Prairie Messenger Header

A dramatic moment of awakening leads to the joy of service


By Tillie Aessie


Have you ever felt an uneasiness in your life and had strong feelings that God wants you to do something more? Do you hear his voice in Scripture, in a dream, or from one of his earth angels? Do you think you might be summoned by the Holy Spirit? How do you respond?

This is my story.

“I slept and dreamed that life was a joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold, service was joy” (Rabindranath Tagore).

As I reflected on this quote, I soon realized that indeed service is joy. Perhaps I should explain why I feel that way. In the year 2000, I had a full-time job in a retail store. I would spend most days and weekends at work, coming home tired and dissatisfied, even though in retail lingo I had a good and profitable day and store sales were up. But, I knew there was something missing. I often thought to myself, “Is this all there is? Why do I feel so unfulfilled and sad?”

My awakening moment was really quite dramatic. I was attending my usual one hour once a week Sunday mass, giving homage and performing my duty as a Catholic.

The gospel reading of the day was from Matthew 6:19-21. As my pastor was proclaiming this Gospel, I suddenly began to feel chilled; tears welled up in my eyes, and then came an ache in my heart. My heart was burning and heavy with regret for those words had a powerful effect on me. I immediately knew what I had to do. The next day I terminated 17 years of employment.

Shortly after that, I enrolled in a two-year Lay Formation program. This course of study gave me a greater understanding of the Scriptures, and through prayer and discernment, discovered what God had in store for me. It is where I learned the value of the phrase, “Strive not to be served, but to serve.” I presently serve in many ministries available to Catholic women and indeed have been rewarded with “the joy of service.”

I am frequently asked, “Why do you do this? What do you get in return?” I simply smile and answer, “This is my ministry. I do not expect to be paid for the work I do and I do not need to see my name in the newspaper or be on television. Sometimes I do not even receive any thanks, but, when I look into the person’s eyes, I notice the approving glint of gratitude and see we have made a good connection.

Their body language says it all when I receive a hug, and it gives me a feeling of self-worth and satisfaction. Being caring, compassionate and doing something for another human being that money cannot buy and people cannot pay back is joy in itself.

A few years ago and several days before Christmas, feeling stumped on how to entertain my family, I suggested we all go to the church to help assemble and deliver Christmas hampers. They were skeptical of the idea, but afterward I asked, “How do you feel now after helping and knowing that you unselfishly gave of your time and helped the poor?”

Everyone replied, “I feel great, it was something I always wanted to do!” It is this wonderful euphoric feeling you experience after doing a good deed.

It is through this action that we acknowledge we are brothers and sisters to one another and the more often we surrender ourselves to service, the more we grow. It’s like a divine circular exchange: God gives us grace, and we grow. When we surrender our time and priorities we grow some more. And God gives us even more grace.

I have found nothing but happiness and contentment responding to this call. Yes, there is joy in service!

Aessie is a life member of the Catholic Women’s League and national chair of the Spiritual Development Committee. This article appeared in the CWL league magazine to introduce their theme for the next two years, “Inspired by the Spirit, women respond to God’s call.” Aessie lives in Saskatoon.