Do You Worry About Missing Your Calling?

So here’s a question that I posted on Facebook:

Do you worry about missing your calling?

I hear from many people that they’d “just love to do x or y but it’s too late. I guess I missed my calling.”

College students and other young adults often find themselves anxious about “choosing wrong” or as one young adult and Catholic volunteer, Valerie, astutely writes:

I worry that I’ll be too selfish or closed to live it out. I guess I’m also sort of worried that I’ll be too wrapped up in myself and my own desires that I’ll miss His calling. Or that I won’t recognize it, or know how to do it properly. Or something.

Vocational discernment is a long too overlooked ministry in the Catholic church. People often report feeling disconnected to the church in general or that the church is “out of touch” or that priests and lay ministers who work for the church don’t understand the lives of “real people.”

I think they often have a point.

As a spiritual director and campus minister, I think this is my main job–to push the envelope and ask the question “Well, why the hell do you want to be a pharmacist anyway? What’s the motivation? How did you discover that you wanted to do that–and most importantly, how does it express who you are called to be more than what you are called to do?” We even do this a lot when we take students to community service projects and alternative breaks or even just a fun trip somewhere. Why does any of this matter? Where is God speaking to us in this experience?

All important questions and I’m at a think tank in Collegeville Minnesota this week at the Collegeville Institute discussing how we might more intentionally build communities of discernment in religious places.

What are your thoughts though? Do you worry about this and what do you think the church could help provide?

I’ll be awaiting your thoughts.

The Newly Ordained

Congratulations to Frs. Rich Andre, Tom Gibbons and René Constanza of the Paulist Fathers who were ordained to the priesthood today by Bishop Hurley of Grands Rapids. I’m blessed to know all three guys well.

Fr. René did a summer in New York and worked a bit with us at BustedHalo®. He’s off to Texas for his first assignment. Fr Tom is the author of Kicking and Screaming on BustedHalo® and one of my best friends in the community. I was so excited to hear he’s only going to be 90 minutes away in Toronto. Fr. Rich is a special guy who has shared much with me and been a wonderful friend. He would always take some time to visit with Marion and I when he was in New York and when we would be in DC. While happy for all three, I think I’m happiest for Rich, who has longed for this day very deeply.

All have had a long journey to the priesthood. I had tears in my eyes most of the day (What else is new?) but especially when I saw Rich’s huge smile as he processed in singly boldly with his two classmates. As the Paulists laid hands on their new brother priests, I would watch each one. Some would give an extra tap on the head. Fr. Steven Bell kissed each one of the top of their head. The new Fr. Gibbons would place his hands on the arms of the guys who he has grown close to. Mostly, though, it was a solemn celebration. At one point, blogger Paul Snatchko looked at me and said:

“This is like getting married to 150 people.”

I retorted with, “Or 6 billion…” seeing how priests are called to all the people of God and not just to each other or to one particular community or congregation. Paul just nodded and said, “Yeah, exactly!”

It was a wonderful celebration. And afterwards we went to get a blessing from all of these new priests. Most people just stood and the newly ordained would place a hand on their shoulder and pray for their needs. I decided to be a little different. Why? Well, let’s face it. I’m not the biggest “rah-rah” clergy guy. Fr. Brett Hoover would often jokingly comment that my favorite word was “clericalism.” Somewhat true.

So here’s one example of how I chose to get a blessing from the newly ordained.

I journeyed with these guys from the earliest part of their seminary experience sharing their ups and downs. We don’t ordain a lot of priests anymore. And today we ordained three really good ones. I mentioned to all of them that they have been priests already for awhile because they can not be anything else but who they are called to be. And so I knelt before each one because I hope I can continue to serve their needs in many ways.

And they all have served the people of God with much love–and in their goods and bads–God has also journeyed with them.

And He still does.

Blessings on your ordination day Fathers. May you continue to bless us with the gift that is you.

