Leaven Blog

‘Ministers, not messiahs’

by Anita McSorley

Somewhere, someone is doing what I really should be doing today.

You know. Preparing for Advent — the season that helps us prepare for the coming of our Lord?

Instead, I’m busy dancing as fast as I can.

Christmas coming? Check.

Shopping done? Ha!

Leaven next week? Check.

Copy edited? Ha!

Winter coming? Check.

House winterized? Ha!

By now, I’m discerning a theme. And it’s about the only thing I’m discerning these days.

That’s because then there are those irregular things — the things that I couldn’t have prepared for. If I were the type to handle things like shopping, editing and house winterization in advance, that is.

Did you know, for example, that as soon as your archbishop gets named the chair of a national committee, either a bot or a real person will hijack his Twitter account?

Yeah, me neither. But I bet you’re not the comms person for the archdiocese, are you?

And, oh wait! Is that a squirrel that now requires my attention?

What kind of world did we live in before Facebook, and cell phones and the 24/7 news cycle that permitted us to actually slow our lives down sufficiently to pray?

Especially as we enter into Advent — a time of quiet, patient, and prayerful preparation? 

However you spin it, we’ve become a society in which it’s easy to think the only way we can have it all is to do it all. So we do and do and do.

Much of that “doing” is well-meant. In fact, in many of our cases, much of that “doing” is even ministry!

But while digging frantically through my messy desk for yet something else I had misplaced the other day, I ran across something that pulled me up short.

It was one of the prayers I used to have my kids take turns reading aloud as I drove them all to grade school. (Yes, I am a pretty weird mom.)

But I don’t think it was an accident that I uncovered this particular prayer now, in the midst of these crazy times.

So I am sharing it with you now, and hoping that you find in it the comfort I did in reading it.

Although associated with Archbishop Oscar Romero, it was actually written by Bishop Ken Untener of Saginaw.

And it reassures us that there is both peace and liberation in knowing that we cannot do everything.

So, sit back, breathe deep, and enjoy.

While I go find a way to fix the archbishop’s Twitter account.

Archbishop Oscar Romero Prayer: A Step Along The Way

It helps, now and then, to step back and take a long view. 

The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts, it is even beyond our vision.

We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of the magnificent
enterprise that is God’s work. Nothing we do is complete, which is a way of
saying that the Kingdom always lies beyond us.

No statement says all that could be said.

No prayer fully expresses our faith.

No confession brings perfection.

No pastoral visit brings wholeness.

No program accomplishes the Church’s mission.

No set of goals and objectives includes everything.

This is what we are about.

We plant the seeds that one day will grow.

We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise.

We lay foundations that will need further development.

We provide yeast that produces far beyond our capabilities.

We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that.

This enables us to do something, and to do it very well.

It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way, an
opportunity for the Lord’s grace to enter and do the rest.

We may never see the end results, but that is the difference between the master
builder and the worker.

We are workers, not master builders; ministers, not messiahs.

We are prophets of a future not our own.

*Although associated most frequently with the Archbishop Oscar Romero, this was actually written by Bishop Ken Untener of Saginaw for a homily. This prayer was composed by Bishop Ken Untener of Saginaw, drafted for a homily by Card. John Dearden in Nov. 1979 for a celebration of departed priests. As a reflection on the anniversary of the martyrdom of Bishop Romero, Bishop Untener included in a reflection book a passage titled “The mystery of the Romero Prayer.” The mystery is that the words of the prayer are attributed to Oscar Romero, but they were never spoken by him.

About the author

Anita McSorley

Anita, managing editor of The Leaven, has over 30 years’ experience in book, magazine and newspaper editing, including stints as the assistant editor of the “Diplomatic Papers of Daniel Webster” at Dartmouth College and then in the public relations departments of Texaco, Inc., and the Rockefeller Group in New York. Anita made the move to newspaper editing when she came to The Leaven in 1988, where she has been ever since. Anita is a member of St. Patrick Parish in Kansas City, Kan., and in her spare time, she enjoys giving her long-suffering husband, her children and her staff good advice that they never take.

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