I had an interesting chat with a friend today (thanks, Mike). He said a young woman was going to be doing some youth ministry work and wanted some insight into that particular field of endeavor. His advice was terrific, I thought: "Be prepared to have your heart broken. Be prepared to fail...a lot."
I've been working in one form of ministry and/or religious education for my entire adult life. I am no stranger to the fact that most people do not share my enthusiasm for the Gospel, life in Christ and my truly geekazoid love of learning about world religions and sacred places. That does not dull the pain of realizing that classroom after classroom of students can't get over the fact that I go to Mass every Sunday. "Every Sunday????!!!" "Yeah...every Sunday."
Someone told me, not too long ago, that is was my job as a religion teacher to make sure that every kid that I taught became a practicing Catholic. Sorry; that is way too big a job for me. It was too big of a job for Jesus: many of His followers deserted him. (Read John 6.) I know that I'm just planting seeds, and I might, maybe, possibly have some influence on a kid's faith.
I told my friend that this idea of failure was why it was so important to read the lives of the saints. They were often quite glorious failures. Spectacular failures. I'm reading about St. Damien of Molokai. He couldn't do a damn thing right, according to many of his peers and superiors. He certainly couldn't deal with the lepers with any degree of success: he had no money, no medical supplies....heck, he often didn't even have enough food. All he could do was his best. All he could do was take care of the most obvious needs, and pray that God would make up for what he, a poor human, lacked.
Quite clearly, I am no saint. Therefore, I am going to fail. A lot. And all I can do is pray to God for what I lack. Thankfully, He is up to that task.