Friday, January 21, 2011

Novena to St. Francis de Sales, Day Six: Creating our own "Disasters"

When Our Lord corrected Saint Martha, He said, "Martha, Martha, you are anxious and upset about many things..." [Lk 10:41] Note that she would not have been troubled if she had been merely diligent, but she was overly concerned and uneasy; she was hurrying about and all stirred up. Rivers that flow gently through the plains carry along large boats and rich merchandise. Rains that fall gently on open fields make them fruitful in grass and grain, while violent storms devastate fields and pastures. A job done too eagerly and hurriedly is never done well. "He who is in a hurry should go slowly,: says the proverb. We perform actions quickly enough when we do them well. Drones make more noise and work more eagerly than worker bees, but they make only wax and not honey. So also, people who hurry about with tormented anxiety and solicitude never accomplish much, nor do they do anything well.
- Introduction to the Devout Life
One of the very first duties I was given when serving as a missionary at St. Luke's was to coordinate transportation to and from Sunday Mass. A large proportion of our congregation has no access to transportation except the bus, and the schedule on Sunday is rather limited…enter me. Each morning I would go through my list: "Are you going to Mass this morning? Okay, I will be there at…" After an hour of calls, my schedule was set. If I made it by the gathering song with the last van load I considered myself blessed.

Though it was rather time consuming and took me away from my family, there were perks; I did get to know the congregation quickly, and forged many relationships I still enjoy today, many years later. It allowed for some interesting and compelling conversations, and thrust me into the fabric of the Mission rather quickly.  It even afforded opportunities to evangelize and comfort those searching and suffering...a privilege I enjoyed.

Despite that, there were days I just wasn't in the mood. Perhaps I was under the weather, or stopped at too many addresses where no one came to the door. Perhaps I was desiring my warm home and time to relax. Maybe I was just cranky. No matter the reason, I did a fair share of complaining. One particular afternoon looms large in my memory…

Mass was finished at 2:30PM (1pm Mass) and my rides were voluminous; my assistants were unable to help with drop-offs, so the work was left to me. The minutes turned to hours. "Can you drop me off at my sister's?" "Can you take my granddaughter to my son's house?" "Can you drop me off at WalMart?" The requests were irritating me, and I drove like a maniac. I was angry that no one was helping ME, no one was concerned about MY time, no one was worried about MY hunger and MY schedule…I grew more and more anxious and angry with each passing moment.

I finally dropped off the last person at 6:30pm, FOUR HOURS after beginning the process. I was angry, anxious, and exhausted. I was on the phone with my superior expressing my displeasure when another vehicle pulled out and hit me broadside.

I wasn’t hurt, nor was the other driver, but she was hopping mad. "It's your fault! You are supposed to see me backing out of my driveway! I had the right of way!" The day couldn't get worse. I was completely and utterly defeated. I sat in my car while the woman yelled at me through the window, soon to be joined by various family members…when the policeman arrived, he took pity on me, filled out my report, and told me he would deal with my new-found friends. I thanked him and limped home.

That day was a disaster. There were no edifying conversations, no discussions of Jesus, no opportunities for empathy and friendship...not because of the lack of drivers, or the volume of rides. Not because of the hours driving or even the accident. It was a disaster because I made it that way. I did not do my job well at all because it was all about me. A big dent on the passenger side would remind me of that for years to come.

As we continue our novena let us examine the anxieties of our day, the irritations and moments of "disaster"…what part do we play? Let us ask St. Francis de Sales to intercede that we may be present at every moment, attentive to the needs of the day but peaceful in their execution. May humility and peace be the hallmarks of our work, play and rest, and may God grant success to the work of our hands.

Novena Prayers

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