|7/24/2014 10:06:00 AM|
If God could make me a teacher...
BY MATTHEW HOULEIt was almost 10 years ago that I walked into my classroom as a teacher for the first time. At first, I was excited to start teaching, but by the end of second period, I was thinking, "What have I gotten myself into?"
I didn't think that I could ever be a good teacher. I felt so inadequate next to those teachers who were so good at their job, enthusiastic and loving every minute of it. Now, I was wondering if they were crazy: How did they do what they did each day and not get overwhelmed, exhausted, stressed-out or driven completely insane?
At the time, I told myself, "Just survive until the end of the year and then look for a different job." I had no way of knowing what God had in store.
Over the next 10 years, I had the privilege of teaching the greatest students. I saw them learn, grow and mature. I saw God working in their lives and in mine. I was their teacher, but they were also teaching me.
The students had no way of knowing the profound effect that they would have on me. As I look back, I can see that God revealed Himself so often through them. In fact, I don't know if I would be a seminarian today if it weren't for them.
I fell in love with teaching. I became one of those crazy teachers who loved his job and couldn't wait to come back next year and do it all over again. Why did God make summers so long?
I know what readers are thinking: "If you loved teaching so much, why would you ever want to leave to become a seminarian?" My answer is simple: God loves me and knows me better than I know myself. He created me for a reason. If I want to be truly happy and fulfilled in life, all I have to do is follow His will.
The only question remaining was, "What is God's will?"
It took me a long time to figure out. It is not easy to discern God's will. I first started thinking of the priesthood when I was 15 years old; I didn't become a seminarian until I was 31. It took a lot of patience, fasting, prayer and listening for God's answer. I heard my call from my students, friends and even strangers who said things that, unbeknownst to them, seemed to be direct answers to prayers.
After the call comes the hard part: loving God enough to follow it. It requires great courage and love to follow God's will - and not sentimental, self-centered love, but real, self-sacrificing love taught by Christ. The world holds before us many things: wealth, pleasures, status, admiration, respect and the feel-good, sentimental love taught by movies and television shows.
But these are evanescent. St. Paul reminds us what is really important: "Faith, hope and love remain, these three; and the greatest of these is love." These are the virtues that allow us to know and follow God's will.
The opposite of these are the tools used to pull us away from God. The opposite of faith is doubt. The opposite of hope is fear or despair. And the opposite of real, self-sacrificing love is apathy.
I have experienced these many times. The devil uses doubt, fear, despair and apathy to pull us away from God who is the ultimate desire of our souls. Faith, hope and love are not feelings and they do not always provide instant gratification; they are active choices that we must make every day.
The greatest joy I found in teaching was seeing my students live out these virtues. Reflecting on this, I stood in my classroom for the last time. Walls bare, floors swept, lights off, I stared at the empty desks. I thought of all of the students who sat in those desks over the years, their hopes and dreams, sufferings and virtues, their embodiment of and need for God's love, and even miracles that I witnessed and was given the grace of being a part of.
With a tear in my eye, I thanked God. I began to think: "If God could make a teacher of someone as inadequate as me, maybe He can make a priest out of me, too."
(Mr. Houle, a native of St. Mary's parish in Albany, is about to begin his studies at St. Mary's Seminary in Baltimore.)
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