By Heidi Hess Saxton
As I write this, I’m preparing to fly to Costa Rica to spend a month at St. Bryce Missions, volunteering at the maternity center Colleen describes in her lovely book. My family will follow in a couple of weeks, including my teenage daughter, Sarah, who will be joining me at the center while the boys go exploring. To say that I’m excited is an understatement … my idea of heaven on earth is sitting on a porch, rocking babies and chatting with a good friend.
Because my husband and I received our children through foster care before adopting them in 2005, I’m looking forward to sharing with these women some aspects of mothering that have not been a part of my own story: labor and delivery, breastfeeding, and the sheer joy of holding a newborn. What I most anticipate about this trip, however, is what it represents to my own family.
A Heart for Mission
Before my conversion to Catholicism, I studied to become a missionary, and had even spent a year in Senegal, West Africa as a missionary intern. Missions is in my blood, and even after I entered the Church and began to work in Catholic publishing, I have always seen it as more of a mission than a simple job. Similarly, when my husband was in college, he had studied ecology, and had taken eco-tourism trips to work with research scientists in Central America. For both of us, this trip to Costa Rica is giving us a chance to share with our children part of who we are, of the things that are most important to us.
In the third chapter of Who Does He Say You Are?, I imagine what it must have been like for Anna the Prophetess, seeing with her own eyes the reward of her years and years of toil in the Temple courtyard. Some traditions hold that it was Anna who tended to Mary when Ann and Joachim brought Mary as a toddler to be raised to serve in the house of the Lord. If that is true, Anna’s joy at seeing this young woman once more, and to hold her Child in her arms, must have been unspeakable. How she must have thanked God for letting her see the fruit of her labor!
A Woman of Vision
“Anna is a woman of vision,” writes Colleen Mitchell. “She knows that something new is coming, and she lives in great hope of that coming…. [She] waits publicly on the Lord and fasts from the things that would cloud her vision of his presence, so that when he reveals himself, she will be ready to make public proclamation of her great hope” (p.23). At the age of 84, living in the Temple as a widow, she must have grown weary at times, begging God to show her his plan. Hers was not a life like other women’s. She had known great grief, great suffering that at the sight of the Child was swallowed up in joy.
So it is with us, my sisters in Christ. There is no offering we can make, no sacrifice we can endure, that escapes God’s notice, or that he is unwilling to redeem. With each passing year, we see others who are walking along a path God has already brought us. We revel vicariously in their joy, and come alongside to ease their burdens. And we trust that God has allowed our paths to cross for a reason he knows best.
Ours is a grace-filled age. Ours is the task to proclaim the faithfulness of the Lord who never leaves us, who shares our burdens and lightens our sorrows.
Like Anna, the work of our lives comes sharply into focus the moment we look at Jesus.
To Ponder, Reflect and Discuss:
- Scripture tells us that Anna “never left the temple, but worshiped night and day with fasting and prayer.” Her widowhood freed her to serve God with an undivided heart. How does her story speak to you?
- In the book, the author speaks of the tragic loss of her infant son as well as subsequent losses that led her and her husband to become missionaries in Costa Rica, tending to the needs of indigent and at-risk mothers. What are some of the circumstances in your life that you would not have chosen for yourself, but that turned out to be important milestones in your own spiritual journey?
- It takes courage to abandon ourselves to God, trusting him to chart the course of our lives for us. And yet, when at last we surrender our own plans, we often find that God has something much better for us than we’d imagined for ourselves. Can you think of examples?
- In closing the discussion, reflect upon this “Prayer of Abandonment” of Blessed Charles de Foucauld. Read it slowly, prayerfully. Which line leaps out at you?
I abandon myself into your hands;
Do with me what you will.
Whatever you may do, I thank you.
I am ready for all, I accept all.
Let only your will be done in me,
And in all your creatures –
I wish no more than this, O Lord.
Into your hands I commend my soul;
I offer it to you with all the love of my heart,
For I love you, Lord, and so need to give myself,
To surrender myself into your hands without reserve,
And with boundless confidence,
For you are my Father.
About the Author:
Heidi Hess Saxton a wife and adoptive mother, contributing writer to WINE, and author of Advent with Saint Teresa of Calcutta and the follow-up companion, Lent with Saint Teresa of Calcutta (Servant, released January 2017). Heidi received a graduate degree in theology from Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit in 2012, having converted to the Catholic faith in 1995 from the evangelical tradition. She met her husband, Craig, at the University of Michigan Ballroom Dance Club, and lives with her family (including two special-needs teenagers, a longsuffering Aussie shepherd and a snuggly Chiweenie) near South Bend, Indiana.