Maybe it’s the answer, maybe it’s not. Only time will tell.
Time told me when St. Jude answered the last prayer request I carried to him. It’s not that he didn’t answer right away. He did, actually — over and over — but it wasn’t the answer I expected or wanted so I didn’t notice.
For some reason, I have always had trouble making life decisions. When I was younger, I came to understand that my parents unwittingly contributed to this by curtailing opportunities for decision-making when I was growing up. My mom crafted my wardrobe with her fashion sense. My dad chose the band instrument I would play. My mom discouraged my natural predilection for prayer and spiritual reading — which I found confusing because I thought we were a devout Catholic family. The examples could go on and on; suffice it to say that at the time in life when we should learn how to weigh options and choose, I learned only how to keep things which mattered hidden.
In time, I also came to realize that being alone in life didn’t really help either. Mom died while I was still in high school, and my relationship with my Dad was not such that I could go to him for guidance. After growing up in a home where the biggest decision I had been allowed to make was what time to get out of bed during the summer months, I was like a punctured balloon after leaving home — until eventually, as I approached 30, I found myself with two kids and a husband whose love of alcohol far exceeded his sense of responsibility for his family or his love for any of us.
Counseling stabilized my life — undoubtedly because God, who is good, led me to a gifted and loving counselor — but I was still alone and had accumulated a tremendous track record of poor decisions. The latter resulted in a lack of confidence in my ability to make good decisions. I kept trying, though. I kept putting one foot in front of the other — and enjoyed some success, but not the kind of stability that I desired. I wanted to belong some place. I wanted to be part of a community. I wanted to share my life with people who cared about me.
That kind of desperate need for others made me especially sensitive to betrayal. We are all hurt when we are betrayed by people we trust. For me, that kind of experience was devastating, bone-shatteringly, heart-shatteringly, paralyzingly devastating. I got to the point that it was easier to suffer than to make a decision to change. That’s where I was when I first prayed to St. Jude. I wanted to win the lottery. I had reasoned that if money couldn’t alleviate my loneliness, it could at least alleviate my suffering a little. I had a new lottery fantasy every day (too many that involved revenge), and prayed diligently to St. Jude for several weeks.
I didn’t realize until months later that St. Jude had answered my prayer during that time. I won with nearly every drawing — sometimes $1 and sometimes $3, which of course isn’t what I had in mind. I wanted the jackpot! I wanted my dream house. I wanted to travel. I wanted … I wanted … I wanted.
Eventually, I was nudged away from that place of suffering because I lost my job. God had begun working to answer another prayer, which wouldn’t come to fruition for a couple more years. However, that answer to prayer led me to the place where I am now — working as a temp, which means I change jobs every few months. The temp position comes after being with a training program for 18 months, where I changed jobs every few months. I don’t like changing jobs every few months, so I started a novena to St. Jude, asking for a permanent job that payed a decent wage and where people liked me.
Over the weekend, I found myself remembering an invitation that was extended to me first in June 2002, and has been repeated at intervals since by various people I’ve met. Have you ever considered the possibility that God is calling you to the ministry? I have one dear, dear friend who told me she wouldn’t stop praying until I took off the blinders I was wearing. The blinders? My Catholic faith — women can be involved in a number of ministries in the Catholic Church, but the priesthood is still a good ole’ boys club.
This weekend, I found myself thinking about this from a different angle. I have long believed that God is bigger than any one denomination — and as much as I love Pope Francis and the Eucharist, the Catholic Church doesn’t nourish me these days. The sense of community that made worship such a grace in Custer, for example, is lacking in California. And I am tired of deacons who know less about our faith than I do pulling magisterial teaching authority rank on me. I almost told one — but didn’t — your prick does not give you more knowledge of the Church than I have.
God has a tendency to nudge me to explore new options through experiences of dissatisfaction such as these, so I’m thinking this is not so much a matter of the Catholic Church going off the rail someplace as it is a matter of me discovering I am on the wrong train. Time will tell. If God is leading, doors will open and I will be able to go to seminary. If not, well, way leads to way — God needed this dissatisfaction for another reason.
We’ll see. Time will tell.