Voices of Hope and Doom


E.J. Dionne has a great column today in the Washington Post and he rightly points out that the voices of doom seem to be all around us.

First he points to the voices of doom on the left.

Recently, a group called the Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF) ran a full-page ad in The Washington Post cast as an “open letter to ‘liberal’ and ‘nominal’ Catholics.” Its headline commanded: “It’s Time to Quit the Catholic Church.”

The ad included the usual criticism of Catholicism, but I was most struck by this paragraph: “If you think you can change the church from within — get it to lighten up on birth control, gay rights, marriage equality, embryonic stem-cell research — you’re deluding yourself. By remaining a ‘good Catholic,’ you are doing ‘bad’ to women’s rights. You are an enabler. And it’s got to stop.”

He immediately grasps that the secular left doesn’t care much for Catholicism, or I suspect religion of any kind, preferring to lump all of us “religious-types” together.

But there’s another kind of progressive minded group. And it’s those of us who believe in much that liberal principles hold and that it reflects much of Catholic teaching.

We’re the ones who remind some narrow minded folks that it’s not OK to just be against abortion when you call yourself a pro-lifer but that the title also demanded that we support women who struggle to not just bring a child to term, but also to support that child and mother well long after the birth. Not to mention those of us who call for an end to war, violence and the death penalty. We hope to care for the poor who all-too-often are in harm’s way and for the environment which continually gets ignored too often as well.

And we do so by pointing people to the wisdom of our tradition as the reason why.

Dionne then takes up a second group of doomsayers. Those on the Catholic right.

I wonder if the bishops realize how some in their ranks have strengthened the hands of the church’s adversaries (and disheartened many of the faithful) with public statements — including that odious comparison of President Obama to Hitler by a Peoria prelate last month — that threaten to shrink the church into a narrow, conservative sect.

Do the bishops notice how often those of us who regularly defend the church turn to the work of nuns on behalf of charity and justice to prove Catholicism’s detractors wrong? ….has it occurred to the bishops that less stridency might change more hearts and minds on this very difficult question?

Indeed. While I certainly think that those who oppose abortion, for instance (I would count myself as being in that group), are doing their darnedest to try to change the law and to protect the innocent who so desperately need our assistance, what good has it really done? Our opposers are more firmly entrenched because of the vitriol of some and they liken the words coming forth from well-meaning and dedicated people (Laity and Bishops alike) to hate speech and at best, mean-spiritedness.

I don’t think that’s the message that people need or even want to hear. It doesn’t call us to change and it doesn’t produce results apparently.

What do people want? They want two things: action and results.

It seems to me that this is what the nuns were doing pretty darn well and their heroism seems to be brushed off because they didn’t spew venom often enough.

Even with a Republican President for 4 years recently and a congress that also shared those principles what were we able to do about abortion?

Nothing.

That’s not a good record. And we should be ashamed. All of us.

There’s an old adage that some in the church should carefully heed.

“It’s time to put up or shut up.”

Why, might I add, haven’t we heard much about a small organization called Malta House in the state of Connecticut –a state I might add, that just abolished the death penalty?

Just a sample of what Malta House does:

Malta House promotes the dignity of God given life by providing a nurturing home environment, support services, and independent living skills to expectant mothers of all faiths, and to their babies.

Residents of Malta House participate in educational programs covering issues of Health, Nutrition, Parenting and Child Development. During their stay at Malta House, mothers also receive guidance designed to foster a positive self image for themselves and their children. Personal finance and budgeting advice is offered to promote self sufficiency as our young families assimilate back into the community.

In addition, each resident agrees to participate in an individualized educational component that may include GED preparation or certificate programs at a local community college. Tutoring is provided to support the rigors of each class.

Michael O’Rourke, Malta House’s founder, is a saint in my opinion. He put up and then he didn’t shut up–rather he went and spoke to thousands of people leaving no stone unturned in order to gain support for his cause. It was an easy sell. And he did it all with grace and a quiet voice of peace.

