A couple of years ago — can it be so long? — I was working long and hard hours on a big visioning project for our parish. Lots of writing, facilitating meetings, meeting to discuss the results of the meetings, distilling hundreds of ideas from hundreds of parishioners . . . you see what I mean.
At one meeting, on the feast day of the Immaculate Conception, a few of us were meeting to figure out how to proceed next. It’s a long story, but basically we tried tried to let the process develop itself as the Spirit led us, because it was essential that all the input of parishioners be meaningful and not put into predetermined boxes or categories. So.
So another adult convert and I were laughing about how we ended up at this table on this day. There was not a lot about us either as adolescents or young adults that would give us away as future Catholics and lay leaders. My friend said, “It must be the work of the Holy Spirit, because I know I’d never be here on my own steam.”
And here I am again, looking over the materials for my 4yo daughter’s Sunday school class, which I am going to start teaching this Sunday, thinking, “How on earth did I get here?” As I have many times, I remember the conversation with my friend and think, “Ah, it must be the Holy Spirit.”
I’m not sure I am the best qualified person to do this — working with preschoolers who are not my own is not my forte. I’ve been working on Pascal and Moses Mendlessohn in my “professional life,” pondering heady questions about reconciling reason with faith, enlightenment with tradition, social progress with individual dignity. That’s where I feel most at home.
But the Spirit moves in mysterious ways, doesn’t she? In the past I’ve been called to write and lead for my parish — gifts I’ve always known I have — but now I’m called to teach four-year-olds that God loves them, that God knows them by name, that God blesses us everyday with smiles, flowers, birds, clouds, and friends. I guess I’m being called to wipe up glue spills, lead songs, and find new uses for construction paper and stickers.
Sunday School teacher is not a destination I would have put on my itinerary if had had mapped out my life, which is why I try — I try, I don’t say I succeed — to do a little less mapping, a little more walking in that Cloud of Unknowing. (I’ve also been working on mystics!)
“Our intense need to understand will always be a powerful stumbling block to our attempts to reach God in simple love […] and must always be overcome. For if you do not overcome this need to understand, it will undermine your quest. It will replace the darkness which you have pierced to reach God with clear images of something which, however good, however beautiful, however Godlike, is not God.” [The Cloud of Unknowing, anon. 14th-century English monk]