Friends in college would immediately identify me as an artist. I created visual art until 2010, then drifted from it without class assignments and trajectory. At this same time God guided me toward professional ministry, a path that has been filled with consolations. As I lived into this, I found vitality in studying theology and the wells of its richness. This study and living theology became the new way I identified myself and was identified by others. Usually around wintertime, I experienced a very convincing urge to continue formal study, which would catch me in a confusing circle of discernment. Each time, I was excited and convicted of the nudge for a short while, but as I immersed myself in the thought of further education, something held me back and it would wear away.
I am currently working in our community’s archives, spending my days sorting hundreds of documents and artifacts. The boxes seem endless, lined up on long tables, as I sit there handling one item at a time. While there was a period of my life when this kind of activity—identifying what something is and deciding where it ought to be filed—would have been too intellectually stimulating for me and led to burnout, I now see it as a privileged opportunity to get in touch with my executive functioning skills.
When I was in college, I would sometimes call my high school religion teacher just to talk. We would cover a multitude of topics—academic pressures, dorm life, family, spiritual stuff, etc.—but it was mostly me just complaining about how hard my life was while he patiently listened and offered spiritual counsel. During the winter break of my senior year, I went to go see him and he gave me a tour of his rectory—he was a priest—which included a visit to his personal chapel next to the bedroom. Right there, next to the prie-dieu kneeler and before the tabernacle, was the telephone. He had been talking to me on the phone, on his knees, before the Blessed Sacrament.
Life for nearly everyone has been upended to some degree these days, and it can be easy to get swept away in a current of fear and anxiety, or to teeter out on the edges of loneliness. In times like these, when many things seem to be out of one’s control, turning (or returning) to daily, simple practices of prayer can provide a deep peace that only comes from opening oneself up to the grace and love of God.
In times of crisis, people often—rightly—turn to prayer. When confronted with the very real limitations of humanity, the natural response for many is to cry out to God for protection, for rescue, for comfort. At times, though, it can be difficult to find words to articulate these cries for help. Indeed, we may feel helpless in the face of it all. When that happens, the liturgy of the Church and the words of Scripture provide a lifeline to God. By giving ourselves over to the Word of God and the prayer of the Church, we are freed from the burden of trying to speak for ourselves when our hearts are heavy and our minds are weary, and we are united by the grace of the Holy Spirit to our brothers and sisters across time and space—indeed, united with Jesus Christ himself—by making these words our own as they did.