We are uniquely called

By Kristine Schroeder

Lessons Learned

“God has created me to do him some definite service; he has committed some work to me which he has not committed to another,” Saint John Henry Newman.

In 2006, Jim was preparing for his first mission trip to Haiti. Before he left, I felt a need to better understand the challenges presented. Photos from past trips spoke of the poverty and political unrest in Haiti. However, I was searching for a broader view. 

A friend recommended the book “Mountains Beyond Mountains” by Tracy Kidder. It is the true account of Paul Farmer, an American-born, Harvard-educated doctor who has spent much of both his college career and his post-graduate life working to better the medical opportunities in this impoverished country.

In one segment of the story, Kidder spoke of a wealthy New England businessman who became a generous benefactor to Dr. Farmer’s cause. At one point, the benefactor spoke of his desire to sell his thriving business and work side by side with the doctor. Farmer discouraged his friend explaining that the Haiti mission was much better served through his monetary commitment as Farmer relied on this to support his medical operations. After consideration, his benefactor understood and agreed to continue in this capacity. All of us have a unique role to play.

But how do we discern what God is specifically asking from us? In his book, “In the School of the Holy Spirit,” Father Jacques Phillippe addresses this pertinent dilemma. While I cannot touch on all his ideas, I will share a few that resonated with me. Father Phillipe states that we must first approach God in gratitude if we hope to hear his directions. St. Therese of Lisieux said, “What most draws down graces from our dear Lord is gratitude.” And, God’s graces are essential to understanding our mission. On our own, it is impossible.

Phillipe also emphasizes the importance of silence and daily prolonged prayer. Mother Theresa and all of her followers began each morning in Mass and silent contemplation. At some point during each day, she also spent an hour before the Blessed Sacrament. She said, “My secret is simple; I pray. Praying to God is loving him.” While that amount of prayer does not work in most of our schedules, it is important to examine our activities and set aside some time every day for a conversation with God. Without it, we will continue on the hamster wheel of busyness.

In his list of practices, two others stood out. First, Phillipe said to attain knowledge of God’s desires for us we need to practice abandonment. Abandonment does not infer leaving our families and taking a vacation. Abandonment is the practice of “obedience to events.” In other words, “God invites us to consent willingly and peacefully, even if they (the events in our lives) make us suffer and cause problems.” We have all experienced confusing periods in our lives. Abandonment asks that we totally trust God to be with us at all times and to bring good from that which seems only mysterious or senseless. 

“We cannot receive the motions of the Holy Spirit if we are rigidly attached to our possessions, our ideas, or our point of view,” says Father Jacques. All of us have our opinions, our attitudes, our way of doing things. Phillippe isn’t saying this is necessarily wrong. In fact as Catholics, we should hold fast to the tenets of our faith. No, what he says is that we need to be adaptable and compliant at times. We all know people who say, “Well, this is the way I do it, and this is the way I always plan to do it.” Where is the room for growth with such an approach?

Depending on the time and circumstances of our lives, our mission will vary. This short book offers a practical guide of what is necessary to do if we wish to discover what God is calling us to accomplish. There is not always a promise of simplicity or ease, but if we discern his call and follow Him, there is a promise of joy both here and in eternity.