Chaplain’s Corner: Trust in the slow work of God

Bridget Power

This essay is adapted from the benediction delivered for Convocation at Chapin Hall on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022. 

When you first arrived at Williams, you undoubtedly came here with goals for what you hoped to accomplish in this place of possibilities. You dreamed about the knowledge you could gain, the experiences you could garner, and the friendships you could cultivate. 

For those of you who are entering your final semester or year here, your time at the College has been different from what you could have imagined. The world has changed. Williams has changed. And most importantly, you have changed too. 

Whether you are an undergraduate or graduate student, it is my hope that you will be faithful to the sense of purpose that is emerging within you. Yet living faithfully in this calling may involve letting go of some of the notions of success that you have carried with you. 

When life is not unfolding as I have hoped, I often find comfort in a prayer by the paleontologist and French Jesuit priest Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, S.J.: 

Above all, trust in the slow work of God. 

We are quite naturally impatient in everything to reach the end without delay. 

We should like to skip the intermediate stages. 

We are impatient of being on the way to something unknown, something new. 

And yet it is the law of all progress 

that it is made by passing through some stages of instability— 

and that it may take a very long time. 

And so I think it is with you; 

your ideas mature gradually—let them grow, 

let them shape themselves, without undue haste. 

Don’t try to force them on, 

as though you could be today what time 

(that is to say, grace and circumstances acting on your own good will) 

will make of you tomorrow. 

Only God could say what this new spirit 

gradually forming within you will be. 

Give Our Lord the benefit of believing 

that his hand is leading you, 

and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself 

in suspense and incomplete. 

Perhaps you find yourself experiencing confusion, disappointment, or anticipation at this early point in the school year. Perhaps you are questioning your decision to come to Williams College. Maybe you are feeling lost. Maybe you are ready to graduate. As you continue to seek out your purposes (and you have many!), may you strive to be faithful to your sense of calling. And most importantly, may you experience joy in the process of discovering what your purposes may be. 

The Christian theologian Frederick Buechner offered an important, yet challenging insight: “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” 

It is your task to seek out such places, and it is our task as a Williams community to support you in this seeking. The College’s bicentennial medalists each have found ways to be faithful to their own unique calls. And like you, like all of us, they, too, continue to discover their purposes. 

May your remaining time on this campus be filled with both introspection and connection. May you deepen your relationships with people who will help you come to know yourself better. And may you help them in return. 

May you find yourself imagining new possibilities, knowing that this quest to be faithful to your callings will never end. 

We bless you as you enter this academic year. May you experience consolation as you continue your search. May you be faithful to the sense of purpose emerging within you. And may you, too, discover the places where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet. 

Bridget Power is the College’s Catholic chaplain.