Father Zach Weber's Journey into Surrendering to Divine Providence, Part 2
By Carlos Briceño
In recently talking to Father Zach Weber, he frequently alluded to seeking God’s will and mentioned the peace he felt in living in the present moment. I don’t meet many people who make it a point to be so laser-focused in their efforts to live in the Sacrament of the Present Moment. So I decided to find out more, which prompted this series of blog posts on him.
As you may have read in part 1, the journey to surrendering to Divine Providence is not an easy one. Father Zach fought it in ways that are common to many of us: why rely on God for everything when it takes less effort to rely on yourself? Why trust God when you don’t have much trust in others – or yourself? Why be humble when pride and vanity take up so much space in our minds, souls and actions?
What he found, which I also found in my journey, is that all roads lead to God. We come from Him, and we are wired to go to Him.
And the best way to go to Him, Father Zach said, is to do what children do so well: open your arms and abandon yourself into God’s arms. He started to learn about this during his years in the seminary. And he learned by reading Abandonment to Divine Providence by Father Jean-Pierre de Caussade and Story of a Soul by Saint Thérèse of Lisieux, which helped deepen his understanding about what it meant to abandon and surrender himself into God’s arms.
He told me he felt like he had gained his childhood back.
A holy card drawn by Father Zach’s father, Mark G. Weber
Ideally, childhood is a time of trust; all will be taken care of by those who love you. In my interview with him, he kept referring to Saint Thérèse as having a big influence in teaching him how to surrender.
“I wish to find the way to go to heaven by a very straight, short, completely new little way,” St. Thérèse wrote in her autobiography, Story of a Soul, which was published in 1898. She mentions a wonderful new invention – an elevator – that could, figuratively, lift her up to Jesus, since she was “too little to climb the rough stairway of perfection.”
She searched the Bible for signs of what could be her path to holiness, something to be the equivalent of an elevator. She found, in Proverbs 9:4: “Whoever is a little one, let him come to me.” In Isaiah 66:12-13, she found: “ ‘As one whom the mother caresses, so will I comfort you. You shall be carried at the breasts and upon the knees they shall caress you.’ ”
In her autobiography, she wrote: “Never have more tender words come to make my soul rejoice. The elevator which must raise me to the heavens is Your arms, O Jesus! For that I do not need to grow; on the contrary, I must necessarily remain small, become smaller and smaller. O my God, You have surpassed what I expected, and I want to sing Your mercies.”
That last paragraph defines what abandonment and trust looks like. Everyone who reads it then has a choice to make: disregard it as childish babble or open your arms and start to lift yourself up on the elevator.
If you recall from part 1, Father Zach was so wounded by pride and vanity and by a lack of trust in God’s mercy that he bought the lies that he was incapable and unworthy of being lifted up on an elevator. This story is a familiar one to mankind, which is why all our stories start from the same place: that original glow that we shined with in the Garden of Eden, which was broken by our lack of trust in God, has caused our souls to rust by years of generational sin and wounds.
So we fear surrender. We fear to trust in the arms of the Lord. It is we who are broken, not the elevator.
“We have been trained in the habit of looking at our dark side, our ugliness, and not at the purifying Sun, Light of Light, which He is, who changes the dust that we are into pure gold,” wrote Father Jean du Cœur de Jésus d'Elbée in his book on Saint Thérèse called I Believe in Love. “We think about examining ourselves, yet we do not think, before the examination, during the examination, and after the examination, to plunge ourselves, with all our miseries, into the consuming and transforming furnace of His Heart, which is open to us through a humble act of confidence. I am not telling you, ‘You believe too much in your own wretchedness.’ We are much more wretched than we ever realize. But I am telling you, ‘You do not believe enough in merciful love.’ We must have confidence, not in spite of our miseries, but because of them, since it is misery which attracts mercy.”
Father Francois Jamart puts it more concisely in his book the Complete Spiritual Doctrine of Saint Thérèse of Lisieux: “If we abandon ourselves to God, place our confidence in Him, make our own small efforts but expect everything from His mercy, He will give us, at that moment, all that is still lacking in our perfection.”
“That moment” that Father Jamart points to is a reference to the present moment. All surrender boils down to our ability to be present to Divine Providence in the present moment.
In Father Zach’s life, his bishop, Bishop Ricken, was another big influence to help him understand the power of the present moment. He heard Bishop Ricken say things such as: “The only place you want to be is in the present moment.” He also heard Bishop Ricken recite something he referred to as the Wyoming Prayer.
Before becoming the shepherd of the Diocese of Green Bay, Bishop Ricken was the bishop of the Diocese of Cheyenne in Wyoming. He drove a lot because of the vastness of the diocese. In the bishop’s words, here is the story of how the Wyoming Prayer came to be:
“During those long miles, there was a lot of time to pray and enjoy the beauty all around me.
“One day, while on the road, I was thinking about this project that we had been working on, one that wasn't going exactly like I thought it should. I was praying to the Lord, 'Why don't You do this? Why don't You do that? Why don't You do it now? Why do we have to keep waiting?'
“All of a sudden, I heard clearly in my heart, ‘Get out of My way!’
“I said in reply, ‘Lord, I'm sorry. I'm trying to control things too much, I guess.’ And, all of a sudden, this prayer formulated in my mind and heart. It kind of appeared on the 'screen of my mind.’ ”
Here is the Wyoming Prayer, which Father Zach has heard Bishop Ricken recite many times and which he has memorized:
Lord, help me to do Your will.
Nothing more and nothing less.
Lord, help me to do Your will,
not a moment sooner or a moment later
than You will it.
“St. Paul says all is a gift,” Father Zach told me “All is grace. Understanding that allows you to have that detachment, which is really a beautiful thing. You're not too attached to physical things. You're able to say, ‘It's the Lord's.’ What if something happens to your car? ‘It's the Lord’s.’ What if something happens to this? ‘Well, the Lord will take care of it.’ It gives you a peace that is often misinterpreted as you being indifferent, or you don't care. It's actually a sign of a deep, deep dependence on God and a trust that He will provide for you.”
I know what Father Zach means. I have had several people look at me with disbelief during my journey of surrendering to Divine Providence. Several have asked me, in the wake of something terrible that has happened or after some setback, how I am doing. I always answer, “I’m blessed.” And I mean it. God’s got a plan, and every step is my path to heaven, if I accept it with joy and trust.
Here’s how Father Zach puts it:
“When you truly abandon yourself to God's Divine Providence, when you truly surrender, there's a peace in your heart of knowing that, no matter how much money you have in the bank account, God will always provide. No matter how much food is in the refrigerator, God will always provide. What you’re saying is, ‘I’m not going to worry about this. God, I thank You for taking care of it because you're a good Father. You're a provider.’ ”
What follows is peace, Father Zach said.
“My main focus now, especially during preaching or presiding at Mass,” he said, “is to please the Father for what His son, Jesus, did for me first. It goes back to focusing only on what God thinks and then others second. Divine Providence is not about disregarding others, but you're putting things in order. You're putting Christ at the center of everything. You're placing Him as Lord. That's what Divine Providence means: He's in the center. He's in control of everything. When you learn how to trust and let Jesus be Lord and let Him lead you to the trust He has in the Father, to be filled with the Spirit, there is an immense peace there.”
Welcome to the end of Part 2 of Father Zach’s journey of surrendering himself to Divine Providence. The third, and final part, of this series will be available next week.