A statue of St. Jean de Brebeuf at Martyrs' Shrine at Midland, Ont. Photo by Michael Swan

Speaking out: Discerning my next steps

By  Anna Chelmecki, Speaking Out
  • June 19, 2018

Recently I was able to visit Martyrs’ Shrine in Midland, Ont. This site is a national shrine consecrated to the Canadian Martyrs, a group of eight Jesuits who lived in community with the Huron people and who were tortured and killed for their faith. 

I have to admit that Martyrs’ Shrine was not the intended destination of my trip. I was driving to Muskoka with two friends to help with a Mass at a high school leadership retreat. We realized we were fairly close to the Shrine so we decided to make an impromptu road trip on our way home. 

Although I have been to the Shrine countless times (my family goes every year with hundreds of other people for the Polish pilgrimage), this visit felt different. Perhaps it was because there were no other visitors or maybe it was the uncertainty I had been feeling recently, but this unintended trip felt like a balm to my soul.

During this trip, I was in a strange place in my life. I had finished my Master’s degree and had interviewed for several teaching positions, but I was stuck on the prospect of leaving familiarity. I was focused on one question: Was I following God’s will for the next part of my life?

It seemed like everyone around me was making big leaps of faith. They seemed so certain of God’s plan in their lives. I, on the other hand, felt like I was stuck, desiring that God would just give me a set of instructions for what He wanted me to do next. 

As we walked around, it was easy to take in the beauty of the grounds. We arrived just as the sun was beginning to set and the whole Shrine was basked in a beautiful glow. While we explored, I thought about the Jesuit martyrs who walked on this very same soil. 

They had come to an unfamiliar country to help build the Church, and were later killed for that same faith. I wondered how many times they had watched this same sunset, perhaps thinking about their mission and reflecting on what God was asking of them next. 

It was easy at first to think they had been chosen by God for their mission because of their unwavering courage. But what I slowly came to realize is that perhaps their courage was given to them by God after they accepted their mission, in order for them to carry out His work. Maybe all that was required was listening for a quiet call and trusting that God would slowly reveal a path step by step. 

The martyrs who lived here over 350 years ago heard their call which led them on a path to wind to a painful death. But, it also led to a destination that everyone is meant for — Heaven. 

And so while I am still unsure of what the next steps of my path will look like, I am patient that God will quietly provide those steps when the time is right, even if they may cause me to end up in unintended places. Because, above all, my heart is set on journeying to a much better destination than the right job or right decision. My ultimate home is Heaven. 

(Chelmecki, 23, is a second-year Master of Teaching student at the University of Toronto)

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