I am blessed to have a job that has opened my eye to God’s presence more than I can explain. I’m a parish employee, and I have made unlikely friends and gotten to know dear people who I would have never crossed paths with, if not for this wonderful opportunity. As a parish employee, I also see the turmoil and the conflict of things a little closer than I’d like, and there are times that I field calls at home (or let them go to voice mail, I admit). However, overwhelmingly, my office job has given me a lens to spy on God and see some of his work up close.
For one thing, I bring my child to work with me. This is the best (and worst?) of both worlds: no fuming about daycare (and no paying for it!), no being trapped in my own house (which would not be good for the mental health of any of us!).
I also have the joy of working for a priest. (Well, as we always maintain, The Boss is the guy upstairs…Father often tells me he’s “going to chat with The Boss” or “off to see the wizard” before he leaves for prayers.) And this is not just any priest. This is the priest who convinced me to become Catholic. This is the priest who is like a family member to me. This is the dear bachelor in my life, who has to pay someone to nag him, who has given his life to God. We were joking about who had a better mother-in-law the other day (he wins). Everyday has a laugh within it, and I have him to thank for that.
For another thing, I gain the wisdom of those who have gone before me. I talk to women many times throughout my day, and this collection of angels has taught me more than all my years of schooling. They have encouraged me with my daughter, with interpersonal conflicts, with my lack of cooking skills. They have prayed with me and for me, and showed me that the best way to be friends is by praying together. These women call just when I need them to (coincidence? I think not!), they send me cards or emails to boost my spirits, and they turn around during Mass to smile and give me a thumbs-up when my daughter’s trying to single-handedly carry the entire choir’s responsibility (at the Eucharistic prayer, I might add). These are the women who lecture me if I leave Mass due to a touchy toddler, and the women who hear the tears in my voice when I’m sending an email. These women, along with my really amazing husband and his sisters, have proven to me that I CAN be a mother, that I AM good enough to do a great job, that
Being a parish employee has made me a peeping Tom of sorts. I hear about those people my age who have cancer, and don’t want anyone to know it. Then I hear “Praise God for the miracle” and find out that everything is going to be OK. I see a young husband die, leaving three children and a wife, along with much extended family, and I also see the response of our parish family, defining family in the very best sense of the word. (“Oh, the phone’s been disconnected? We’ll just stop over with flowers and dinner.”) I wonder to myself if I’m on the right path with my life, and I receive no less than three visits, phone calls, emails, and random communications that confirm to me that yes, my ministry here is for a reason and for a higher purpose. (God must be driving, because I sure wouldn’t be able to do any of this without him!) I hear about the miraculous conceptions and see the miraculous babies born and raised.
But I also see the cancer that doesn’t get a miraculous cure. I see the couple who cannot have a child. I share the pain of the family that lost a parent, and I feel empathy for the woman who’s out of communion with the church right now, awaiting news of her annulment.
Sometimes, I feel like I’m sitting really close to where God must sit. I think I get a glimpse of heaven in the joy of a young mother, in the unexpected laughter of a baby, in the hug of a priest to a child. I can share my joy in my Catholic faith, and I receive the joy of others and in turn grow.
When my job and my life are difficult, presenting hurdles and challenges, there’s always a reminder to take it to God. When things are going well, there’s always someone to share in the joy, and someone else who needs some joy. My call to prayer and my call to ministry are one and the same. It is this call that makes these close encounters possible, I think. And it’s the close encounters that make me come back for more. You might say I’m addicted to them…