“After this I had a vision of a great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation, race, people, and tongue. They stood before the Lamb, wearing white robes and holding palm branches in their hands. They cried out in a loud voice, ‘Salvation comes from our God.’” Rev 7:9-10a
I stood in front of the room scanning the faces of my 7th grade religious education class. One girl in the front doodled aimlessly. Two boys in the back took turns whispering to each other and breaking into quiet laughter. A few others watched my every move, trying to size me up and determine what they could expect in the coming year. It was my first time serving as a catechist; I felt terrified, vulnerable, and alone.
I took a deep breath and prayed. I invoked St. Anthony (my mother’s favorite saint) to help me find the right words. I offered a plea to Mary, who guided Jesus in his early faith. I asked for support from my deceased grandmother, a kind and wonderful teacher of music. I even prayed to St. Jude, patron of the impossible! I gained courage from knowing I was not truly alone, that the entire company of saints walked with me, offering inspiration, wisdom, and guidance.
The month of November is a particularly appropriate time to recall the countless people of faith who have gone before us and in whose footsteps we walk. We have a rich spiritual heritage, a foundation of holiness and wisdom supporting us in our journey. All of us, living and dead, are connected to God and therefore to each other. We should not be afraid to call upon those who have faithfully responded to God’s call, just as we try to live out our vocation in this world.
Perhaps, too, we should keep the company of the saints in mind as we scan our room full of young people. Who knows what fruit will come of the seeds we plant in their hearts? Many of the saints began their faith journey in humbler rooms than these, and God works in surprising and delightful ways. Is this doodler the next great artist that God will inspire? Is one of those boys an Aquinas or Rahner? Will one of the other children become an Oscar Romero or Mother Teresa?
I scanned the room that day and prayed. God opened my eyes to the gifts and the potential before me. God also gently reminded me that, like all the saints through the ages, I am but an instrument in God’s hands. There was no need for terror, and no need to feel alone. I smiled to myself, walked to the center of the room, and began my journey with these precious children of God.
© Amy Florian, 2010