By Barb Arland-Fye
We made arrangements in advance. The Tuesday night Bible Study group at Our Lady of the River Parish in LeClaire would host a conversation about “The Joy of the Gospel” on Sept. 25 and Oct. 2. This apostolic exhortation of Pope Francis provides the framework for the Vision 20/20 initiative that Bishop Thomas Zinkula hopes will inspire a revitalization of our faith and a renewal of grace in the spirit of Pentecost. Study guide booklets were ordered in time for the first conversation at the parish, where I am a member.
I volunteered to lead the conversation since I had read “The Joy of the Gospel” and attended several Vision 20/20 Steering Committee meetings. Two back-to-back commitments, however, left me worried about the possibility of a glitch. When I arrived, barely on time for the first night’s conversation, the Bible Study participants asked, “Do you know where the books are?”
Several of us began a frantic search for the booklets, with no success. Fortunately, I had one booklet with me, on loan from a colleague at the Chancery. Several parishioners from Church of the Visitation in Camanche had joined us for the conversation, so we all agreed to proceed as planned, using the one study guide.
Excerpts from the “The Joy of the Gospel,” coupled with good reflection questions from the study guide, stimulated our conversation. In my mind, we made lemonade out of lemons. I left the gathering with a sense of peace because of the sharing of thoughts and the group’s mercy toward me.
But, I still wondered, why hadn’t we been able to locate the booklets? I assumed they would be sitting on a table in the parish gathering space. That was my first error, failing to check ahead! Sometimes, what seems like a curse can be blessing, instead.
Roberta, our parish’s director of religious education, sent me an email wondering if I had ordered the wrong booklet. In my haste to get the order shipped, I had clicked on an image of “Rejoice and Be Glad,” the latest apostolic exhortation of Pope Francis. While this latest communication by the Holy Father gets rave reviews, it is not the one that provides the underpinnings for Vision 20/20.
My heart skipped a couple of beats. We still have another conversation scheduled for “The Joy of the Gospel.” Since we hadn’t been able to access the booklets that had been purchased, I wondered whether we might be able to exchange them. Roberta said she’d check for me.
Reflecting on the snafu, I see some graces in all of this. Carolyn, a retired school teacher and one of the Bible Study participants, reassured me after Mass last weekend that everything was OK. Teachers know to expect the unexpected. Don’t be so hard on yourself, she said. Let it go.
Sharon, who leads the Bible Study, sent me a reassuring email with a smiling emjoi. She just wanted to be sure we are prepared for this coming week’s conversation about “The Joy of the Gospel.” I assured her that all would be well.
“Sometimes it seems that our work is fruitless, but mission is not like a business transaction or investment, or even a humanitarian activity. It is not a show where we count how many people come as a result of our publicity; it is something much deeper, which escapes all measurement,” Pope Francis says in “The Joy of the Gospel” (No. 279). “… We know only that our commitment is necessary. Let us learn to rest in the tenderness of the arms of the Father amid our creative and generous commitment. Let us keep marching forward; let us give him everything, allowing him to make our efforts bear fruit in his good time.”
(Editor Barb Arland-Fye can be reached at email@example.com.)