So why, might I ask, has nobody bothered to say…

“Y’know what might be a good idea? Let’s have one of these Malta Houses in every diocese! Heck, let’s have two! Get O’Rourke on the phone.”

It would provide jobs, care, and it’s clearly a pro-life message that can be seen and produces results.

Do we think that the secular left couldn’t get behind that? Despite the law, we Catholics need to find ways to support the cause of life ANYWAY.

And other causes that support and claim who we are–a people of action.

Or we can just keep crying foul as a voice of doom that claims that the whole world is going to hell in a handbasket and we are powerless to change that because of those pesky little laws.

Now c’mon folks, we’re smarter than this. A lot smarter.

Perhaps, as Dionne suggests, we should heed the words of John XXIII:

“Distrustful souls see only darkness burdening the face of the earth. We prefer instead to reaffirm all our confidence in our Savior who has not abandoned the world which he redeemed.”

And as Dionne rightfully notes: “The church best answers its critics when it remembers that its mission is to preach hope, not fear.”

Amen.

Oh! And if you’d like to help to Malta House click here—their gala event is Thursday!

Rebuilding Christ’s Church

Congratulations to Br. Dan Horan, OFM, who will be ordained this coming week and who just graduated as the Valedictorian of the last class at Washington Theological Union, which is closing.

Over at his fine blog, Dating God, Br. Dan speaks of the ornateness of the Basilica of St Mary in Assisi, Italy in his valedictory address and how his meditation there led him into a deeper vocational call that has a message for each of us.

As the conference winded down, I snuck away early to pray at the little chapel that is the mother church and founding location for the Franciscan movement.

Called the Portiuncula, or “the little portion,” this centuries-old chapel is about the size of one of our WTU classrooms. It is small and simple and was the church most loved by Francis of Assisi. In the centuries after his death, the Franciscans and the universal church, in order to honor and protect this sacred space, built a gigantic basilica over the Portiuncula.

The basilica church is simply huge, with an imposing presence outside in the open piazza and inside with its massive and overarching structure of marble and stone. My thought has always been that Francis was likely rolling in his grave at the thought of such opulence and excess. But then I realized something that might be insightful for us today. I asked myself: Where is the Church of St. Mary of the Angels? Is it this massive, imposing, stone basilica? Or is it the tiny, fragile, simple church, which is housed within?

The more I considered it, the more I realized that on the one hand, it is both. They are intertwined, the large church protects and shelters the small church, it provides the context and sets the environment. Yet, the small church gives meaning and purpose to the large basilica and it is where Francis’s heart was located. His work and his way of life arose out of the small church – the little portion – and transformed religious life and spirituality forever. If Francis were alive today, I wonder if he wouldn’t still have problems with the big, imposing basilica; with its opulence and with the message it seems to project about what is important and what is not. But, Francis would likely not be as bothered as I can be at times today as a friar coming “home” to the spiritual center of my religious order. He would, I think, still focus his attention and energy and direct his love toward the little Church, the Portiuncula.

It is there that he came to hear the quiet voice of the Spirit calling him to live his baptismal vocation to the fullest.

It was there that the early brothers, inspired by the would-be saint, joined Francis in fraternity and ministry.

It was there that the young noblewoman Clare of Assisi professed her commitment to follow Francis’s way of life.

It was there that women and men, the poor and the privileged, the powerful and the marginalized alike sought out the pastoral care and spiritual guidance of the man who would become Christianity’s most popular saint.

It was there, at the Portiuncula, that Francis asked to have his naked body laid so that, as he entered this world in total poverty and completely dependent on God, he might leave this world in similar fashion.

And, I came to realize while praying in the tiny church, that all of us here have our own Portiunculas, our own “small portions” of the church, like Francis had St. Mary of the Angels.

For some of the graduates, your Portiuncula is at the side of a hospital bed or in the waiting room of an oncology wing, where your hearts are led by the Spirit to reveal the compassionate face of our loving God to the sick and dying.

