by Jason Wilde
“Hey, I noticed y’all’s shirts say you’re Catholic Missionaries…”
Not exactly a quote I get every day, but nonetheless, it helps me get past my fear of encountering a stranger. The stranger was a lone fisherman sitting by his pickup truck on a quiet beach in Louisiana. We had walked his way and briefly chatted about the 30 lb fish that he caught moments earlier and then gave to a nearby family sitting on the beach. His bait now wet again and line taut in the waves, he called us over to tell us that he too was Catholic, that a relative of his was a Jesuit missionary who he thought ‘did some good stuff’, and that he liked seeing us walking around the beach with our kids instead of watching TV or something else.
As we talked, I noticed an interesting looking contraption made out of PVC pipe. As I stared at it sitting by his truck, he began explaining how some guys had once caught an 8 foot Bull Shark while standing next to him, waist deep on the sandbar about 100 feet from shore. This terrified the fisherman as he didn’t like that one of the most aggressive sharks was swimming just feet away. And so, he built this PVC contraption which ended up being something like an air-powered potato gun for frozen squid slugs that he tied to his line and then shot beyond the sandbar from the safety of dry land. It really was a genius solution that would have never come about if he wasn’t placed in such an uncomfortable situation.
“Are you an engineer?”, Jessica asked.
The fisher smiled broadly. “No, I’m a Cajun.”
There are two responses to fear - fight or flight. This man could have wrapped up, sold his tackle, and found another way to live, or he could continue to do what he wanted to do in the face of a trial. But in the end, he did something better - he chose to look at the trial as a way to spark something new and better.
One of our conversion moments came in India when we were also placed in an uncomfortable and possibly dangerous situation. But instead of saying that we’ll never travel again, we turned to God, and He told us that we should lean in to our fear, traveling for His purposes.
Sometimes God uses these situations to allow us to revisit our life, step back, and turn to Him for a better answer. It gives us the chance to really depend on His wisdom and providence to rescue us, instead of thinking that we are in control and can work our way out of the predicament. As we begin the Easter season and listen to stories of the early Church from the Book of the Acts of the Apostles, we can really understand the uncertainty and fear that was going through the minds of these poor fishermen. Their Rabbi was crucified for His teachings, and they were next if they were caught. But the Risen Jesus changed all of this - He told them to put away their anxiety and do the opposite of what human reason would have suggested. He told them to go and be courageous. With no leader and no home, they boldly stepped out and God rewarded them with miracles of healing, preaching, and conversion. When they were forced out of the city walls, they didn’t scatter but instead camped out and shared everything they had with each other.
One of the biggest dangers of our modern lives is that it is too easy to depend on ourselves, to place our security in the hands of reason, technology and insurance companies instead of in God’s hands. It becomes impossible to see Him working in our lives, and therefore become closer to Him, when we are constantly looking for the human solution to any insecurity. Our Church is not suffering because of lack of religious freedom but because we have freed ourselves from needing God’s help and therefore have lost our witness of a life truly dependent on Him.
In the end, the fisherman’s solution was an inspiration to us...a witness of sorts...that went beyond his worldly needs. It taught us that we too need to give our fears and our plans to God and allow Him to give us the blueprints that we need in our lives.
The old man stayed all night, sleeping in his truck on the beach with his pole and squid cannon. Then as we watched him pack up his tackle and drive away the next morning, I couldn’t help but remember that St. Peter was a fisherman...
by Jason Wilde
About 15 years ago, I knew a friend who was a great music teacher and loved what he did. He inspired his students to use their talents and not be afraid of what others might say is more important. Recently, I decided to find out where he was working and found him on LinkedIn. During the recession, I could see that his job was most likely not stable and so he began working in the corporate world, where he moved up the ranks over the past 10 years. But to my surprise, from his LinkedIn profile, I could hardly recognize that he had any interest in music at all. The only reference to his former life was that he effectively managed the budget of a music program.
