Last week we celebrated the first feast day of St John Henry Newman. As a prolific writer and exceptional speaker, there are many quotes that are used that originate from him, and you may have your own favourite that says something to you in a personal or inspiring way. For me I have a preference for:
“God has created me to do Him some definite service. He has committed some work to me which He has not committed to another. I have my mission. I may never know it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next. I am a link in a chain, a bond of connection between persons.”
I think it says a lot and leads me to think about not only what it is that I think God has in mind for me to do, but also to think about how it is that I’m able to do some of the things that occur in my life. Some of these things only happen occasionally, others are on a regular basis. It also makes me realise that some of the things I done before, things that I’m mentally boxed away as only being relevant to that part of my life, are surprisingly transferable into what I do now.
I wouldn’t have imagined that my life in the fire brigade, would have prepared me in so many different ways, for the life as a deacon. When I stand up in front of a class at the school, is it that different to my time as an instructor at the Brigade Training School? When I’m driving the school minibus, it’s smaller than driving a fire engine! When I’m perched on the top of a ladder trying to hang the star from the church roof above the nativity scene. When I’m writing lesson plans for the sessions teaching future deacons. When I’m trying to work out the budget required for the deanery Confirmation programme, isn’t much different from when I was a Borough Commander and had to manage the budget for a number of fire stations – just a bit smaller!
What ever it is that we do, whatever our experiences, either professionally or in our private and social lives, it gives us the skills to be the best at what we do. Some refer to these as life skills, and they are what enable us to function and be successful. Life skills are needed to get along with other people. Life skills are needed to be able to earn a living. Life skills are needed to be able to run a household. The list goes on and on….
But the bit that is fascinating, is that each of us has a different set of life skills, that we put to use in as many different ways as we are individuals. The most successful, are those that combine their skills, using different abilities and talents to achieve for the many rather than the individual. That sounds to me a bit like a blueprint for community living, it sounds like the ideal Christian interpretation of the Gospels, and it only comes about if we accept that all of these life skills come to us as gifts from God, and we should be called to use them as such, in turn making them a gift to others.
Published earlier this month, The Encyclical Letter
“FRATELLI TUTTI” (ON THE FRATERNITY AND SOCIAL FRIENDSHIP)
Pope Francis reflects on some of these themes, and I would commend it to you to have a read.
In thinking about the life skills and talents that we all have, perhaps now is a good time to be considering them in light of the quote from St John Henry Newman. If God is calling me to some form of service, how then do I use what has been gifted to me, but perhaps more significantly, how to I then gift them to others?
In what way can I contribute what I’m good at, to the life of others, to the community, to the life of our parish and to the life of the church?
Deacon Ian Black