The Journey of Life: Deacon Bob Ayers
Deacon Bob graduated with an M.A. in Theology from Holy Apostles College and Seminary this past May.
We all know that life is a journey. In fact, it’s many journeys that often branch out in various directions at any given time. When we are young, the journey is quite easy. Our parents let us know when to go to church, when to go to school, when it’s time to eat, and when it’s time to play. Our lives in our earlier years are in a sense laid out for us like a roadmap or a GPS display. You just follow the route that you’re given. Of course, as we get older, we gain additional freedom. With that freedom, in order to mature, we need to accept additional responsibility. That’s where it starts to get tough.
St. Paul wrote, “When I was a child, I used to talk as a child, think as a child, reason as a child; when I became a man, I put aside childish things” (1 Cor 13:11). As we began to make our own decisions as adults, we made choices regarding careers, marriage, raising children, caring for our aging parents, planning for our own retirement and yes, hopefully some vacations. These decisions are best made within a vibrant prayer life. As Catholic Christians we can draw upon the Spirit of God to guide us in the choices we make. That’s the birthright we receive in becoming adopted sons and daughters of God through Baptism, the strength we receive in the Body and Blood of Christ, and the gifts of the Holy Spirit in Confirmation.
Although these Divine gifts are freely available to us, we’re still human and we instinctively cling to our human nature. A mistake that I often make is when times get really tough, I habitually double down on my efforts instead of first reaching out to God in prayer. When things only get worse it finally hits me, Duh!
When we pray, we certainly can’t expect to hear God’s voice speaking to us every time we call. What we can expect is that with persistent prayer, our thoughts will begin to conform to God’s will for us and the decision becomes a lot clearer.
About five years ago, I felt that the time had come in my life to further my education. I considered pursuing either an M.B.A. or an M.A. in Theology. I churned it around in my head, over and over again, for more than a year, only to find that I became more uncertain of the direction I should take. When I finally began to bring the choices to God in prayer, it started to become clearer. Did I want to better understand the administration of business, or did I want to deepen my understanding of God and His Church? In 2010, I applied and was accepted for admission to Holy Apostles College and Seminary in Cromwell, CT. The first course that I took was like dumping a bucket of ice-water on my head. It was 35 years since I graduated from college and I was rusty, the course required five books, and this stuff was a lot more difficult than undergraduate coursework (again, Duh!). Yet, this is where God led me, not fully understanding what I was getting into. On Saturday, May 3, I received the degree of Master of Arts in Theology.
It was a truly awesome celebration. As I sat at the graduation ceremony, I listened to the welcoming address by the President and Rector Very Rev. Douglas Mosey, the commencement address by Fr. Brian Mullady, O.P., and the encouraging words of the Vicar General of the Diocese of Norwich Msgr. Leszek Janik. I then suddenly began to think forward. With considerable apprehension I thought. . . “What is God going to want me to do next?” The answer is, I don’t have the slightest idea! But maybe by now I have finally learned that I don’t need to know everything and I don’t need to be in control. As St. Paul wrote, “At present we see indistinctly, as in a mirror, but then face to face. At present I know partially; then I shall know fully, as I am fully known” (1 Cor 13:12).
I would be remiss if I did not thank my wife Linda and our daughter Melissa for putting up with me these last four years. Nights and weekends were often consumed in reading, writing essays, and taking exams. They noticed a pattern early on and could detect it in my demeanor. They would simply say, “I guess you have a paper due this week!”