Hello NET Alumni! It’s an honor to be writing to you, whether you served with NET 20 years ago or 2 years ago. My name is Ryan Best, and I served on the road in 2014-15 and again in 2018-19, as well as supervising in 2019-20.
Maybe you’re doing a lot for the Kingdom of God here on earth. Maybe you’re involved at a parish, fighting the good fight of trying to get teenagers to show up to help out at a fundraiser – or any event that doesn’t involve free food. Maybe this is the first time you’ve circled back to thinking about ministry or your relationship with God in a while.
Wherever you’re at, I just thought of a few nuggets of wisdom that I remembered from Wapo, or NET Training in general, that I think could be beneficial for any or all of us to remember.
Nugget #1: When you’re on mission, everything is a gift.
Quick story from the road when my team was in a relatively small town somewhere in the South. One day, my host dad told my NET brother and me, “We’ll have a KFC buffet for dinner tonight,” which sounded good to us.
Or so we thought.
So all day long, we thought it would be nice to get some quality time with just our host dad and some greasy buckets of fried chicken that night.
But then, when the retreat was over, he dropped us off at a K of C buffet. A Knights of Columbus event for the whole parish – and, even more unexpectedly, the evening included an extended ventriloquist show. Somewhere around the time, the performer was pulling out his third or fourth puppet with no end in sight. I remember thinking, “How did I get here?”
In that moment, it all seemed so hilarious. But the truth was that the time there was a gift – nothing about it was a bad time!
The Father was providing us a full meal and an opportunity to show God’s love to some parishioners. That was the truth, and we knew it thanks to this nugget of wisdom from training. (Even though in some ways the Lord was totally just messing with us and our expectations in that moment.)
Nugget #2: The legitimate command of your legitimate authority is the will of God for you.
This direct quote from a homily Bishop Cozzens gave at Wapo one year has always stood out in my mind. When I was a supervisor, I remember being asked to move a big stack of files from one filing cabinet to another. As I was doing it, it hit me – that simple task was God’s will for me in that moment.
I realized obedience doesn’t just help make sure that administrative hierarchies run smoothly. It also tells you in black-and-white terms what God’s will is for your life at any given moment. And not just in the NET world, either.
It was a really freeing thought.
Nugget #3: Practice “radical amputation.”
This nugget of wisdom comes from Fr. Brian Park during men’s session at Ox Lake Camp. If I remember right, the phrase is inspired by Matthew 18:9, “If your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away.”
I believe there is a lot of wisdom in thinking of things in terms of this phrase by Father BP. We should be radical in our pursuit of the Lord, and in our pursuit of virtue to get there. So why aren’t we more willing to cut things out of our life if they’re holding us back from the heights of holiness and eternal life?
If you’re like me, maybe you often hear the encouragement to get rid of a smartphone. Or to give up using a computer apart from necessities. Those are good things to consider. But I’d say this principle can be taken even farther than that.
There are some things that aren’t directly causing us to sin but are leading us to live more distracted lives. These can then make our desire for God lessen and even grow cold.
Netflix, Instagram Reels, and YouTube are some classic examples of this. But what about listening to pop music often while around the house just to fill the silence? Another example is investing time in friendships that aren’t exactly bad for us but don’t serve to build us up in love or virtue either.
Nugget #4: Don’t complain about the weather.
This comes from St. Alphonsus Liguori’s pamphlet “Uniformity With the Will of God,” which was handed out at January training at NET during my time there.
I was really convicted of this when I heard Dave Rinaldi’s talk about this pamphlet. Again, I believe there’s a lot of wisdom in this – and complaining about the literal weather is just one example of what I think St. Alphonsus means by it.
Anything beyond our control is a gift insofar as we receive it as that. So why complain? These things are opportunities to unify our will with God’s will, and that’s incredibly valuable!
Nugget #5: God wants to do more in you than He wants to do through you.
If I remember correctly, this piece of wisdom is part of a talk currently given by Dave Rinaldi before even going to Wapo.
I’m also bringing it up in the context of this blog because I think it applies to more than just NET Missionaries – at least if I understand him right. What has struck me as wise is that God wants to do amazing things through you. But even more importantly, He wants your heart – totally converted unto His own.
It brings to mind 1 Corinthians 13:1, that we are a “clashing gong or clanging cymbal” if we do powerful spiritual works but have no love in our hearts. He wants us to fall more in love with who He is. He wants us to bear the fruits of the Holy Spirit more than He wants us to do cool things in the world.
Jesus says something similar in Luke 10:20, “Do not rejoice because the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice because your names are written in heaven.” We should rejoice more because of what He’s done in us. He’s called us out of the grave; what could be a greater miracle than that?
I’ll end my thoughts there because that last nugget of wisdom
Because focuses on God’s heart for us, which I think is a good truth to return to as often as we can. Hopefully, something on this list will help someone (or everyone) who reads it.
I’ll pray for you all as I submit this – wherever you’re at in your post-NET life, God bless you!