Some Definite Service

John_Henry_NewmanI am still clearing out emails.  I have to admit, back in June, the task of responding to email was too overwhelming for me.  After ten years on campus, there were countless relationships with colleagues, alumni, students, and community members – many of whom I intend to stay connected with in one form or another.  My heart is filled with gratitude for all that we were able to do together, but hitting “reply” one last time from my .edu address was a painful reminder of the finality of my work there.  Be assured that I still have the best intentions of replying to everyone who wrote with a thank you or words of encouragement or job leads or offers to review my resume! 

This week, as I was shuffling through a few more notes, I came across an email from a student.  She is a graduate student at another major mid-west university.  Her parents live in the Evanston area, so although she was not a Northwestern student, she would occasionally make her way to the Sheil Center during breaks from school.

We would spend a few minutes talking before/after mass, and one time she even sat in on a class I was teaching.  I often found myself offering a genuine “welcome home” whenever she wandered in during those times when her school was on break but Northwestern was still in session.  

When she saw the message about my position being eliminated, she sent an email to let me know that the Newman Center at her university had an opening.  She ended her email with this P.S. …

Much prayers and blessings and hopes for the road ahead.  I look forward to seeing where life takes you!   By the way, I thought you might like to know that (to my utter surprise) I’ll probably be taking theology/scripture courses for the first time this school year in (hopeful) preparation for a graduate certificate in Spirituality after my PhD. Thanks for being part of what got me started down this weird and wonderful winding path – our brief interactions in Sheil made a deeper impression than you know!   

Wow!  Ministry is a humbling profession.  We never really know the depth of our impact.  Endeavors that were significant to me sometimes went unnoticed.  On the other hand, I am amazed when students remember the smallest favors or words exchanged in quick succession.  I’ve heard students repeat lines from my classes, retreat talks, and late night conversations – even many years later.  Little do we know the impact we have or the reason why God has situated us in a particular place at a particular time. 

Cardinal John Henry Newman’s prayer “Some Definite Service” provides some wonderful reflection during times of discernment.  He reminds us that God indeed has a plan for our life.  And there is something in particular that God desires for us, although we may never see the fruits of it in this lifetime.  We are able to serve God in every time and season of life.  God uses every part of us to accomplish his divine work.

Some Definite Service

Bl. John Henry Cardinal Newman

God knows me and calls me by my name.…

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 never may know it in this life,
     but I shall be told it in the next.

Somehow I am necessary for His purposes…
     I have a part in this great work;
I am a link in a chain, a bond of connection
     between persons.
He has not created me for naught. I shall do good,
     I shall do His work;
I shall be an angel of peace, a preacher of truth
     in my own place, while not intending it,
     if I do but keep His commandments
     and serve Him in my calling.

Therefore I will trust Him.
     Whatever, wherever I am,
     I can never be thrown away.
If I am in sickness, my sickness may serve Him;
In perplexity, my perplexity may serve Him;
If I am in sorrow, my sorrow may serve Him.
My sickness, or perplexity, or sorrow may be
     necessary causes of some great end,
     which is quite beyond us.
He does nothing in vain; He may prolong my life,
     He may shorten it;
     He knows what He is about.
     He may take away my friends,
     He may throw me among strangers,
     He may make me feel desolate,
     make my spirits sink, hide the future from me—
     still He knows what He is about.…
Let me be Thy blind instrument. I ask not to see—
     I ask not to know—I ask simply to be used.

from Meditations and Devotions,
“Meditations on Christian Doctrine,”
“Hope in God—Creator”, March 7, 1848

I am grateful for these reminders today.  I am especially grateful for the many people who have written to tell me how they see the impact my work has had on their life.  It helps me to name my gifts, my strengths, my priorities, and my successes as I enter further into the job search.  And it also provides a tremendous amount of hope that God is using my life for his purpose (in ways that are paid and unpaid, career related and personally fulfilling) even if I don’t see the end result quite yet.

3 thoughts on “Some Definite Service”

  1. Oh my gosh, what an amazing meditation and one that is right on time at my station in this journey of life. And Beth, you are amazing! You are so inspiring to me and I have always admired the courage you show in your postings–how you peel back the layers and share the authentic, pure and real you–the vulnerable you–with souls like me whom you’ve never me. It is a good lesson for me to throw off those fears of sharing the real me with others. Because when I do I find true freedom–I am free to experience the richness of life and develop deep fulfilling relationships with others. So thank you, God bless and please keep sharing along your journey. Best, P

  2. This post is a great reminder for me on how we don’t always know the impact we have on others. During my second year at my current school, one of our graduates came back and told me I was her favorite English teacher ever. Ha! I thought the girl had hated me when she was in eighth grade!

    This is why we must soldier on and do our best. It’s having more of an impact than we know.

  3. So true AJ…I am always amazed when I just let go of my expectations and get out of the driver’s seat how God is always doing for me. He miraculously places people and situations in my life that teach me lessons, deepen my human experience and enrich my life in ways that I could never have imagined. I just need to remind myself (constantly ;- ) to trust God and let go, let go! Peggy

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