For some of the graduates, your Portiuncua is found in the parish church where you help form the spiritual life of the faithful, minister to people during their most joyful and sorrowful moments, and share the good news of Jesus Christ in so many ways.

For some of the graduates, your Portiuncula is located in the classroom, educating students about the richness of the theological and spiritual traditions of our faith, guiding and mentoring the next generation of Catholics and other Christians during their most formative years.

For some of the graduates, your Portiuncula is in place yet to be imagined in a world that so desperately needs the Gospel, and with people who wholeheartedly long for the life-giving word that God loves them and journeys with them in life.

Like Francis of Assisi, each of us graduates has received – in some form or another – the vocational call of the Spirit to “Rebuild Christ’s Church.”

Read the rest of his address, but know that this call is not just for graduates, rather it is for us all. We are all called to the Portiunculas of our lives. It may be to the bedside of a sick parent or child, to the homeless down the street, to the neighbor struggling to make ends meet, that co-worker who can’t seem to do anything right these days and fears unemployment and of course to all of those jobless and filled with worry.

And we are called to ourselves. Where our deepest fears need to meet with God’s mercy and love to find that God can meet us in the Portincula too and calm out fears and fulfill our deepest desires if we just hone our relationship with God a tiny bit more each day hearing the words of St. Peter, “To whom shall we go, Lord? You have the words of eternal life.”

Congratulations to WTU’s final class, especially Br. Dan and Rich Andre, CSP and Tom Gibbons, CSP. As ordination awaits each of you, may you be filled by the grace God imparts each day and may that grace lead you to be more of who God calls each of you to be.

And may God call each of us to the same vocation.

Loving Work: The New Book

So, I’ve been working on a book with Orbis Press (who has been such a pleasure to work alongside) on discernment regarding work issues. It’s a short book but one that I think will help lots of people understand the ideas behind discernment. It’s filled with stories from my life and others that connect to issues and ideas around discernment.

As time grows a bit closer to the release date in October/November we’ll be pushing this a bit harder. But I have several workshops planned that your parish, diocese, organization can choose from on discernment. Everyone will come away with a process to help them in their individual discernment. Suggestions for spiritual directors and others who help people discern can also be offered.

This was a fun book. It’s a book I always wanted to write and the stories were such fun to recall. Some funny, some tragic, some moving and all of them helpful to the process of discernment.

As we head into the home stretch, we’ll tell you how to buy it.

Millennials Want Spiritual Directors

The Boston Globe reports an uptick in people seeking spiritual directors, especially amongst younger people.

Driving the growth are millennials like Weaver, who are more apt than previous generations to identify as “spiritual but not religious.’’ Ed Cardoza, Weaver’s spiritual director and the founder of Still Harbor, a South Boston nonprofit, mostly sees people in their 20s and 30s.

Some, he says, are evangelical Christians who have a strong relationship with Jesus but realize, after arriving in Boston from the Midwest or South to study, that they differ with their parents’ church over political or sexual issues. Others have little religious background but find themselves undergoing a spiritual awakening and do not know where to turn.

“What you recognize is there’s this growing population of folks who are out of the purview of traditional institutions,’’ Cardoza said.

That’s been my experience for sure. Lots of young people want to make time for this and seek a trusted source to help them make the big decisions of their lives. Some even like a group experience of doing this while others prefer a one to one companion.

The other group seeking direction according to the Globe are people who are thrust into a spiritual search because of traumatic experiences—again proving my book. The $20 is in the main, Boston Globe.

Ardently faithful people of all ages form the other major group seeking spiritual direction. Often, they are confronting a trauma or transition or want to deepen a particular aspect of their faith or practice. Asking their priest or rabbi for spiritual direction is not always an option. Often clergy limit the number of sessions they have with individuals in order to focus on the broader congregation. Many also lack the training to provide the kind of “sacred listening’’ required in spiritual direction.

