Have you ever had an “a-ha” moment?
Six decades on this earth have taught me two lessons about “a-ha” moments. One: when they arrive, pay attention. Two: when it passes, spend some time looking back and more deeply. This week’s CatholicsRead books drive home these two points splendidly.
A few years after I graduated from college and was on my third “not a career, not permanent” job, I got a very bad case of the flu. I would sleep for a while, wake up and do something nominal, and sleep some more. Around Day 4, with some renewed energy, I decided to redo my resume to alleviate the boredom. After multiple awake-sleep-awake cycles, I had a solid draft. As I read it over, I realized what I wanted to do: teach. I had a liberal arts degree and had never wanted to teach, but it was clear from what I had written that God had a different idea. That “a-ha” experience led to four of my most satisfying professional years—as a high school religion teacher. Afterward, I spent over 20 years as a parish youth ministry volunteer.
Cardinal Sean O’Malley in Wanted (Paulist Press) reflects on the job description that Jesus gave his disciples—and us—to be friends and footwashers. He confirmed for me that my years working with teens fulfilled that job description to a “t” since one of the hardest and easiest things I did as a teacher and youth minister was to show them God’s love by the way I acted. Forty years later, I’m trying to figure out what the next phase of God’s call to me is. Barbara Lee’s Answering God’s Call (Loyola Press) offers some great examples of older saints and how they responded to God.
With the pandemic slowly winding down and living in the midst of a very active hurricane season, two Paulist Press books are shining a very bright light on two related “a-ha” moments. The Study Guide to the Encyclical Letter of Pope Francis, Fratelli Tutti, sets out the pope’s vision for a post-pandemic world that is deeply rooted in Catholic Social Teaching. Theology and Ecology in Dialogue challenges us to take the climate crisis seriously and start re-imagining ourselves and the world.
Once the “a-ha” moment has passed, usually I’m on to the next thing. But if I do that, then I waste the opportunity to better understand and go deeper into that experience. Ascension Press’s Whisper is the right tool to get beneath the chaos of action and find God in the right here and now. Becky Eldredge’s The Inner Chapel (Loyola Press) can help carve the internal sacred space to better cultivate and trust God’s voice until the next “a-ha” comes along.
James Bacik’s Conversion as a Way of Life (Paulist Press) uses the epistles to ground us in the larger process of conversion that we are called to. Because while “a-ha” moments may be spectacular, they are really marker points on the longer journey of conversion.
That is, in fact, the life to which God calls all of us.