The way a person can completely change how they describe themselves in a corporate setting, hiding some of their God-given traits under the rug while trying to highlight and honor more 'marketable' skills is shocking. As someone who interviewed candidates for many years, I found it very common and at the same time disheartening that a person cannot be what God made him or her to be while contributing their gifts and talents to the common good.
We live in an economy where people are seen as mere resources, and we are always changing our very self to fit 'the mold'. Even more so, we are in a way bound to the job, vocation, and degree that we have chosen. This shouldn't surprise anyone because we are trained from a very early age that your education and degree defines you, and if I don't have a good, high paying job, it is because I didn't study and work hard enough. Pope Francis writes in Evangelii Gaudium that "Some simply content themselves with blaming the poor...for their troubles; indulging in unwarranted generalizations, they claim that the solution is an “education” that would tranquilize them, making them tame and harmless." We spend years of our lives being indoctrinated with education, an estimated 17,000 hours of our life in the 17 critical years of education, but only 1-2 hours a week finding God during that same time, which amounts to about 1,700 hours (that's right, 1/10 of the time!). When we do have that dream job, we find ourselves bound to it - our mobility, freedom to have time with family or God, and even our health care is controlled by our employment. (In fact, one theory about the high costs of health care in this country suggests that it is because our health care is socialized by insurance companies who can pass inflated prices on to the corporate world!) If we ever want to change jobs or vocations, or even take a sabbatical, we are threatened with loss of status, vacation time, health care, and future welfare in retirement.
They answered, 'We are descended from Abraham and we have never been the slaves of anyone; what do you mean, "You will be set free?"' (John 8:33)
But, living in a country that was founded and emphasizes freedom, it is hard to see myself as a slave. Like the Pharisees who were confounded by Jesus' use of the word, I can't even imagine what slavery would look or feel like, blinded by the very oppression that causes it.
Sin directs the heart of the wicked man;
The problem goes beyond employment - it lives in our media, telling us that we are less valuable as a person if we don't pursue new cars, a home mortgage, or lavish vacations at resorts. Then, when we do take on the mortgage and debt of things of this world, we are further bound to the job that allows us to keep paying for it.
This is not just a problem for the white-collar world - I've witnessed many poor neighborhoods where large TVs and cable service are normal, but it is because of advertising games - enticements of free high ticket items in exchange for years of payment for service. And then we judge these people for not having food to feed their children, but it is really no different from a wealthier person who has no time for his family because he has to work to pay for his home mortgage, car loans and security system.
"Man is reduced to one of his needs alone: Consumption" (Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium)
I have also fallen slave to politics, believing everything that a politician would say while critiquing and questioning something that a church leader might teach in a homily or exhortation. In fact, I read Laudato Si', Pope Francis' encyclical on care for our common home, in order to find faults in it. I believed more in a political party's beliefs on the environment simply because they were the "pro-life party". Power is just as corrupting as money, and it is this quest for political power that entices us to unconditionally and wholeheartedly approve of anyone who opposes any one thing we don't agree with. This too leads to slavery like the Israelites, who were warned "how great an evil it is in the eyes of the Lord that you (ask) for a king." (1 Samuel 12:17)
But then there's the argument that money and power do not lead to slavery, if they are carefully used to save us from some evil. Daniel was a fine example of this argument when he was able to interpret (with God's grace) Nebuchadnezzar's dream, earning him a seat of power and importance in the king's land at a time when the Israelites were held as slaves. But, it is important to realize that this kind of gift must also be given up as soon as Satan tempts us to be slaves to the gift. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego gave up their seat in this same court when the king asked them to worship his idol, and it sent them into the fiery furnace (c.f. Daniel 3). They knew that by rebelling, they would face death and yet trusted in God to keep their souls safe. God rewarded them with a powerful miracle that helped do more good than anything they could have possibly done as administrators. We should also do the same, recognizing when our employer, favorite brand, or political party asks us to worship an idol or refuse God's love for one another.
On a Mission
Two passionate parents and their four children are excited to bring His Word to everyone in need while living a life of Gospel poverty as missionaries. They invite you to join them on a journey to encounter our global neighbors that Jesus commands us to love through works of charity and service.