In a society that is increasingly comfortable hiring experts as private consultants – personal trainers, personal organizers, life coaches – the decision to seek out a personal spiritual director no longer seems as exotic as it once might have.

I am offering this experience in Buffalo for students, faculty and staff and young adults and the occasional non-young adult. It’s been a great blessing for me in my ministry to sit and listen to the stories of others and seeing where they find God and helping them to form their own image of God more tangibly.

The truth of course is that spiritual directors really don’t direct anything. The real director is Jesus, we just companion people and keep them connected to Christ by pointing out where they might be more open and able to see God working in their life.

A young woman who has been one of my directees reminded me that often she’d come to me with the same experience that was troubling her. She felt disconnected for months and she sometimes wondered if direction was working. Together we stuck it out and she started to see glimmers of where God was working in her life and then, while praying in a Eucharistic Adoration service, she encountered the forgiving love that Christ offers her in a new and intimate way.

I think that’s what people really want from spiritual directors. They want someone who points them back to experiences of God and encourages them to remember that consolation is not far off, even when it seems that God is absent in their lives.

Spiritual direction is a ministry of listening. We hear where people are meeting God and try to connect them to that experience. We listen for God’s voice creeping in through the words and situations of individual souls who long for connection with the divine–especially when times are not good and things happen that are unfair or tragic and one just can’t seem to make sense out of it. But ultimately, God is really the director and my job is to point people in God’s direction.

People are often drastically in need of someone to talk to in a disconnected and alienated world. Some even desperately will seek having a spiritual conversation online through email, Skype or Facebook. And since St. Ignatius said allowances should be made for people to experience the spiritual exercises should be made, I find no issue with that kind of relationship in spiritual direction. Or I at least have no issue with experimenting with that.

That said, if you’re looking for a spiritual director, I’d be happy to help you find one–or even be your director if that’s a good fit for us. Spiritual directors international is another good resource.

Spiritual directors have been a blessing for me in my life. I pray that they become a blessing for you as well.

My New Hero

We need more people like Greg Smith in the corporate world. He resigned from Goldman Sachs and unveiled a culture that has lost it’s way in the process.

From the NY Times:

For more than a decade I recruited and mentored candidates through our grueling interview process. I was selected as one of 10 people (out of a firm of more than 30,000) to appear on our recruiting video, which is played on every college campus we visit around the world. In 2006 I managed the summer intern program in sales and trading in New York for the 80 college students who made the cut, out of the thousands who applied.

I knew it was time to leave when I realized I could no longer look students in the eye and tell them what a great place this was to work.

When the history books are written about Goldman Sachs, they may reflect that the current chief executive officer, Lloyd C. Blankfein, and the president, Gary D. Cohn, lost hold of the firm’s culture on their watch. I truly believe that this decline in the firm’s moral fiber represents the single most serious threat to its long-run survival.

Over the course of my career I have had the privilege of advising two of the largest hedge funds on the planet, five of the largest asset managers in the United States, and three of the most prominent sovereign wealth funds in the Middle East and Asia. My clients have a total asset base of more than a trillion dollars. I have always taken a lot of pride in advising my clients to do what I believe is right for them, even if it means less money for the firm. This view is becoming increasingly unpopular at Goldman Sachs. Another sign that it was time to leave.

Read the rest…it should be required reading for business students.

Sometimes it’s best to just walk away. I wonder if burning this bridge will hurt him in the long run but I also hope someone sees this and realizes that we need people with his kind of integrity.

Listen Me Into Life

Yesterday’s gospel turns the tables on a lot of social conventions. For instance, we heard in our first reading how lepers were “outsided” from the community and had to yell “unclean, unclean” so others wouldn’t come near them and risk being contaminated by disease and also become ritually unclean, unable to enter the temple.

But when we turn to the gospel, the leper comes forth and violates that convention and Jesus touches him–another violation. And the leper is included in society once again by being made clean.

