God said to Abram, "Go from your country and your kindred and your father's house to the land that I will show you." Genesis 12:1 (NRSV)
The Meehan Family Emigration Decision to Act on the Dream
My friend, Jack, dreamed of taking his family away from their homeland in Ireland, out from his father-in-law's cottage, to a new and unfamiliar country. He had watched many of his peers being forced, by financial necessity, to be absentee fathers, obliged to work in England or Scotland to earn liveable wages that could be sent back home to their families. "That is no life," Jack decided, "to be separated from family-not to be there for one's children as they grow up." But the alternative?
Although, Jack's wife, Bridie, had a sister and brother-in-law in the United States who could provide them with a temporary place to stay, the accommodations would be crowded. Plus, there was no guarantee that Jack would be able to find a job. He had to make a decision based in prayer and trust. He did. Eventually, Jack and Bridie stepped forward into the unknown, as Abraham and Sarah had done.
The seriousness of such a step is heightened when the
decision affects not only one's own life, but the lives of others-like spouse and children. A person who has to make a decision like this does not enjoy the luxury of certainty. There are moments when the unknown is terrifying. There are those times when a member of
the family chafes at being uprooted, times when the entire family is called to work through the emotional stress without blaming the one who made the ultimate decision- that is, if the family is to remain intact and grow in solidarity.
To make a move like this is no small thing. Its success must be rooted in the conviction that God is always present and that the uniting love of the family is more important than any single member's preference. The realization of the dream for a better life for the whole family depends, then, on the personal sacrifices of all the members.
Jack talks about times of doubt, about wondering if he had, in fact, made the right decision- especially when his wife suffered bouts of homesickness. But the dream was strong. Like all good dreams, it came from the depths ofJack's heart where the Spirit of God inspires us. It has been realized. The family surmounted all kinds of hurdles and is clearly exactly where God intended them to be today. This is the story of many immigrants who left various countries to make a new life in America. This particular story is the true tale of my friend Bridget Mary Meehan and her family.
All those who have danced to the music ofJack's band are glad he made that decision in 1956. All who have experienced the daily living of faith in the lives of Bridie and Jack are enriched by their coming here. Their children and grandchildren are enjoying the fruit of this dream in richly blessed lives. A Filipino family, also immigrants, have been supported on their way by the outreach of Jack and Bridie. I, too, enjoy the fruit ofJack's decision. I am blessed in having known their kind of faith and family closeness and in having known Jack and Bridie's daughter, Bridget Mary, my sister in religious life and dearest friend. Who can know how many other lives have been touched by Jack's decision to act on the dream of his heart?
Think about the dreams in your heart that you have acted upon. They may not have been as momentous as leaving your native country, but to follow any dream requires some stepping out in the dark. Recall such a moment in your life and realize that, with God's grace, you were able to take the step. Be with God in that memory, with thanksgiving.
Be aware that the presence of God is always with, in and around you. With God, look at any dream you may have had in your life that frightened you because of the risk you would have to take to realize it. Was there something you secretly wished and longed to fulfill, but the difficulties seemed insurmountable? Is there a piece of this dream that might still be available to you? Does your heart still long for it? Entrust that dream and the moment you decided not to pursue it into God's loving hands. God knows how to take care of everything. God knows you well, and understands that you will not always be up to every challenge in life. Talk to the inspiring Holy Spirit of God within you. Make this your prayer today:
Continue to inspire me, 0 Holy Spirit. Above all, teach me to discern your voice from that of my own indulgent, self-motivating urges.
Write out the dreams of your heart and turn them over to God. Make this your prayer today:
In your presence, God, I note the dreams I hold most dear, those things I long to accomplish before you call me home with you. I know that these are heartfelt, because they so often return to me as longings, even when I am not focusing on them. Yet, dearest Lover of my Soul, I want only that which is pleasing to you. Remove from me any desire that will get in the way of my pursuing your holy will.
Make this your prayer today:
God of our Dreams, you have your dream for me. You have your dream for each person you have created. The rest of the universe conforms to your dream and does what it was created to do. I wish to do what you created me to do; I wish to act on the dream.
I want to be and become what you created me to be. Thank you, patient God. I know you know me so well that you factored into my integrating process of growth my proneness to follow my own headstrong way. Help me to cooperate with you in your great work of transforming me into an image of]esus.
If you have a favorite meditative CD or tape, listen to that during this prayer time. Focus m the words "hope," "trust" and "dream." One of the lines from Cary Landry's song Only a Shadow says, "The dream I dream today, my God, is only a shadow of your dream for me." Imagine God holding dear a fond dream of what you are to do and become. Spend time with God reflecting on that.
Think about the dreams your parents may have had-or have for you. After all, most parents have fond dreams for their children. Parents are human, of course, so their dreams for their children may at times be motivated by their own unfulfilled desires. Often, however, parents see the gifts in their children, and they dream, quite unselfishly, of their children developing their gifts as they become uniquely fulfilled adults. Could you talk with your parents or siblings about the family's dream for you? Have you shared with a member of your family your dream for that person? Talk with God about this. Part of your prayer may be to share about this with a member of your family.
Consider asking a trusted friend, family member or spiritual director to help you discern the dreams of your heart. Such a person has the advantage of knowing you, loving you, and seeing your special gifts with objectivity. Ask her or him to help you explore your longings and your motivations. Allow God to lead you in this gentle self-analysis.