A rite of passage in the seventh grade of my college preparatory school in Atlanta was to learn how to dive. It was part of the rigorous P.E. class that had become legendary in school folklore. Each of us only had to dive into the pool one time. But it wasn’t just any dive; it was a high dive, backwards, with our eyes closed, into the deep end of the pool.
For weeks before D-day, I agonized over the requirement. Not only had I inherited my father’s severe fear of heights, I also was deathly afraid of miscalculating the trajectory of the dive and smacking into the surface of the water like a ton of bricks. I tried everything to get out of it, including talking to Coach Higgins about it and even calling in sick the day my name came up. But when I returned to school, Coach barked out my name just the same, and I was forced to climb the long steel ladder leading to certain death.
As I nervously edged my way down the endless length of the diving board, my stomach bunched into knots. I came to the end of the fluttering plank, turned around, took a deep breath, and then bolted like a spooked horse. I was the laughingstock of the class. Unlike Peter who tried to walk on water and then sunk, I never even dared to get wet at all.
On that day, I learned that fear is a powerful motivator, and I vowed never again to be seduced by it. As Nelson Mandela once said, “courage [is] not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it.” I also have come to realize that fear comes in all forms, including perhaps most significantly the fear of change.
As a community of faith, we are on a mission from God. We have a purpose, and God expects that purpose to be our driving force and single motivator in life. That purpose is to gather together in fellowship and prayer, mature and grow in faith, and then take what we have learned into ministry and mission, serving others and teaching them about Christ. Although like so many others we easily can fall into spiritual ruts, refusing to change, fearful of the high dive or drowning in uncharted waters, we are called to close our eyes and trust in God.
This Fall, we will take the plunge into new waters, and I urge you to take a risk and dive in with us. We will roll out our new Saint Brendan Small Bytes Program, so that you can learn more about your faith in easy-to-digest ways. We will launch our Small Group Experiences, so that you can share your faith and do life together with other Catholics in a relaxed, intimate setting. We are charting a new direction in our Faith Formation program for children, and inviting world-class speakers to address us on important topics of faith throughout this year.
Our theme for the year is Pray Together. Stay Together. Read more in the following articles, and take the free fall with us. Do not be afraid, for it is the Lord who commands us to “come to him on the water.”
Father Roger Gustafson