Dealing with stage fright

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Tuesday 29, September 2009 | Category:  
I have thought about becoming a priest but I cannot stand in front of a large group and speak. What other vocations are there for me?

In the few words you've written, it's clear that God is already beginning to nudge you and call you to a deeper way of relating to and serving God. How to respond and express this sense of call can often be a challenge because there are so many ways of living our vocation.

I encourage you to rethink the possibility that God might be calling you to become a priest. Put aside your fear or inability to speak in front of large groups and focus instead on what you sense God is saying to you and on the kinds of life and ministry that attract you. Trust me, I am not dismissing the "standing-up-in-front-of-large-groups" issue. It's one that I personally struggle with all the time. Even though my ministry is largely online and via writing, it seems I always end up teaching a workshop or leading a retreat. Initially the idea of speaking in front of any group large or small terrified me. But over time I realized that I so loved the stuff I was speaking about and so wanted to help and encourage others that my inability and fear receded to the background (not completely gone, but not stopping me either).

One of my best friends in all of this was and remains the prophet Jeremiah. Read and pray on these words:

"Now the word of the Lord came to me saying, 'Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.' Then I said, 'Ah, Lord God! Truly I do not know how to speak, for I am only a boy.' But the Lord said to me, 'Do not say, "I am only a boy"; for you shall go to all to whom I send you, and you shall speak whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, says the Lord.' Then the Lord put out his hand and touched my mouth; and the Lord said to me, 'Now I have put my words in your mouth' " (Jeremiah 1:4-9).

No matter how you choose to express your call from God, you will be called (more times than any of us care to admit) to move beyond your comfort zone and become an open vessel for God's work to be done. Remember, as Saint Paul often reminds us, our weakness—our inability, our fear—is an opportunity for the grace of God to fill us and be communicated to others.
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