Faithfulness: “Do everything in a spirit of gentleness and fidelity, thinking of attaining your goal in God’s time not your own.”
- Jane de Chantal
When I was thinking about which Salesian theme I wanted to reflect upon, I was immediately drawn to this Jane de Chantal quote. But it’s funny - when I started writing the speech itself, one of the first things I was inspired by was not the actual quote, but rather, something Father Patrick had written in his email reminding me of my upcoming speaking engagement.
He wrote, quite simply, “Breathe - you have time.” And of course, because he’s the best person ever, he added a little smiley face afterwards and absolutely made my day.
I know Father Patrick didn’t mean that as some profound statement on faithfulness or Salesian Spirituality. But those four words encompass everything faithfulness is to me and everything Jane de Chantal was trying to say.
I’ve never been a fan of when speakers ask the audience to close their eyes and imagine something, so I won’t ask you all to do it now. However, sometime soon, whenever you have a free moment alone or maybe when you’re feeling a bit down or lost, I’d like for you to think about what you want. Not the trivial, short-term desires, like to pass your physics quiz or for that one boy to ask you to Landon Homecoming. What you really want out of life. Think about your passions and your hopes and your deepest dreams.
Those real, meaningful wants aren’t going to happen tomorrow. They probably don’t have an exact timeline or expiration date. And yeah, part of that is scary, the idea of not knowing when or if things are going to happen. Living in doubt and uncertainty is hard.
But that’s what faithfulness is all about. Every prayer is answered; they’re just not always answered in the way we expect. Every hope and desire is accounted for, even if they don’t materialize exactly how we imagined. And that’s why you have to have faith. You have to trust that God knows what’s best; that in the end, things are going to be okay, and you’re going to be happy.
I didn’t show up to Visitation with a lot of faith. I had a rough go of it in middle school, and I thought that high school would be just the same. I didn’t have faith that God had led me to the place that was best for me, and for too long, I acted like it.
And then, after a lot of wasted, angsty teenage time, it hit me that God was giving me everything I needed and more, I just had to open my eyes to it. Freshman year me could never have imagined herself at this podium before the whole school giving a speech thanking God for all His assistance. But here I am. I thank God for answering all of my prayers, and, additionally, I thank Him for not answering some of them in the way I wanted Him to back then. I thank God for taking His time.
Faithfulness, for me, is encompassed by a letter I wrote when I was ten years old. I wrote this letter before middle school took its toll, before faithfulness was a word to scoff at, before I was lucky enough to experience Visitation. I found this letter stuffed in a desk drawer a few months ago, the words “DO NOT OPEN UNTIL 2018” scrawled across the envelope in my horrifying fifth-grade handwriting. And, because I’m the worst, I immediately opened and read it.
The letter was full of hopes for the eight years between fifth grade and senior year. I hoped to remain friends with people I’ve long since lost contact with. I hoped for successes and achievements I’ve long since outgrown; a direct quote from this letter is “I hope you’ve gotten into your first choice for college. Right now mine is Harvard!” Okay, ten-year-old Barrett, sure. And this may sound sad until you hear the line that almost brought me to tears of joy when I read it: “I hope, by this time, you’ve graduated from Visitation.”
When I first read the letter, I was astonished. For some reason, I assumed, since I’m not a legacy and since I was supposed to go to Bishop Ireton High School, that I didn’t know a thing about Visitation until seventh or eighth grade. To learn that not only did I know Visitation, but that I was actually dreaming of Visitation when I barely knew what high school was, that was such a validation of the past eight years.
“I hope you’ve graduated from Visitation” was one of the letter’s first lines, that was what I wanted the most. And yeah, I wanted those other things too, but I didn’t need them. I look back fondly on my fifth grade friends, while looking forward at a whole school full of people I love and cherish. I have no idea where I’m going next year (though I do know it’s not Harvard), but that’s okay.
God gives us what we need, and I needed Visitation. I needed Visitation in order to realize how lucky I am and how amazing the people in my life are. I needed Visitation to start trusting the world again. I needed Visitation to become the person standing before you today.
And because of this place, because of that newfound Faith, I know that no matter where I end up, next year, in five years, in ten years, in fifty. No matter if I achieve my grand dreams and ambitions. No matter what person I become, I know that God will give me what I need.
God will always, always provide. Faithfulness is just realizing and trusting in that fact. It’s going to be okay, no matter what.
So, to close in the words in which we began, “breathe, you have time.”