Sometimes, it pays to procrastinate a bit.
Gerri and I were reminded yesterday, for example, that we had never followed up on our promise (a month or two or three ago?) to provide a few salient details about our recently ordained son — to be included in the parish history book now being compiled to commemorate our community’s 150th anniversary year.
While our tardiness was regrettable, I realized — as I completed the blurb last night — that the “wasted” months had in fact added a bit of definition to the story we could share about Chris’ priestly ministry. The first draft had read something like this:
Fr. Schroeder is continuing his theological studies at the Jesuit School of Theology…
Accurate, but not terribly satisfying — as least, not as content for a book that promises to hang around on the shelves for the next generation or two.
And in the past couple of weeks, we have learned more about Chris’ upcoming assignments — the ‘priestly’ work that (God willing) he’ll be doing for the next several years once his studies wrap up in a month or two. So the updated draft in the parish history book can now read like this:
After completing a licentiate of sacred theology in May, 2015, Fr. Schroeder will serve in parish and retreat center ministries for the Central & Southern Province of the U.S.
It was the rest of the detail in the blurb that got me thinking, though — as Gerri and I struggled to apply accurate dates to the milestones on our son’s path toward ordination. Like all good Jesuits, Chris had spent a LOOONG time in formation. He’d entered the Society in 2002, and was ordained just last June — so among other things, that’s a dozen years devoted to answering the question “How’s that seminarian-son of yours doing?” from friends and family members alike.
Today, of course, the question has shifted a bit. Folks want to know “What’s that priest-son of yours doing?” And frankly, it feels odd to say he’s “in studies”. I’m glad at long last to be able to mention the “real jobs” to which he’s been assigned.
At the same time, my fatherly discomfort reminds me of the wise words written once upon a time by another of my favorite Jesuits, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (the anniversary of whose death we mark today). It’s a widely-shared reflection entitled “Patient Trust”:
Above all, trust in the slow work of God.
We are quite naturally impatient in everything
to reach the end without delay.
We are impatient of being on the way to something
unknown, something new.
And yet, it is the law of all progress
that it is made by passing through
some stages of instability –
and that it may take a very long time.
And so it is with us.
Our ideas mature gradually – we should let them grow,
let them shape themselves, without undue haste.
Don’t try to force them on,
as though we could be today what time
(that is to say, grace and circumstances
acting on our own good will)
will make of them tomorrow.
Only God could say what this new spirit
gradually forming within us will be.
So let us give our Lord the benefit of believing
that his hand is leading us,
and ask that we can accept the anxiety of feeling ourselves in suspense and incomplete.
When I apply this wisdom…to my own experience as Chris’ father over the past 12 or 13 years…I think I come to a deeper appreciation of the mystery that Teilhard identifies.
If we allow ourselves to appreciate God’s “slow work”…and to accept the anxiety of feeling “in suspense and incomplete,” it’s then that we can be given some truly profound gifts — far beyond what we’d imagined on our own.
Let us pause now…to recall that we are in the presence of the Holy One.