Jul 21 – Memorial for St. Lawrence of Brindisi, priest, religious, doctor
St. Lawrence (1559-1619) joined the Capuchin Friars in 1575. He studied theology, the Bible, French, German, Greek, Spanish, Syriac, and Hebrew. He was an effective and forceful preacher in any of his several languages, founded convents and wrote catechisms.
As the chaplain of the army of the Holy Roman Empire in 1601, he led the army into battle against the Turks carrying only a crucifix, and defeated them. Later, he carried out important and successful diplomatic peace missions. He was the spiritual director of the Bavarian army. St Lawrence was proclaimed Apostolic Doctor of the Church by Pope John XXIII in 1959.
– Patron Saint Index
Others fell on rich soil and produced their crop…
I have heard several vocation stories in the past week because for some reason, priests and seminarians had decided to share their stories all at the same time. In addition, people around me and close to me have also experienced a ‘change of plans’ in their personal or professional lives. I suppose God knew that I needed inspiration for this reflection!
The vocation stories often included some degree of disbelief and disappointment when carefully thought out plans did not materialise. Of course, some of the personal and professional ‘change of plans’ were nothing short of spectacular upsets. At the end of it, things mostly turned out well. We may also have experienced certain change of plans that ended up alright, or even better than expected. This does not always happen, of course, and not always immediately. This is why Trust in God is important.
The reading from Exodus — where soon after being freed, the Israelites started complaining about everything, from the journey to hunger to thirst, to various dangers — should be familiar to us. If we are honest with ourselves, just a mere 5 minutes of reflection will bring to mind some of the many complaints we have made today. Nothing is ever good enough — the day did not go as planned; it rained; then it was too sunny; the restaurant I wanted to get a takeaway from was closed; traffic jam; kid threw a tantrum after dinner, etc….If I had counted my blessings, I would have seen that the day went well — we could have a whole day for family activities; we are not having a drought; won’t freeze either; we can afford to eat out; we have a car; the only ‘suffering’ my children go through is to be denied more sweets after having had 2 ice creams earlier in the day.
God provides. Even as we are being pushed and pulled away from our plans, out of our comfort zones and into the scary unknown, God provides. He will provide, because we are where He wants us to be. He is placing us where it is best for us and for others around us, and accordingly, He will give us what we need for that. God is sowing seeds on rich soil.
As I listened to the vocation stories, I couldn’t help but think that these priests truly are blessings to the people they have reached. That is not to say they would not have been blessings otherwise — who knows what God would have planned for them then? Yes they struggled and they questioned, but in the end, they followed where they were led. They trusted in God, seeds were sown in rich soil, and a bountiful crop was produced. Here is a beautiful prayer from St Therese of Lisieux, which is a very simple act of faith: “Jesus, help me to simplify my life by learning what you want me to be, and becoming that person.”
Each one of us has unique talents and ways of bringing Christ to others. We all have a vocation, no matter how big or small, and it is something that God has called us to do. It is normal to find it difficult to trust in God’s plan, especially when His plan involves disappointment and heartbreak. It is impossible not to plan, not to dream, not to hope, not to expect, and when these are being taken away from you, of course you will resist. Trusting in God is not easy, and most people are not blessed to see immediately the (often) better alternative that God has planned for them. At times, I wonder if it is not more blessed to be led roundabout, up and down, to meet with disappointments (in part due to our own stubbornness and resentment), then finally seeing that God had been leading you all along? I think the lesson would stick better this way.
In CS Lewis’ Prince Caspian, the Pevensie children and Trumpkin the dwarf were trying to find a way across a deep gorge. Lucy saw Aslan and urged the others to follow him as he asked. But because Lucy was the only one who saw Aslan, the others did not believe her, particularly because the route she pointed out (basically a drop down into the gorge) looked deadly. After a vote, the party moved in the opposite direction. Alas, they ended up directly in their enemies’ line of fire, and had to scramble back up the way they came. The others eventually gave in to Lucy’s insistence on following Aslan and slowly, as they descended the gorge without the slightest injury, they were able to see Aslan and realise that he had indeed been trying to lead them to safety.
We need to learn to trust in God, because He is leading us to where we need to be. We could also harden our hearts against His calling and end up with wilted saplings. While the decision is ours, we must remember and trust that He will provide for us, so that we can, in turn, be the rich soil that the seeds are sown in. Brothers and sisters, are we going to put our trust in God and live out our vocations, and be blessings to the people we love and serve?
(Today’s OXYGEN by Felicia Zou)
Prayer: Father God, teach us to seek you in all that we do. May we always remember that You are the centre of our lives, and that all that we do should be a testimony of Your dwelling in us.
Thanksgiving: Thank you Father, for always loving us and being there for us. Send your Holy Spirit to guide us in our journey.