I was sitting at my desk one evening reminiscing about the places and people I’ve been blessed to serve as a youth minister, and one in particular reminded me of how the Holy Spirit can work anyWHERE, any TIME, with anyONE. So without further ado, let me tell you the story of the Little Monsters and the Gifts of the Holy Spirit.
In 2011 I was discerning a possible vocation to religious life with the Salesians of Don Bosco and entered the novitiate (think boot camp for religious) in a small village in New York called Port Chester. After a particularly memorable Christmas dinner with the parish staff and my community, I went back to my room and spent some time thinking about the Gifts of the Holy Spirit.
So I sat and thought for a while about these gifts of the Holy Spirit. At least the ones I could remember. And then I looked them up: Wisdom, Understanding, Right Judgment, Courage, Knowledge, Reverence, and Wonder and Awe in God’s Presence. And I thought back to the evening of my Confirmation in April of 2005. I had just made a SEARCH retreat and I was high on the Love of God, and I thought, I should be confirmed. Three days later, I’m sitting in the church prepping myself for the reception of what would be my fourth Sacrament, and the pastor asked us to pray for one specific gift that would mark our adult life as a Catholic.
I should maybe back up a bit here- at this time I was not yet teaching, I was going to school, I had just finished putting the thought of being a Salesian out of my head, but I was also working on starting a Young Adult Ministry for the Western Province of the Salesians (a Province is a community of religious communities in a congregation, usually grouped by location. In my case, the Western Province for the Salesians includes California and Texas). My primary mindset at the time was “You’re only worth as much as you know.” People who were, in my young mind, constantly trying to wrongly correct me were cast aside in favor of my more academic friends. Head over heart. I’ll be the first to admit that I was a royal pain in the you-know-where.
Back to Confirmation night- I am sitting in the pews with my godmother/sponsor, and I’m thinking in my head, I want WISDOM. God, I want a sharp mind. None of that fluff stuff. Reverence can go by the wayside, that’s for the old ladies. Wonder and awe is for little kids, I want wisdom.
Fast forward a few years- I’m getting ready to formally enter the Salesian Congregation as a novice, and I find myself sitting in the pews of Holy Rosary church in Port Chester praying for a particular gift of the Holy Spirit. This time, however, I’m not worried about wisdom. I’m sure that it will come with age. (I hope it will come with age.) This time, I ask for something special- Wonder and Awe in the Presence of God.
And then I receive my first official ministry as a novice. The five of us were assigned to be Catechists on Sundays. My assignment? First Graders. I would be spending my Sundays with eighteen six-year-olds.
I had to ask for Wonder and Awe.
Thinking about it, I’m convinced that having a keen sense of Wonder and Awe is essential to being a great Youth Minister. I rediscovered that year (and continually remember) why I love teaching so much- I live for the light bulb moments. When one of my little ones understands something, they light up in such a way that it can only be the Holy Spirit working, and when that happens, all I can do is stand back and just enjoy the moment. One moment I’m explaining something, the next moment, I hear a “whoa” from one of them, and there is what can only be described as Sacred Silence- we just sit there for a moment to take it in. Six year olds having a moment of revelation. And I get to be present for it.
And then I find myself sitting at my desk thinking to myself, thank God I asked for Wonder and Awe.
My Little Monsters, circa 2011.
I usually like to close my blog posts with a song to listen to and reflect on, so if you get the chance, check out You Take My Breath Away by Eva Cassidy.