A few weeks ago, I sat elbow deep in far more work than I had time to complete. I hadn’t written Something To Think About for the bulletin that was due and the bulletin itself still needed attention. Though I’d completed the book of Christmas reflections that I hope to share with you this year, editing and formatting it into its final form had become more tedious with each passing day. It had been a long Sunday at church the day before, and I admit to being extremely tired. The elder good deacon’s hospice work and tasks here at St. Paul’s kept Mike busier than usual as well. When it took great effort to orchestrate our wedding anniversary celebration and recent visits with our granddaughters, I began to question the status quo. I decided to get my email out of the way before embarking on a contemplative walk through the neighborhood. I hoped that a few minutes in the fresh air would help me to regain my perspective, replenish my spirit and boost my energy level a bit.
Though my mind was already halfway out the door, I deleted the day’s allotment of spam, replied to the most pressing correspondence and then moved on. As I scrolled down, I found a message that I’d seen a few days earlier and saved because I didn’t have the time to read it. Busy as I was, I clicked to open and read what proved to be an amazing e-parcel of wisdom. This edition of The Spirit Today* seemed written especially for me. It offered the story of a couple who’d been deeply involved in ministry for many years. They’d recently arrived at a fork in the road that lay ahead of them. The couple had to choose between their ministry in a very busy city and a more recent opportunity in the country. They struggled and prayed with the hope that the better choice would become evident to them. Finally, the woman asked her husband how he felt about his day-in and day-out work in the city. The man replied honestly that it had become an obligation. The woman then asked how he felt about the ministry they’d shared in the country. The man characterized this work as “pure joy”. The man’s very wise wife declared, “At our age, we have a right to choose joy over obligation.” So it was that the couple embraced their new opportunity to serve in the country. As for me, I decided against my walk that day. The Spirit Today* had revived my spirit and adjusted my perspective just enough to urge me on through the tasks that lay before me. It also gave me the inspiration I needed to write today.
As I worked on, I recalled a time when staffing the desk in the gathering space here at church became more “obligation” than “joy” for me. A very generous Jeanne Graff had stepped up to assist me in this ministry some time earlier. After faithfully managing her post for years, Jeanne moved north to be near her daughter and grandson. I’d so enjoyed Jeanne’s company and her “in charge” demeanor that I’d forgotten just how much work it is to remain at the desk all Sunday morning. My face must have revealed the wear and tear I was feeling because an observant parishioner approached me one Sunday to ask, “Mary, is there anything I can do to help you?” That wonderfully insightful and generous question began our Information Desk Ministry. Ever since, Paula Mengarelli has managed staffing the desk with equally generous volunteers. Needless to say, the “obligation” regarding this work has returned to “pure joy” for me.
You know, many of our parishioners give of their time and talent on a day-in and day-out basis. As they continue to step up to the plate whenever they’re needed, I offer a prayer of thanks for them with a P.S: Dear God, please don’t let them get burned out. It’s painful to feel burned out! Next weekend, September 10 and 11, you can help God to answer my prayer. We’re celebrating Ministry Weekend here at St. Paul’s. Representatives from each ministry will be available after all of the Masses to answer any questions you may have regarding how you can help to keep our vibrant and welcoming parish family alive and well. Next weekend’s bulletin will be a directory of every ministry and its contact person. When you consider what you might do to enrich our parish family, don’t feel obligated to respond. Rather, choose something, just one thing, to be your personal opportunity to bring joy to those around you and to yourself. You’re offer to help may be just what is needed to return one weary volunteer’s obligation to pure joy.
©2011 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved
*The Spirit Today is a meditation written by Bridget Purdome who ministers with her husband, our younger good deacon Mark. See www.TheSpiritToday.com to receive this inspiring reflection every day for free.