The homeless in New York City will tell you that it’s bad enough to be poor or to be addicted to drugs but what’s worse is the averting of the eyes– people often ignore them calling for change or food and thus, turn them into invisible people. I’m often surprised by how unwilling people are to listen to someone else. Often I too, have that unwillingness.

I’m reading a book right now called Holy Listening by an Episcopalian priest, Margaret Guenther, a longtime spiritual director, hospital chaplain and teacher. It should be required reading for spiritual directors, like myself. A great Paulist priest Jim Young once reminded his brothers that “You can actually listen someone into existence again.” I’ve found that to be true in my own spiritual direction sessions with others –and even in my own with my own director.

One story that touched me in Guenther’s book was when she was finished after a long day of listening at the hospital. A New Yorker, she began the journey towards the subway and longed to escape into her paperback and become another anonymous rider.

Alas, it was not to be. Her clerical collar betrayed her wishes as a disheveled woman got on the subway, spotted her collar and sat down and began to unload her story. She was a drug addict and headed for rehab. She hoped that she would make it this time, as many of us know the demons of addition are difficult to overcome. Margaret listened intently and offered her some brief comforting words. Not sure if her words were the right ones, she hoped that she could have at least provided a respite for this woman as she needed someone to talk to.

Of course, then the uncomfortable moment was on the horizon. Should Margaret give her some change or a dollar? As she rose to leave, the woman reached out and grabbed Margaret’s hand and pressed a subway token into it. “Thank you, sister.”

And there is grace. It reminds me of several gospel stories all at once. The widow’s mite, the woman at the well and even this gospel of the leper being made clean.

I think that’s what Margaret was able to do–she re-included this ignored woman, who sought an ear from someone that she thought would accept her. She, as Fr. Young aptly said, listened that woman into life again.

Who needs us to listen to them? Who do we often not have time for or patience for? Doctors often say that they are tempted to finish their patient’s sentences because they need to rush onto another patient. I know I often shortchange my wife who processes thoughts better by talking them out. These sins, if you will, are often undone by one experience of listening, even when exasperated by a day filled with listening.

The good news of the gospel is that God always listens to us and never tires of our groaning. Do we afford God that same courtesy? God whispers to us in the meandering of our days and finds us often deaf to his call, so deaf that his shouting doesn’t even work. Do we mask our unhappiness by refusing to hear that God is calling us elsewhere in our careers or ministry?

My last year at BustedHalo began with me examining that the pastoral side of my ministry was seriously lacking. As great as BustedHalo was, and is, it was and is, more based in media than in direct ministry. I know now that I’m called to the latter, especially in things like retreats and spiritual direction and even alternative breaks. My spiritual director at the time, Fr Rocco Danzi, SJ, could see this. And when I struggled to see that, myself he began to ask me about where I saw God working in me. Often this was when I was doing the ministry work that I loved doing and less of the media work that I enjoy but isn’t always my first call. I needed to leave BustedHalo and was afraid to make that leap. Fr. Rocco said directly, “Mike, I think you’re hearing a very clear call from God.” I replied, “Really, I don’t hear anything and am confused. I know something’s not right. What do you think God is telling me.”

And with a great Philly-style nash, Fr. Rocco said plainly, “God is telling you to get the hell out of there!”

I laughed, of course. And then, I cried. I knew I had to close that chapter, at least part way to grow into something new, something better, something and somewhere that God has called me into renewed life again. In my listening to others, I had also found myself again and thereby, had found God calling me to be that listener for others in ministry.

So today, let us listen to the whispers and screams that God offers us and also to the voices of those ignored, who often have nobody to listen to them. May our listening change our hearts and bring us into service of the poor and the vulnerable. May we listen to the voice of the unborn, of the mother too scared to bring her child into the world. May we hear the cry of the poor, the orphan and the person on death row. May we hear the voice of the dying words of the elderly, who are often lonely and just want a listener.

And may we hear ourselves, in brutal honesty, calling for God to show us more of who we are and where we are called.

And then, listen to that call and have the courage to follow it.

