During a Zoom meeting over two months ago with nine old friends (they’ve been getting together for over ten years; I regret not joining them sooner), I asked them to tell me about their journey. Each tale was fascinating, but the last guy’s story blew me away, and I wanted to share it with you.
Almost apologetically, he said he is a priest, holds doctorates in theology and psychology, and finds Christianity is most dynamic in relatively small communities of people. He said God is present in his life, and his ministry is to help others realize God is present in their lives and is searching to engage them—it’s a two-way street, a fact that I was reminded of when I heard Lady Gaga sing her Oscar-nominated song”Hold My Hand” at the Oscars a couple of weeks ago. Once you realize God is leading the way, it’s easier to be patient, to solve explainable problems with God’s grace and your God-given talents, to bear inexplicable tragedies and difficulties, and to find joy and peace of mind. He used a line from Emily Dickinson to illustrate his philosophy of life:
“The Sailor cannot see the North-but knows the Needle can.”
The group agreed, or so I sensed from the comments, that the quote is a provocative and accurate metaphor for the worldview of a believer. Life is hard, but it’s made bearable and even joyful if you accept that God is leading the way as you go forward. I told him the quote is inspiring and added that I think he is right that the Christian message, particularly as described in the Beatitudes, comes to life most effectively among small groups of people, and mentioned that that is my experience in volunteering with St. Vincent de Paul Society where about thirty volunteers (over fifty if spouses are included) work together to try to serve the poor. He responded with enthusiasm and said SVDP is a fantastic example of a dynamic Christian community. He then offered up a quote from St. Vincent de Paul that I had never heard but instantly recognized as the heart of the Vincentian mission:
“The hour for mental prayer comes round; if you hear the poor calling for you, mortify yourselves and leave God for God.”