been comfortable as a footloose graduate student, dreaming about great intellectual projects, collecting experiences of life, and generally evading responsibility as much as possible.

That changed when I went to continue my studies in Rome. There I spent a year living at the house of the Fraternity of San Carlo Borromeo, the missionary society of priests (and now religious sisters too) associated with the ecclesial movement Communion and Liberation. I lived with men who were preparing to be missionaries, and I watched them closely. They amazed me.

They were ordinary, down to earth men, and several of them became my good friends. I saw their readiness to commit themselves radically to the mission of the Church. I saw them preparing their hearts to go anywhere in the world they were sent. Africa. South America. Siberia. The Holy Land. And the desolate places of the developed world, to begin anew the mission of evangelization.

I could not watch them live without becoming convinced that I too was called to give my life, in some form. I was not called to be a missionary, although I allowed myself to be shocked and terrified by the possibility of this ideal. But the head of the Society, a priest of great personal sensitivity and deep prayer, assured me that this was not my vocation. I was called to live as a layman and a professor in the world.

But I learned that my vocation was also a Christian vocation, and that in order to carry it out I must give myself, commit myself, take responsibility for something greater than myself. I needed in my own life the kind of "readiness" that these men were cultivating.

I also began to realize that I might really be able to do this, with God's grace. And in my life and circumstances, that grace might very well take the form of "another person." I began to discover that marriage is really a vocation.

And so I kept my eyes and my heart open, during that first year of teaching. I prayed for God's will to be done. I began to become convinced that my vocation was joined to that of another person. But who?

I prayed the Novena of the Divine Mercy that Easter Week, asking God to send me the woman he wanted me to marry, and to send her "soon"! Rather demanding and impatient of me, eh?

About a week later, I got a phone call from my old friend Eileen Balajadia. I hadn't talked to her in some years, although we had kept up a regular correspondence. But as far as I knew, she had put down her roots in Texas, and I was in the process of planting myself in Front Royal.

We talked for a long time. She revealed that she wasn't happy with her teaching position in Texas, and was thinking of moving back to the Northern Virginia area, where we had met five years ago.

Of course, I was sure Eileen just wanted to be my friend....

But something inside me said, in a very simple way, "Trust in God. Be ready. Be open. Pay attention. Don't be afraid. Follow the signs. Be ready to say yes."

We didn't know, when we were talking on the phone in April 1995, that 14 months later we would be married. (I've told that story elsewhere on this blog.) But God knew. God brought us together in His Mercy.

Today we have five children, two of them adolescents. When I fell ill, my wife's work as a teacher blossomed in new ways. Now I am being healed and God is opening up new directions for me. Still, I worry about the future in hundreds of ways. Why? God has promised us that He will take care of us in His Mercy. He has never failed us. He hasn't promised that it will be easy, of course. I think that trust in God is the great and difficult and necessary thing that all of life is trying to teach us.

Eileen and I have to help each other to sustain and deepen that same attitude of heart:

Trust in God.
Be ready.
Be open.
Pay attention.
Don't be afraid.
Follow the signs.
Be ready to say yes.