Into the Light: Making the Summer Count

I love astronomy, and a few years ago, I saw my first solar eclipse (when the moon passes in front of the sun). Unfortunately, you cannot look directly at a solar eclipse because the intensity of the sunlight when the moon moves out of the way can be blindingly bright. Have you ever been in a dark room and suddenly someone turns on the light without warning? It is painful, and the sun is way brighter and far more intense. So, to observe eclipses safely, you can construct or buy devices or simple glasses to protect yourself from harm.

I believe we need spiritual safety glasses for our lives and ministries this summer. As things continue to open up and return to varying degrees of normalcy, many of us will be wrestling with the messy reality of moving back “into the light” after spending many months shrouded by the darkness of a global pandemic. We have to be careful that we do not get burned by diving in too haphazardly and neglecting what is most important for our own well-being, as well as those we serve.

So, how can we cautiously and intentionally live and minister back into the light of normalcy this summer without getting burned? Here are three easy tips for your own life and ministry.

  1. Pray

  2. I know, on every list of ministry-related tips, prayer is included as the “no-brainer.” That is because prayer is “a vital and personal relationship with the living and true God” (CCC 2558). We must lead with prayer because the floodgates of normalcy will continue to open, and we have to be cautious that we are not anchoring our hope or identity in something other than Jesus. It is easy to get excited about the opportunity to do more. Still, we can mistakenly place our desires for fulfillment on other people we have not seen in a while or in new experiences instead of staying rooted in Christ first and foremost. We also cannot sprint into the next chapter of our lives, neglecting the fact that many of us have been hurt by this pandemic and how it affected our parishes, families, and our mental health. Prayer is a relationship, a relationship with the Divine Physician, the only One who can truly heal us in both body and soul:

    Cast all your worries upon him because he cares for you…The God of all grace who called you to his eternal glory through Christ [Jesus] will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you after you have suffered a little. To him be dominion forever. Amen. (1 Peter 5:7, 10-11)

    Make sure you are actively scheduling time every single day to be with the Lord in prayer so he can restore and guide you the summer.

  3. Discern & Say No

  4. We are emerging from a world of Zoom, social distancing, and face masks. A temptation will be to run as fast as possible in the other direction, into a no-holds-barred, anything goes, packed calendar of events. As exciting as it may be to have so many opportunities and ideas to pursue personally and in ministry, this can easily become a recipe for burnout. You need to rest. You need to take a vacation, go on a retreat, and make sure you are saying yes to the things that matter most. There will be a huge temptation to return to “the way things used to be.” We have been gifted with a giant reset button and the opportunity to do things differently and to reassess what honestly was not working before. Instead of saying yes to every opportunity, event or idea, take time to intentionally discern what matters to, and what those you serve need most.

  5. Prioritize Relationship

  6. Many of us will be in rebuilding phases this coming year. Maybe the panic of trying to get back to where things were before COVID is already settling in. Remember, what you need most right now in your personal life is relationship. Likewise, what your teens need most right now from you, your team, and your ministry is relationship. Personally, focus on reconnecting with friends and family in meaningful ways this summer. Intentionally schedule times on your ministry calendar where Core members can be present, and teens can come by and just talk. Simple experiences like daily Mass followed by going to breakfast, a group hike, or a coffee shop takeover can be easy things to plan that offer you and your team the opportunity to reconnect with teens and rebuild relationships.

My spiritual director once told me, “Jesus did not fulfill His potential, but He fulfilled His purpose.” He could have done anything, but He came to do what He intended to and nothing else. We are called to do the same. Though we have the potential to do hundreds of different things this summer, we need to prioritize what matters by bringing our lives and ministries to prayer, thoughtful discernment, being willing to say no, and focusing our time and energy on building relationships. If we do those things, we will avoid being burned or blinded; we will see God work in our lives and ministries in new, life-giving ways.

Photo by Jongsun Lee on Unsplash

About the Author

Matthew Zemanek

Matt Zemanek is a passionate Catholic, husband, father, minister, speaker and worship leader. Matt has a Master's Degree in Pastoral Theology from Loyola Marymount University and has been serving in ministry since 2005. He loves being Catholic, evangelizing, leading worship, riddles, spreadsheets, escape rooms, iced tea and a good book.

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