Fear Not, Little Flock

My youngest granddaughter celebrates her first birthday on August 20. A year ago on that date, I was at New Melleray Abbey in Iowa for my pre-ordination retreat. I left home feeling pretty good about the fact that my daughter was due to have her first child any day. Anne had things well in hand, so I left for Iowa with a sense of peace.

I arrived on a beautiful Sunday afternoon. I settled in for what would be my last official retreat before ordination. I had a déjà-vu experience that first evening, as I entered the dark monastery chapel after sunset. I reflected back to my first retreat at this abbey several years earlier. I was a new seminarian, and my head was filled that day with more than it could hold. I quickly realized how much I didn’t know, and how difficult it would be to learn all that I needed to know, if I was to be ordained.

I sat there in the silence of that chapel and remembered how I felt four years earlier. I asked myself at that time what I was doing in this place. Did I really think I could be ordained a deacon? I smiled as the thoughts came rushing back to me. I asked some of those same questions again, in the darkness of the stone chapel.

I arose early on Monday morning. I could not get a cell phone signal inside the monastery, so I found myself in the parking lot with several other men, who were also trying to call home. I reached Anne, and the news was frightening. She told me that something might be wrong with the baby, and she was heading to the hospital with our daughter. On my way back into the building, I ran into our formation director. He had just received a voicemail saying that his wife was ill.

Our retreat master chose a reading from Luke, Chapter 12 to start our retreat meditation. It begins with Jesus saying these words to his disciples:

“Do not be afraid any longer, little flock, for your Father is pleased to give you the Kingdom.”

Later that day, I learned that our formation director had to return home, because his wife was hospitalized. I later found out that his wife had cancer. I pondered this gospel message, as I asked God to take care of my daughter, the baby, my friend and his wife. I pondered what these words meant for a man who was months from ordination and still wondering if this plan of God’s would be fulfilled in me.

I prayed as I poured over these words and reflected on fear in my life. I wrote the word “fear” down the side of my journal and made an acronym:

Faith

Extinguished

As a

Result

God was calling me to something new, and I was afraid.   I was 300 miles from home, and I wasn’t sure if my grandchild would be born healthy and well. Our retreat master reminded us that God has given us the Kingdom!   We are children of the King, and God has promised so much to us, so we need not fear. Fear works against our faith. It paralyzes us and opens the door to all kinds of irrational thoughts and ideas. Fear is one of Satan’s favorite weapons. I wanted to trust that God was in control, because I sure wasn’t.

So what happens when we cast off fear and turn our hearts, minds and lives over to God in total surrender and trust? The answer is that we begin to live the Kingdom right here on earth! Fear is diminished when we realize that we must rely totally on our loving Father for everything that we have. Faith is a powerful gift. In St. Paul’s letter to the Hebrews, faith is defined as the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen. My faith was tested, but, as usual, God had a lesson in mind.

On August 20, 2015, Emerson Rose was born healthy and well.

On December 5, 2015, I prostrated myself on the floor of the Cathedral and promised obedience to the Archbishop, as I was ordained a deacon.

On December 6, 2015, I baptized Emerson Rose as one of my first official acts as a newly ordained deacon.

As for my formation director, his wife is now cancer-free one year after her diagnosis. Praise God!

God is with us through the storms and the sunshine. So fear not, little flock, for your Father is pleased to give you the Kingdom! Let’s live as children of the King, trusting God in our every need.

May God’s Kingdom reign in our hearts,

Deacon Tim

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