Let me tell you a story. I hope you’re on the edge of your seat, because this story is one of those embarrassing ones.
It all started a few months ago when I was a bright-eyed young co-lead heading up the coolest mission straight outta Steubenville, Ohio. I was competent. I was awesome. I was Spirit-led. Things were great.
For one of my Spirit-led dictates, I asked that the team wear a plain wooden cross for the summer. The cross was to be a symbol for others as well as for ourselves. As we displayed the cross over our hearts as a witness to others we were supposed to be reminded of our daily call to take up our own crosses. I was particularly moved by St. Josemaría Escrivá’s words on the subject:
When you see a poor wooden Cross, alone, uncared-for, and of no value... and without its Crucified, don't forget that that Cross is your Cross: the Cross of each day, the hidden Cross, without splendour or consolation..., the Cross which is awaiting the Crucified it lacks: and that Crucified must be you.
- The Way, 178
The cross was going to be a tangible reminder of the mission we were called to as a team. We were called to the cross and the cross was going to give meaning to our mission. For me, it seemed that the cross was my missionary costume. As soon as I chose to put it one, I would be magically transformed through some interior act of the will into a real live missionary.
Although other members of the team put on their cross immediately after receiving it, I stowed mine away in a desk drawer until the moment I left my home in Belchertown, Massachusetts for Boston-Logan International Airport. I wasn’t on mission yet, so there was no way I was going to put on that cross until it was mission time. I wanted the moment to be a decisive one with no turning back. I wanted to slip that cross over my head and become a different person. I was going to put it one at some pivotal moment where I would go in as Kaitlin and come out as a missionary.
I ended up putting the cross on as the bus I was on went into a tunnel in downtown Boston. As I put the cross on, the bus went dark. No one around me looked up as I picked up my cross for the first time. When the lights came back on, I was a missionary.
This is how my mission was supposed to start: with one designated and decisive moment where I took control. It was supposed to be as easy as that. I decided. I controlled. I initiated. I was taking up my cross. I was giving myself. This was my mission.
Well, newsflash: This isn’t my mission. And that became clear half an hour later when, as I stood outside security, my co-lead gave me a call and told me that his and three other of our mission team members’ flights were delayed.
At first it seemed like nothing a decisive call to our flight agent couldn’t resolve. But it quickly became clear that I wasn’t the one in control here. One of our team was stranded in Lisbon alone as another two team members ran through the Newark airport to make their connection. The flight with my co-lead and his three charges remained delayed too long to meet their Newark connection while my own flight from Boston to Newark was delayed first one, then two, then three, and finally four hours!
As I swore and fumed and cursed my way up and down the terminal, I ended up taking off the cross that I had so intentionally put on. I didn’t want anyone to associate the red-faced angry girl in the airport with the Jesus who endured all torments without a word of bitterness for love of us.
Ultimately, all was resolved. Three of the team made it safely to Fatima the following morning while us five were delayed a day. Travel proceeded safely enough, although there were some hitches along the way. We all came out tired, but unscarred. But I didn’t escape without learning a valuable lesson in docility.
This is not my mission. If everything goes wrong and travel is awful and the team gets sick and we see no fruit in the summer, then it’s not my mission. If everything goes according to plan and we arrive in Magadan safe and sound and everyone loves us and Russia is converted by August, then it’s still not my mission. Whether I’m miserly or generous, dry or zealous, useless or effective, pathetic or great, I hope the Lord still whispers (or shouts) these words to my little heart at every moment: This is not your mission.
This is the Father’s mission. This is Christ’s mission. This is the Holy Spirit’s mission. This is the mission of Fatima: it is Our Lady’s mission. This is Sts. Cyril and Methodius’ mission. This is Servant of God, Fr. Walter Ciszek’s mission. This is the mission of all the Church and all the angels and all the saints, but I thank God every day that this isn’t just my mission. Because Kaitlin Maloney is pretty cool but she’s small and hasn’t conquered all that much, but God is great and the battle is already won for Him. Praise God that I get to serve Him rather than myself, for his plan is infinitely perfect while mine is contaminated by my own weakness and pride.
This is not my mission. Praise God for that!
Please pray for us as we travel to Magadan in these next few days. Pray that all goes well, but above all pray that I might realize that all is already well. May God’s will be done and may we always embrace it with joy!
Kaitlin and the Russia Mission Team