One of my teenagers borrowed my car the other day. When I got in it to rush to daily Mass the next morning, I realized the gas gauge was on empty. I had a choice to make; I could try to make it to the church on time and risk running out of gas, or I could stop for gas and certainly miss most of Mass. Hmmm. I chose Mass.
I made it to the church and quipped to my mother, “I made it here on faith and fumes.” It struck me that as a catechist I have often found myself in a similar position. How often have I found myself exhausted, with little left in my own spiritual gas tank trying to fill up the spiritual tanks of my students?
It reminds me of the airline instructions, “If the plane should lose oxygen, please place your own oxygen mask on before helping others.” Wise words, but if your instinct is to put other first, we disregard them as advice for other people.
How can we make sure that we are spiritual rested and full so that we can help our students?
1. Say no. I recently took a year off teaching faith formation. I was helping my husband adjust to a new work situation, volunteering at my kids’ school and just couldn’t do it all. This year I returned fresh and ready to face a new school year. The break was good for me and I am sure that others were blessed by the new opportunity to jump in and fill my slot as a volunteer. *Now, having said that, please don’t all jump ship at once or my inbox will be filled with angry messages from all your faith formation directors.
2. Get rid of one thing when you take on one new thing. This advice works for keeping your closet clean and keeping your calendar from getting overwhelming. If you take on a new job at church, consider giving up something you are already doing. Teaching, being a lector, serving on parish council and bringing communion to the elderly are all wonderful services to our faith community! However, no one said that one person has to do all those things. Sometimes, when we step down we give another person a chance to step up.
3. Pray, pray, pray! Remember that Christ promises that His burden is light and He promises us rest. When we are overwhelmed we are often not devoting the time to prayer that would (ironically) refresh us.
4. Change the routine. Getting in a rut can make us feel drained and empty. Something as simple as doing a craft instead of lecturing, or taking your class in front of the Blessed Sacrament to recite a decade of the rosary can renew your own interest and energy for your class.
5. Have fun! Being silly and having fun always makes us feel better. Take the time to play, to rest, and to be in the company of those you love. This is my prescription for a full spiritual gas tank.