A group of young girls I know of is knitting and crocheting crafts, scarves and sweaters to sell in order to fund high school students who are planning missionary work in South America. Their group is called “Crafts for Christ,” and they seem to know exactly who they are serving.
My friend is part of a Catholic “prayer shawl club.” They make shawls for the suffering, the sick and the grieving and with each row, they say a new prayer for the person for whom the shawl is being made. This person is given the shawl, with a little note, and they can literally “wrap” themselves in prayer.
Both these efforts are examples of how God comes into the service that we do for Him. It is love for Christ that motivates these efforts. In all Catholic service, He ought to be with us in our starting, our ending and everything in between.
Mother Teresa got that right. This tiny woman did great things for God. God’s will was her motivation. But she never proceeded without prayer. For each day of daily service, there were four hours of prayer.
In Catholic service, we ought to be like Mother Teresa. It’s true that most of us can’t stop our day to pray four hours a day. But prayer should be part of everything we do. Pray without ceasing, 1 Thessalonians 5:17 tells us. Sadly, very good Catholics can get very busy doing very good things, but somehow leave God and prayer out. The concern with this is that after a while, one starts to wonder who one is working for. Once that’s forgotten, discouragement can begin to loom over the horizon of our difficulty; and pride over the horizon of our success. It is as easy to start thinking thoughts like “This will never work” as it is to say “look at me and how much I accomplished!” Note the key word “I.” In truth, none of us can do anything without God’s help. Christ said: “Apart from me, you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)
Whether in the local soup kitchen, or in the home, we should see Christ in those we serve. We see Christ in the suffering and needy, and that is what motivates our reaching out to those who suffer or are in need. And it is much easier to see Christ in the suffering when we attach our corporal works to spiritual ones. Praying the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, or a Rosary, a novena, or intercessory prayer before the Blessed Sacrament for those whom we serve, or simply offering a little prayer toward the saints in heaven as we serve, can help bring the richness of our Catholic heritage to our service, draw us closer to those we serve and draw us closer to God as well. When packing food baskets for the needy this thanksgiving or wrapping gifts for them this Christmas, will we be praying for them too?
Making rosaries is one way to serve the church and Our Lady. One woman I know prays for those who will receive the Rosaries she makes. Some teach the poor to make Rosaries, which many Catholics happily purchase. It is good to share the “15 promises of our Lady to those who pray the Rosary” with those taught to make Our Lady’s Rosaries, and with others too.
The poor, needy and suffering are often closest to our Lord. We can humbly ask those we serve to pray for us. Without prayer, no matter what we do, or what progress we may seem at some points to be making, sooner or later we are bound to mess things up. And once we Catholics start messing up in service, we also start messing with the purity and the sanctification of the Catholic Church. “… Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given unto you,” Mathew 6:33 reminds us.
Service is not always easy. It may sometimes be our cross. But even when it is a cross, it can still be good. Just as the crucifixion lead to the resurrection, so the little crosses we endure in service ought ultimately to lead towards the sanctification of our own soul, and thus the sanctification of the Catholic Church.
Thy will be done Father. Guide me as I serve. Without You, I can do nothing. But I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.