Bishop Ken Untener, of Saginaw, Michigan, wrote the following prayer for a homily given by Cardinal John F. Dearden of Detroit at a Mass for departed priests in 1979. The prayer has been published and re-published many times. Somewhere along the way, it was attributed to Saint Oscar Romero, who, among many other positions, was at one time the National Director of the Pontifical Mission Societies of El Salvador.
Now known worldwide as "The Romero Prayer," the words speak beautifully to the work of missionaries who plant the seeds of faith, water them, and pray that someone will follow them to nurture the young sprout of faith and guide it into maturity.
"It helps, now and then, to step back and take a long view. The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts, it is even beyond our vision. We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of the magnificent enterprise that is God's work.
Nothing we do is complete, which is a way of saying that the kingdom always lies beyond us. No statement says all that could be said. No prayer fully expresses our faith. No confession brings perfection. No pastoral visit brings wholeness. No program accomplishes the Church's mission. No set of goals and objectives includes everything.
This is what we are about.
We plant the seeds that one day will grow. We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise. We lay foundations that will need further development. We provide yeast that produces far beyond our capabilities. We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that.
This enables us to do something, and to do it very well. It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way, an opportunity for the Lord's grace to enter and do the rest. We may never see the end results, but that is the difference between the master builder and the worker.
We are workers, not master builders, ministers, not messiahs. We are prophets of a future not our own."
Today, step back and take the long view. Then, go plant some seeds for God, trusting in the promise of the work.
- Maureen Crowley Heil is Director of Programs and Development for the Pontifical Mission Societies, Boston.