There’s a guy named Tom in a nearby parish. A few years ago, he began to take a more active role in the community. In the process, he has found some more ways to share his gifts with others. The story of how he got started may have some helpful elements for those of discerning.
One Sunday after Mass, Tom felt a longing in his heart. He went over to a statue of the Blessed Mother and asked for help. Soon after, another parishioner approached and invited him to participate in a gardening ministry and to a class on the faith. Tom said yes to both.
He liked the class. It was simple and practical. He finished that one and then took three more. His understanding of the faith grew and he enjoyed the camaraderie.
He also enjoyed the gardening ministry. He began to faithfully attend the meetings and to work at the “gardening parties.” Having MS and being in an electronic wheelchair did not slow his enthusiasm. He is now a leader in the thriving ministry.
Tom also began attending Mass more often. Now one can find him there a half-hour early everyday. And he often makes himself available to socialize after as well.
Tom also began returning to pray in the afternoon, while enjoying the fruits of his and the gardening ministry’s labors.
Tom seems to really enjoy serving and participating at the parish in these various ways. I once got to talk to him about what he prays about in the afternoons. He said that he comes to thank God for all that he has done for him.
Recently a Cardinal visited our campus to give a talk and he celebrated Mass at the seminary the next morning. He said that prayer consists of three parts: giving praise to God, telling him our needs, and then placing our trust in him. It is said that one way to show God our trust is by giving him thanks.
Tom’s story seems to be a good example of how to pray. It began at Mass, where we worship God. Then he shared his needs with God through the Blessed Mother. And now he takes time to give God thanks (and trust).
Scripture tells us that when we are relating well to God, there will be fruit in our lives and in the lives of others. (Joy, peace, patience, etc.) There is a helpful explanation that goes with that concept though: a plant or tree cannot produce fruit at the snap of a finger. It takes time along with water and sunlight. But, as Scripture reminds us, while others may plant or water, “God [causes] the growth (1Cor 3:6).”
A few years ago, I heard a speaker say that the spiritual life is all about trying and trusting. (He was talking about St Therese.)
It’s a very helpful concept for seminary where we are trying to grow in various ways. Most of the seminarians I talk to seem to wonder how we will ever grow in the ways we need to. Together with Tom, we are learning that as we work, we must place our trust in God, and not in ourselves, to produce the fruits we need and desire.