Effie Caldarola

Effie Caldarola

Should I or shouldn’t I? What does God want me to do? How many times have you wished you had a direct line to God?

Lately, we’ve learned so much about the life of St. Teresa of Kolkata. The founder of the Missionaries of Charity was destined to be both a Nobel Peace Prize winner and a canonized saint.

But she didn’t know that when she boarded a train from Kolkata to Darjeeling many years ago. As a Sister of Loreto, she taught in a girls’ school. But on the train, she experienced her famous “call within a call,” an interior vision and movement so profound that it changed her entire life.


She felt Christ asking her to work exclusively with the poorest of the poor. She was sure of that call. A whole world would watch the result.

Now, most of us are not destined to be saints on the caliber of Mother Teresa. But all of us want to do God’s will. We pray for that all the time.

But how often do we feel certainty? So often, I muddle along feeling like a giant question mark.

But sometimes, I think we do experience certainty, without the voices or the visions, of course. Occasionally, we have a strong interior sense of rightness.

I made a list the other day of things in my life that seemed so absolutely right that I “had” to do them. It surprised me that I could think of several.

It’s a good exercise and I encourage you to do it. It may surprise you how many times you heard and answered a call. And it’s good to ask yourself, What sense of desire or openness prompted that strong consent?

When I was a young teacher, I sent for a pamphlet called “Invest Yourself.” This was long before the internet with its ready access to information. My pamphlet was promoted by Eunice Kennedy Shriver, founder of the Special Olympics, and in it was listed, in very fine print, just about every volunteer opportunity in the U.S.

Halfway through the book, I arrived at something called the Jesuit Volunteer Corps. It hit me. Bingo. I felt compelled to apply and really never looked back, even when JVC asked me to go to a remote village in Alaska to teach.

It was a life-changing decision, but one that involved so little “should I or shouldn’t I.”

Much later, I wanted to take a writing course from a woman who was the first female bureau chief of The Associated Press. I just knew it was for me. But after I applied, word came back — sorry, class is full.

I am not usually a pushy person, but I wrote a letter to the instructor telling her all of the reasons she needed to make an exception and let me into her class. I got in — to that one and several more.

There were a few other “have to” moments on my list, some personal and some professional, like deciding to pursue a master’s degree in pastoral ministry. What I realize is that these moments in my life drew on an openness, a need for something new and challenging. I was ready and willing to take a risk. I was ready for a call.

When having trouble wondering what God wants next, I’m going to think about my list and ask what qualities or conditions or needs prompted my eagerness. Then I’ll ask God to help me be open to the next “have to” call. Surprise me, Lord, with another decision that feels right.