Getting to Know Our Missionaries Better...
My whole life, I have always loved kids. Perhaps it’s being the oldest of five that has predisposed me to it, but I can’t think of a time when children didn’t bring me joy. As a kid, I jumped at the chance to play peek-a-boo with toddlers or cradle a newborn. Into my teenage years, some of my favorite moments were babysitting, volunteering at a nearby Catholic nursery, and seeing the toddlers at my high school’s daycare roaming about the school. So, when I arrived at Star and got my assignment as School Assistant, I was thrilled! Working not only in youth ministry, another great joy of my life, but with grades K-8 daily has been so fulfilling in a myriad of ways.
Perhaps my biggest responsibility as School Assistant is recess. For almost two hours each day, I get to walk the kids across the street to Kiwanis Park and supervise their twice daily, twenty minutes of play. It’s wonderful! They have so much energy and enthusiasm and it’s a joy to be able to witness them at play, having so much fun with each other.
I’m seeing more and more firsthand how beautiful their childlike nature is, and it makes me understand more and more why Our Lord said that we must become like little children to enter the Kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 18:3). Their natural simplicity, trust, and honesty with others is not only what makes them an image of what a disciple of Christ is meant to be, but also an image of Christ to others. There have been so many times I’ve been struck by something one or two of the children have done that, while on the outside is very simple, has had a very profound impact on me.
One such instance that has particularly stuck with me occurred during one of the first weeks of school. It was after lunch and I was walking the first graders into Kiwanis Park for their afternoon recess, when one of the girls looked up at me as she crossed the street. A huge, beautiful smile broke out across her face and she ran up and wrapped her arms around me. “Yay, I missed you!” She exclaimed. “Even though it hasn’t been very long, I still missed you!” She was so excited to see me that her classmates were very confused! One of them even asked her if I was her aunt because he assumed we must be related if she was so happy to see me, to which she responded cheerily, “no, she’s my friend!”
That moment was such a blessing! I felt so loved, and my heart swelled because there is nothing quite like the love and trust of a child. The Lord used her joy to reach my heart in a very deep way, because at that moment I had a sudden realization that the excitement this little first grader met me with is the joy and love that Jesus greets us with each time we come to Him in prayer or to visit Him in the Blessed Sacrament. I wasn’t prepared for it, but I was suddenly hit with the fact that there are so many realities of our faith we often become desensitized to or take for granted - and perhaps the one we take for granted the most is the miracle that God has humbled Himself so much that He sits in wait for us at every moment in a tiny, golden box in our churches. He eagerly waits for the moment when we will choose to come and be with Him, to sit at His feet in worship and reverence, and to be with Him Who loves us, and Who we strive to love in return.
That kind of love is crazy! It’s a humility that is almost unthinkable. And yet he loves us so much that He is willing to wait for us there. And if He would lower Himself to the point of waiting for us in the Tabernacle under the appearance of bread, out of such deep love, we can’t even imagine the joy it must bring to His Heart when we come to be with Him! It makes me think Saint JOhn Vianney, who once said of Jesus in the Tabernacle:
"He is hidden there, waiting for us to come to visit Him and to make our requests. He wishes to see us near Him, to tell us that He loves us, and wishes to load us with good things."
It has truly renewed my perspective of my prayer. I think back to her wide grin, her comforting hug, and her joyful spirit when I am tempted to come to prayer only out of routine, simply going through the motions. That moment reminds me that I’m not meant to pray only out of obligation, or because the petitions I offer are close to my heart, or because of my own desire for union with Him. While those aren’t by any means bad reasons to pray, I now make the conscious effort to recall the foremost reason I go to prayer: because God is good and deserving of all we have to give, and because He desires to be close to me. What greater gift can I give Him than myself, when what He desires is friendship with me?
Now, each day as I make my holy hour, I do so with the perspective that He meets me with an even greater joy and excitement than what I have at seeing Him. It is a joy and love and mercy beyond my comprehension! And I remember that even when I take those moments with the Lord for granted, He never does - whether time with Him is years apart, or only hours. Even when I just went to Mass in the morning, even when I just finished team prayer with the other missionaries, even when I stopped by the chapel only a few hours before, He always embraces me with love, calls me His friend, and says, “I missed you! Even though it hasn’t been very long, I still missed you.”
The Lord is waiting for us, friends. He is waiting for us with a deep, burning Love and thirst for a relationship with us that is greater than we can know. So in those moments where you are discouraged in prayer, or it seems like He isn’t present or listening, perhaps try to imagine Him speaking those words to you when you approach Him in prayer. “Yay, I missed you!” Listen to how He calls you His friend. And be assured - even if you can’t see or understand how He is working, even if it’s difficult to come to prayer, even if it would be so much easier to just return to the business of the world instead of sitting in silence with Him - that He is delighted in you, and the moments you spend with Him bring Him such great joy!
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Star of the Sea's Missionary Interns
Young adults from around the country come together to live and serve the Lord at this beautiful Catholic parish in the Pacific Northwest.