When Rain is an Answered Prayer

When Rain is an Answered Prayer

This reflection comes from Cohort 10 Fellow, Angela Vodola. Angela hails from New England, where she attended Mount St. Mary’s University and received a degree in Elementary and Special Education, with a minor in Theology. Angela serves in Mission, Texas, as a founding staff member at Brillante Academy, the most recent expansion of our network. Below, Angela shares a beautiful reflection on the challenges of growth, the unexpected ways in which God answers prayers, and the consolation of joy in hardship.

Part of daily life as a Kindergarten teacher is the constant raised hand. That wasn’t surprising, but what I didn’t expect was how often it would be followed by a complaint of an aching elbow, back, knee, or other body-part. Sometimes it feels like I’ve walked into a nursing home—except it’s full of 5-year-olds in cowboy boots. At first, I had no idea how to respond to these statements, but I soon learned the best response from my lead teacher’s example. “It’s just growing pains,” she’d say, with an empathetic look. Providentially, the phrase “growing pains” has come up again and again in the first few months of life on mission.

Two Seton Teaching Fellows in the RGV
Angela Vodola (Right) with Fellow housemate Megan Rubalcaba (Left)

I’m from the East Coast, and as the granddaughter and daughter of farmers, I find joy in the growth of plants around me, especially in my new home in Texas. Once October came to the Rio Grande Valley, there seemed to be a second springtime, as opposed to the typical autumn I experienced up north. Even well into November, we continue to delight in the greenery of our backyard and the sprouting of newly planted grass by the school parking lot. As we see a school beginning to flower in its first year of service, the beauty of nature is a comforting reminder of what we are currently working towards. What I sometimes forget, however, is the “pain” that must precede the beauty of growth.

John 12:24 says “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the
ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much

I recently reencountered this verse in an article I was reading, and it struck a new chord with me in light of my recent experiences on mission. As founding members of a new educational endeavor, Brillante Academy, we’ve experienced remarkable growth, but always at the cost of difficulty and hardship. Every Fellow here in Texas, along with the rest of Brillante’s staff, have been called to accept little defeats—or little deaths as I like to think of them—every day, knowing that somehow, someway, God will allow sacrifices to bear fruit.

elementary schools students
Students at Brillante Academy

When we struggle to find resources needed for a lesson plan, when we’re asked to cover a class for lack of substitutes, when we are switched to a new grade level or position to fill a staffing need, or any of the many surprises that accompany the joys of teaching, we are experiencing growing pains. Participating in the launch of a new school and learning to teach provides daily invitations to sacrifice and serve. In faith, we surrender our expectations to God and trust that an abundant harvest will come from this season of growth.

One very beautiful truth that we have been confronted with in the founding year of Brillante Academy is this: that every prayer is answered—even if it is answered in a way we don’t expect or like.

A recent example of this is the prayer we made for rain. As the late Summer continued to swelter at temperatures above 100 degrees Fahrenheit, the need for wet, cool weather became apparent. We chorused, “Lord, hear our prayer,” after the priest introduced an intention at Sunday Mass petitioning God for a rainy respite in the dry season. Soon after, the rain came. Yet, when it did, there were complaints, grumbling, and annoyances from everyone. All we wanted was to go back to the sunny days, even if it meant wilted leaves and stunted growth.

A rainy backyard
Much needed rain in the backyard of our Fellows’ house

Hadn’t God given us just what we had asked for? Despite the mud on our shoes, the chill in our bones, and the threat of indoor recess (Lord, have mercy), the rain was a visible sign of God’s goodness. It meant the crops would flourish, the flowers would bloom, and the iconic Mission grapefruits would grow in time for the citrus fiesta. It encouraged this seemingly second springtime to flower.

We did not pray for the plants to grow, but rather for the rain to come so that the
plants could even have the chance to grow. What we overlooked was that we’d have to live through a few rainy days before seed would take fruit. In the same way, I’ve seen how it is necessary to endure the challenges of service, the growing pains of new mission, before witnessing spiritual growth.

The temptation to look back at life before hardships (the days of onboarding, spiritual retreat, and early weeks of school) and wish we were still there is a very real threat to progress. Wishing for sunny days gone by when it is raining does no good. In fact, it promotes unhealthy and unrealistic doses of nostalgia (something our chief of STF, Tess Lane, touched on during onboarding this summer). Without these little deaths—these little crosses borne in faith and hope—no fruit could be produced from our labors.

A Texas prayer garden
St. Paul’s prayer garden in Mission, TX

I’ve been encouraged, through the example of our scholars, to combat those
temptations by finding joy in the present moment, whether in the rain or on the
sunniest of days.

On a recent rainy Friday here in Mission, I walked one of our Pre-Kindergarten scholars to the pick up line. This child is currently nonverbal, but he expressed deep joy in his facial expressions, and love in the way he reached for the raindrops, edging ever nearer to the uncovered part of the sidewalk. He knelt down on the soaked sidewalk and did not mind that his jeans were getting wet. He tilted his head towards the clouds instead of hiding beneath umbrellas or hoods. His joy at the rain stood in stark contrast to the miserable mood most of us had been in that day because of the weather. He reminded me that in the midst of the growing pains, there is still an abundance of joy to be found, sometimes in the unlikeliest of places.

Brillante students at recess

In every uncomfortable or unexpected moment, I encourage you to step back and look at how growing pains are answered prayers in and of themselves. That they are a process in the Christian journey which we should enter into with hope, and not a fluke on God’s part, nor an indication that we made the wrong choice in our commitments.

When rain is an answered prayer, let us rejoice in it. And when being part of
something new is uncomfortable, tempting us towards complacency, let us
remember that growing pains are necessary for a true blossoming, and rejoice in that as well.

The sunset at Mission, Texas near our Fellows’ house