When St. Anthony was a young man, he heard the story of five friars that had been martyred. He was inspired by their example, and joined the Franciscan order with plans to be a missionary. But on the journey to Morocco to fulfill his dream, Anthony became very ill and had to turn back. This must have already been heartbreaking, but then his ship for home was blown off course and he landed in Italy instead of Portugal! He was still recovering from his illness and very weak, so he was assigned to a rural hermitage in Northern Italy. What a disappointment! St. Anthony had made plans for an exciting life as a missionary in Morocco, and instead ended up sick in a rural Italian hermitage. But St. Anthony didn’t just give up on his vocation. He spent his time praying and studying, trusting that God would show him what to do next.
What happened to St. Anthony happens to all of us at some point in our lives, we have big dreams and plans- and then something goes wrong. Feeling discouraged and disappointed is natural, and its ok to acknowledge our sadness and frustration. But then we should turn to God and say, “I know you’re in control of everything. I’m going to trust you. I may not see how anything good can come out of this, but you can.”
Trusting in God in the face of disappointment helps children to move forward without allowing the perceived failure to lower their self-esteem. Disappointment is natural, but putting all the responsibility (incorrectly) on themselves can lead to feelings of inadequacy. Becoming demoralized prevents a child from being open and receptive to whatever God is asking them to do next. Instead of self-pity, trust in God cultivates a healthy belief that no matter what happens, a loving Father is in charge and is ready to lead us on. Trusting that God is in charge takes the weight of “success” or “failure” off our shoulders. God doesn’t ask us to always succeed- but he does ask us to keep praying, keep trusting, and keep going.
St. Anthony’s gift for preaching was discovered during his time in Northern Italy, and as they say, the rest is history. It wasn’t the life he had planned, but as is so often the case, God had even better plans.