The same weekend that I posted “Wanted: Spiritual Director” I went to Confession on Saturday to get spiritual direction. I figured, “I have the priest’s attention, already. Why not ask him a few questions? There’s usually hardly anyone waiting in line.” Sure enough, I had Fr. O’Brien for as long as I wanted. God bless Fr. O’Brien. He was the answer to my prayer.
As I had written earlier, I was trying to discern whether to get more involved in the Church, to volunteer as a catechist in addition to being in the choir. If I was called to be a catechist, should I get an advanced degree so I could do a better job? I felt obsessed about this question, especially the last one. It got to a point where I was wondering whether I should leave the Foreign Service to serve God full-time. Serving God equals loving God, right?
The priest’s answer surprised me. After he confirmed that I was married and with children, he told me that I should focus on my family. Being involved in various apostolates could be a danger because it would take me away from my wife and children, who deserve all my energy. These apostolates have a way appearing more important than the humble services I give as a husband and father (i.e., going out on a date with my wife vs. attending RCIA to catechize eager souls; helping my wife bathe the children vs. preparing for a talk on the spiritual disciplines of the Church, taking my children to play in the park vs. counseling a young man from suicide, etc.)
These were the same words that my wife told me many times before: “You need to focus on the family. You will become too involved; it will take you away from the family.” And, it’s not like I did not believe my wife. I still obeyed her and refrained from being more involved. What she asked me to do was not a sin. But, this desire to serve the Church persisted in my thoughts. Am I disobeying God by obeying my wife?
So, the priest’s answer was Christ’s answer. While it is good to serve the Church, it is not good to be motivated by spiritual pride. My confessor helped me see my spiritual blind spot. The moment he told me “you should focus on your family”, the Holy Spirit helped me exercise my Gift of Understanding to see that it was spiritual pride all along that motivated me. It would be the devil’s irony that my own family would be weakened — even destroyed — because I would be so focused on “unselfishly” serving the Church.
God bless Fr. O’Brien. God bless confessors and spiritual directors everywhere. May they lead more souls to holiness.