Rebirths on Birthdays

My friend Chris turned 30 and got depressed. We both worked in radio and while it’s a fine occupation, one can begin to wonder what difference that last show really made in people’s lives. Ask anyone who works with the public and they’ll tell you that people don’t call when you’re doing well and tell you how great things are. They instead call when they are annoyed and often Chris would be the fielder of those calls with me picking up his slack.

He was at a crossroads and for Chris, an upcoming promotion would indeed change his career, something us men define ourselves by all too often. Turning thirty was his re-birth into a greater way of life. I trailed him by a mere year or so, if memory serves. But at 30, I left my radio career behind for ministry and I never looked back. Besides a wonderful marriage and the love of a loyal dog my career has hinged on two web-ministry ventures, a semi-rebuilt Campus Ministry and a book with one on the way.

Recently, I’ve felt called to do more with spiritual direction, and specifically with those folks who are in transition at a young age–those looking for rebirth in their lives. I’ve been blessed to do this with university students, recent graduates, Catholic volunteers and a random older parishioner or two. Some days I’m challenged by them, wondering if their darkness will ever lift and why God doesn’t seem to lift their dread. Most days, grace abounds and we’re able to God working in our lives clearly and abundantly. And all days, regardless of desolation or consolation, I am simply blessed by the lives of these people. It is a privileged position that I have to sit and listen–and listen carefully. Some are asked to repeat an important line to bring it more into their consciousness, so as to witness to God’s love and life exhaling from their lips. It is there that we find grace in noticing, noticing our life and God’s love for us embedded somewhere in it–perhaps so deep within that it went unnoticed until that very moment where the lightning of grace strikes.

It seems to me that this is what a birthday should really focus on. We are not merely a year older, nor a step closer to death–two inevitabilities, we realize right off, of course. Rather, we are also entering a rebirth. An opportunity to find grace, notice it and move into life–more abundant life and to have it to the full. Where will this year take us? Where are we feeling reborn in our careers, our relationships, our life in conversation with Christ? Where will God call us and will we be willing to answer “yes” or “not now”? Who brings us into this abundant life and do we show them overflowing gratitude?

St. Ignatius would call this the search for the Magis, the greater, and a birthday for me, is an opportunity to look for just what that is in my life. The truth is that I really am becoming more generative as I age, I give back a bit more to others as a mentor now, than ever before. To do this, I also need to stay current and invest in new ventures for myself–being gutsy to try new things and open to God’s grace to witness to something new. Often it’s not for the feint of heart, finding myself amongst donated human cadavers, in the heat of Nicaragua’s summer, playing with refugee children, or simply living amidst the sacred and the secular on a state University’s campus and finding where religion is both neglected and openly welcomed.

Turns out most days, my life is quite exciting. And yet, the prospect of sitting and listening to others and noticing where they are and where they’ve been is where I find myself most joyful. Whether that’s as a ministry mentor for others like myself or a spiritual director with the young or as a writer, hoping to bring some inspiration where times are gloomy–it is all grace and peace and stillness and a great time to rejoice in what life God has given to us all.

So today, I ask for prayers for me on my 42nd birthday. That I may always be open to what God has in store for me. The number 42 is the number worn by Jackie Robinson, the man who broke the color barrier in major league baseball. Robinson, may not have been the best player in the Negro Leagues, but he was called to take on the hatred of early racism, even from his own teammates. He flew around basepads and was able to bring an entire race of people into a new and wonderful life, filled with a bit more freedom than they had before. Nobody in baseball can wear that number now (unless it was issued to them before it was retired. I believe Yankee reliever Mariano Rivera is the lone wearer of #42 now in MLB).

May we all have the grace to stand up for justice despite what may befall us for our stance or where it might lead us. May we be willing to hear God’s voice in our lives and not harden our hearts in bitterness. Rather, may we take time for quiet to hear the gentle whisper of Christ calling us to listen to our hearts, to the plight of the poor and to be fed with the gift of grace.