A prayer into thin air


A sacred hush fell over St. Andrew’s Catholic Church as parishioners filed out after Holy Thursday service, leaving only the sound of whispered prayers and rattling rosary beads from church-goers who had stayed in the sanctuary for adoration of the Eucharist.  I wasn’t sure what I was doing there, though.  I only knew that days earlier, I heard a whisper in my heart telling me to go to Holy Thursday service and to stay for the Eucharistic adoration that followed.  God must have wanted me there, I figured.  But whatever he was trying to tell me was getting lost in my own distracted and jumbled mind, even in a setting–Eucharistic adoration–that is usually calming to me.

I turned to my left and saw rows of flickering votive candles in blue glass holders arranged before a statue of Mary and the Christ Child a few yards away.  Maybe a change of scenery was all I needed to bring my mind into focus.  So I left my pew, made my way over to the side of the church, knelt before the statue, and, without really knowing why, lit one of the votive candles.

After it was lit, I noticed a prayer taped to the top of the kneeler that was meant to be offered up with the lit candles.  It was a prayer asking for preparation to be sent, asking to be made ready to do God’s work at a moment’s notice.  “Alright,” I thought as I glanced it over, “I guess that will be my prayer.”  I recited it, asked Mary for her help and prayers, and, finding that I was in a more prayerful state of mind, returned to the pews for a few more minutes of adoration before leaving the church.

A week later I received a call from the director of the Bishop Hodges Pastoral Center in Huttonsville, West Virginia, saying that he had reviewed my application for the center’s year-long missionary program and that he would like to interview me via Skype.

I had my interview this past Monday.  And I was offered the position on the spot at the conclusion of the interview.

It appears I didn’t light that votive candle in St. Andrew’s for nothing.

So in a few weeks, I’ll be hauling out to little Huttonsville, West Virginia to serve in youth and young adult ministries at the Bishop Hodges Pastoral Center and in other places in the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston for a full year.  Even though the prayer I offered as I lit that candle seems to have been answered, pursuing this opportunity still feels like a bit of a shot in the dark.  Or, maybe more accurately, a prayer into thin air.  I’m terrifically excited to begin a new adventure.  But I’m also not sure what to expect.  I’m not sure if it will lead me toward a clearer understanding of my calling.  I still find myself asking why exactly I’m doing this.  But I felt led to apply to the program, and I’m not about to stop following that lead.

Still, even though I like closure and clarity, I feel strangely at peace with my decision to go even though I don’t know why I’m going.  The prayer I recited as I lit my votive candle asked for the willingness and readiness to be sent even if the reason for being sent was unknown.

I think I’d like to return to St. Andrew’s and to that statue of Mary and the votive candles before I leave for West Virginia.  I’d like to snap a picture of that prayer or to scribble it into a notebook so I can keep it with me as my work in West Virginia gets underway.

Because eventually, I’m sure the side of me that likes closure and clarity and just knowing WHY things happen will show herself, maybe as I’m packing for the trip down there, or maybe as I begin my work, or maybe not until a few months in.  And I’m going to want that prayer for those moments when I don’t understand.  I’m going to need to remind myself that things that are hidden to me are known to God.

And I’m going to have to learn to be okay with that, which is something that I’m not sure I’ve done before.



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