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Surrendering my will

To God’s will reveals God’s goodness time after time

A friend once told me, “Do you want to make God laugh? Tell Him your plans!” Little did I know that those words would come true during my third year in seminary, as I made preparations for my six-month parish internship. As I was preparing to depart for St. Joseph Parish  in St. Johns, I shared with some of my classmates that the situation that gave me the most anxiety was imagining the first time that I had to handle an emergency at the hospital without the assistance of the pastor or parochial vicar. In my mind, though, there really wasn’t any need to worry. After all, my internship would last only six months, and my fearfully-imagined scenario could never happen in such a short time.

My internship began on a Saturday in late February as I was introduced to the parish at the evening Mass. Afterward, the pastor left to attend the symphony, leaving me to settle into the rectory. The parochial vicar was away on vacation, so I anticipated a quiet evening as I unpacked my belongings. With the pastor’s taillights fading from sight in that night’s snowstorm, the emergency phone line in the rectory rang. An elderly woman was dying at the local hospital, and the family needed someone to pray with them right away.

I calmly explained that neither priest was available.

I shared that I was a seminarian, new to the parish and the city.

I volunteered to try to locate an available priest.

The very patient nurse on the other end of the line noted that none of the area priests could be located. Someone – could she mean me? – needed to get to the hospital as quickly as possible.  As I located everything I needed to take with me, I remember thinking, “God, you got me into this. Help me to do what you need me to do.”

Slipping and sliding through the snow, I made my way to the hospital. I managed to find the dying woman’s room and met her family. After sharing Viaticum with her, we gathered around her bed and prayed with her. She slipped quietly home to God later that night. When I finally made it home and to bed, the last thought in my mind as I closed my eyes was one of thankfulness – to God, for getting me through my very first pastoral emergency.

I saw the woman’s family at Mass the following morning. They thanked me for being with them as their beloved wife and mother died, and then asked me to lead her wake service. I gratefully accepted their invitation.

I learned a lot during the course of my internship, but nothing was more important than the lesson of my first night in the parish: surrendering my will to God’s will reveals God’s goodness time after time. Whenever I’m afraid, tired, feeling over-extended or ill-equipped, tempted to put my will or my needs before God’s, I remember that night in St. Johns, and think almost the same thing I did that night, nine years ago: “God, you got me into this. I know you’ll give me the grace to do what you need me to do.” I remember that special lesson about the First Commandment and what becomes possible when we put God first in our lives.

The Ten Commandments and the many beautiful possibilities they open in our lives will guide us through the months of 2004. Although they sound negative on the surface, each commandment invites us into a positive and ever-deepening relationship with God and with our sisters and brothers. That was the beautiful lesson I learned on a snowy night in St. Johns. The Ten Commandments are lessons each of us can learn, no matter our age. And so our journey in FAITH continues.