“Go in peace to love and serve the Lord and one another”
I love Mass. It touches my heart in ways I never imagined. I grew up as a Presbyterian and while I spent many hours in the church, I struggled to find a connection. Something was missing for me. As time went on, I fell away from the Presbyterian church and preserved Sunday mornings to sleep late. My wife is Catholic and when we had our sons, we had them baptized by the Catholic church, but we still did not embrace the faith (outside of Christmas and Easter). We decided to have my sons receive First Communion and since we had been away from the Church for so long, we had to go through the Family Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) program. Of course, this program was offered on Sunday mornings, so my wife and I decided to split the responsibility and alternate weeks. Being the man of the house, I was volunteered to go first. Our first class was entitled “What Does It Mean to be Catholic” and I remember my first reaction was “damned if I know”. Little did I know, but that was when I was hooked. I continued to attend the Family RCIA with my sons and then joined a separate program focused on adults. I remember our Pastor in the first class looking at me and saying, “with a name like McIntyre you must have gotten in the wrong line …….”. He was right. I was a Catholic. I went through the program and received the Sacraments at the Easter Vigil on April 10, 2004. This is where everything changed for me.
The Easter Vigil was the first time I really felt like I was part of something so much bigger than myself and to this day I still get chills when I think about the Vigil. The rituals, the readings, the prayers, the music, and now finally for me, the Eucharist. Every time I go to Mass, I feel like the excitement builds through the Liturgy of the Word, gets so very emotional during the Liturgy of the Eucharist, and then we get dismissed and are ready to take on the world. Those words “Go in peace to love and serve the Lord and one another” make me feel like bursting through the doors and taking on the world to fix anything that comes my way for Jesus, and immediately after the Easter Vigil and early in my life as a Catholic I tried to do just that. There was one problem, and it is a common problem for many people, I only had two hands and a limited amount of time to do everything I wanted to do. Yes, I will be a Eucharistic Minister. Yes, I will be a Lector. Yes, I will help the RCIA program. Yes, I will add a 2- year program on top of everything else, and when that was done, I jumped right into visiting hospice patients. These were ALL tremendous experiences for me personally and helped me grow closer to Jesus daily, but I still had my family, I still had a job, and I still had many bills to pay. It did not take long before I suffered burn out and many of those activities slowed to a crawl and in some cases stopped. I was tired and just could not do everything I wanted to do. Everyone gets tired. Remember in Exodus, even Moses got tired holding up his staff over the Battle of Rephidim and needed help.
God is very creative and can get His message out to people in so many ways. For me, it was to stumble across this poem called “The Starfish Thrower”. As I read it, there was a very important message for me personally and this message hit home.
Once upon a time, there was a wise man who used to go to the ocean to do his writing. He had a habit of walking on the beach before he began his work.
One day, as he was walking along the shore, he looked down the beach and saw a human figure moving like a dancer. He smiled to himself at the thought of someone who would dance to the day, and so, he walked faster to catch up.
As he got closer, he noticed that the figure was that of a young man, and that what he was doing was not dancing at all. The young man was reaching down to the shore, picking up small objects, and throwing them into the ocean.
He came closer still and called out “Good morning! May I ask what it is that you are doing?”
The young man paused, looked up, and replied “Throwing starfish into the ocean.”
“I must ask, then, why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?” asked the somewhat startled wise man.
To this, the young man replied, “The sun is up and the tide is going out. If I don’t throw them in, they’ll die.”
Upon hearing this, the wise man commented, “But, young man, do you not realize that there are miles and miles of beach and there are starfish all along every mile? You can’t possibly make a difference!”
At this, the young man bent down, picked up yet another starfish, and threw it into the ocean. As it met the water, he said,
“It made a difference for that one.”
“The Starfish Thrower” by Loren Eisely
This was a tremendous message for me, and I hope for others that we cannot do everything for everyone. We all have our limits and we as Catholics have a primary responsibility to the Domestic Church – our families. At times for me, I was more focused on the outside Church than the inside (Domestic) Church. God saw what I was doing and stepped in when I was at my weakest and gave me strength. Let God do His work through you at His pace, not yours. Thankfully, this message got through and I find my work for Jesus very integrated into my day and is tremendously more rewarding than before. God will bring people into our lives who need us and brings us into the lives of others who we need. Trust in His ways.