Friday, March 10, 2023

When God works, can I sit still?

Each week, I find myself in a classroom on our church’s grounds. We often may think of classrooms as places where rows of desks clutter the room and where brightly-colored posters scream out from the walls. Yet, this classroom is different: A low table with a wooden figure of the Good Shepherd and his sheep sits in the middle of the room. A simple prayer table is tucked in a corner.

Against a wall are shelves featuring 3D models depicting different parables found in the New Testament. Along another wall is a large 3D map of the City of Jerusalem at the time of Christ, including buildings that the children can place onto the surface: the Temple, Herod’s Palace, the Tower of Antonia, the Cenacle (upper room). A simple raised map of the Holy Land stands nearby, as well as 3D models depicting the Last Supper and events from the infancy of Jesus Christ.  

There are “practical life” materials and an area with a model altar, a corner of the room includes materials that children encountered at their Baptism, so they may sit and ponder the gifts God showered on them in that sacrament.

This is no ordinary classroom; this is an atrium for the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd program. Here, tremendous prayer and lessons overflow into the hearts of small children and those of the catechists.

Each week, I enter into this classroom, this atrium, that is designated for children ages 3-6. Each week, my fellow catechists and I present works to them which help us learn and reflect on God’s plan of salvation, and the sacramental life that He offers to us. The time spent in this atrium is hushed and full of prayer, reverence, and deep listening to God’s voice.

When we first present a “work” to children—for instance, moving clay figures around as the words of the Birth of Christ are proclaimed aloud—us catechists make it clear that the children are to watch and listen as they hear God’s Word and as they see how materials are supposed to be used. They are often excited to grab these beautiful materials (which have been painstakingly prepared for them by parish volunteers) and use them. Their small hands reach out to touch a figurine, press on a raised map, stroke a wooden sheep. Time and time again, we gently remind them that the child may freely use these materials later, but the catechist is using them at the present: “This is my work right now. Sit crisscross-applesauce with your hands in your lap.”

I wonder if God tries to say something similar to us at times.

We see possibilities and potential in something, and we are so eager to do a beautiful work that we jump in prematurely. We forge ahead, wanting to do whatever good and noble thing we observe, without giving a second thought to if we should be doing this right now. But, if we listen, we may hear God nudging our heart, gently reminding us:

This is my work right now, keep your hands in your lap and wait your turn.  

We may try to reason with God, noting that this will be good for me or this is what I was made to do. Somehow, the absurdity of telling God that we know what will be best for us never once enters our thoughts. We recoil at the thought of being passive, and rightly so—we follow in the footsteps of the great apostles and saints, like Paul, who planted and ministered as God worked through him to grow the Church (cf 1 Cor 3:5-9). Yet, in our zeal to follow God and to bring others to Him, we can forget the necessity of prayer and discernment. Or, we may think that once we’ve prayerfully decided on something, that work is what God wants us to do indefinitely. I think of my own vocation story, when a priest gently chided me: “Don’t force God’s hand.” He mentioned that even if God had been moving me in one direction for a long time, if He was starting to move me in a different direction, I should not try to force God’s hand back to the original path. I had to learn a new level of trust as I experienced a vocational discernment different than I had anticipated—a journey which challenged me but also brought me immense joy and peace (and continues to do so).

This is my work right now...

I’ve been thinking of this image quite a bit, lately. 

Of God working in and through me and lovingly moving my hands off the pieces that I, in my headstrong way, am trying to manipulate. In a bit of my recent reading and listening material, the theme of trusting God in times of suffering has been coming up quite a bit—a beautiful and important topic, but also slightly terrifying. What does God have in store for me this Lent? What does he have in store for any of us? What is the reason behind the various (small) sufferings that have been challenging me lately—and how can I endure them with peace and joy?

Despite my questions, I’ve been trying to simply rest in God. To trust that He knows best, not me. To hold close in my heart the words found in the diary of St. Maria Faustina Kowalska, words that challenge me often: “the greatest obstacles to holiness are discouragement and an exaggerated anxiety.” (Diary, 1488) To listen as God gently reminds me:

This is my work right now.


  1. So much food for thought and depth of soul in this, AnneMarie. It's beautiful. You have an open spirit and heart and hands! We have been through the wringer the past 6 months (I broke my foot in the fall and it is still not fully healed, our baby had several medical issues that we have traveled far for quality medical care and advice...) and God has been teaching me many of the things you are reflecting on-- meaning in what feels like meaningless suffering....trusting that He is at work when I am doing nothing (sometimes literally, ha!), and how very different His plan looks than what the world thinks we should desire. Ultimately, surrender and acceptance and trust bring me the peace which surpasses understanding and deep joy...but the bridge to get there is so hard to cross!

    1. Oh my, thank you so much for sharing all that, Laura! That sounds like so, so much for you all to deal with. I'm glad that God has been teaching and guiding you through it all. It sounds like you've had a lot of beautiful opportunities for prayer and growth. I will be praying for all of you, especially as we continue in the final weeks of Lent!