“You don’t have to want to,” is a phrase I say regularly in my classroom. It is frequently followed by, “Sometimes you have to do what you don’t what to do in order for you to get what you want.” There are many opportunities for this phrase - whether students are whining about doing an assignment, cleaning up after themselves, or studying for a test. Much to the joy of my students, every once in a while my advice applies to me as well. When Anne sent out an email asking for a volunteer to write a bulletin article, I ignored it. I was hoping to be able to play my “new teacher” card for a bit longer. The Lord had other plans.
Prior to applying at MHT, I spent the previous couple of years feeling distant in my faith and finding myself unable to answer some questions about Catholicism from an agnostic friend of mine. Sometimes the questions in my head felt bigger than the love in my heart. In my faith, I was largely going through the motions. My friend was persistent, however, so I started looking up answers. Though I felt somewhere between a resistant apologetic and the very worst missionary, I persevered, finding I loved the logic, depth, and beauty of Catholicism.
After several months of praying for guidance in my job, my faith, and my life, I felt called by God to apply for the open teaching position at MHT. I was hoping no one would ask me to admit I felt called, as I had gotten used to not talking about God, using my job as a public school teacher as my excuse. I had spent months asking for guidance. Now that I’d gotten it, I worried about how this decision would affect my entire household. I put in my application, knowing God was looking to make sweeping changes in my life instead of minor tweaks, as I’d hoped.
During our new teacher training, Superintendent Sean Costello reminded us, “The Good Lord would not put you in this position to fail. But you can’t do it alone.” Along with a few other helpful pieces of advice, I was reminded to continue to learn the faith and pray daily. To begin with, my prayers sounded more like demands: “If you’re going to call me here, you better help!” My petitions continued like this as I began the overwhelming task of planning for a new position.
School started. I followed Mr. Costello’s advice, starting my morning with the daily readings and prayer. My transition into a Catholic school teacher wasn’t as smooth as I’d hoped, however, as I forgot to pray with students for the first two weeks. “Please help me,” I asked my students, doubting the wisdom of the Lord’s plan yet again. “I’m not used to praying out loud with students. Help me remember.” I admit, I was suspicious that prayer was as powerful as promised. I sometimes prayed for Amazing Grace, mostly out of desperation, as there were several days when I had no idea how I was going to get all of my tasks done. I now sing the song very differently. I’ve found that, when I start the day with the Lord, I am amazed at how He can multiply my time, sometimes showing me my agenda isn’t always the best one. I have started to fully appreciate my newfound freedom to talk about loving each other as Jesus told us to do. My students have not only gently reminded me to pray, but also showed me how to put my faith in action throughout every day and not just on Sunday.
MHT School is a great place! I knew this as a parent, but have found an even deeper appreciation for it as a staff member. God is truly working at MHT School. The Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy are both taught and practiced. It seems as though students are frequently donating to a service project, writing a Prayer Pal letter, and celebrating Mass with shut-ins at Hazel Findley. Prayer is not only an integral part of our day, but we also go to Mass weekly, say rosaries for the unborn or souls in Purgatory, and go to Adoration. This last event is a particular favorite of mine, as the deep faith of students displayed through devotion and song has moved me to tears every time. I encourage you to attend a school Mass or Adoration if you get a chance; it is a beautiful, faith-filled experience.
I have learned God calls each of us -- staff, students, and families -- but we need to be listening to hear Him. He is working in me. When I am open to God, I can more clearly see Him interacting with me. I don’t always want to do what He suggests, as I didn’t really want write this bulletin article. It has been a valuable exercise to reflect on my personal faith development, helping me recognize the many ways He is a regular part of our school day. MHT is creating disciples - myself included. I’m so blessed to be a part of MHT School. I’m not going to tell you it’s been easy. Sometimes I need to listen to my own advice and do what I don’t want to get what I do want. I want to be more like Him.
Recently, on the feast day of Bishop St. John Neumann, Fr. Dennis encouraged all of us at MHT School to be open to the Holy Spirit this year both as individuals and as a school. Please pray for us as we commit to being led where the Lord most wants us.
If you’re feeling called, feel free to open yourself to the Holy Spirit. Be warned. You might be called to step well outside of your comfort zone. Sometimes the Lord is more about massive changes and not small tweaks. It could be life changing. You don’t have to want to. You will be glad you did.