‘Ordinary Lives, Extraordinary Mission’ author John Wood says call to universal holiness is for us

By Susan Moses

Correspondent

12/1/2014

Image courtesy of Beacon Books.

Ordinary Lives, Extraordinary Mission: 5 steps to winning the war within by John R. Wood
Beacon Books (Cincinnati, Ohio, 2012)
192 pp., $15

Dr. John Wood has transitioned from a collegiate track star to a speaker, author, optometrist, husband, and father, but his determination to excel endures. With his track and field championships behind him, his outlook has changed from “Win, Win, Win” to Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus. Jan. 4-8, he will speak at several events in the diocese to assure Catholics that holiness is possible and that we are all called to be saints in our ordinary lives.

Wood's book, Ordinary Lives, Extraordinary Mission, describes five steps to winning the spiritual battles within ourselves. Written in the language of the layperson, he uses personal examples and common, everyday experiences to help his readers make choices to become saints. He shares spiritual lessons he has learned in fixing up a dilapidated house, raising his four children, pushing his limits at track events, and working as an optometrist.

After completing optometry school, Dr. Wood launched a mobile eye care business in 2007, and he travels to more than 40 nursing homes and developmental disability facilities to provide eye care. This self-described introvert from Ohio never intended to find a second calling as a speaker or author. However, God had other plans.

His parish’s pastoral council invited him to lead a monthly program for the entire family, and Wood agreed, hoping someone else would take over after two or three lessons. He began teaching from one of the biggest influences in his spiritual life: St. John Paul II’s writings on the Theology of the Body. As his lessons developed, he was asked to speak in other locations. This book arose out of his presentations.

“John Paul II has been a huge influence in my spiritual growth. As a youth in the Catholic Church, I admired him because he had a contagious holiness that made the Gospel attractive to young people, and he called us to do something more with our faith,” Wood explained.

“I don’t have a theology degree, and I didn’t receive a Catholic education. But in college, when many students question their faith and lose it, I dug deeper and gained a better understanding of my faith. I saw the genius of Catholicism, that it is the best way to live, and not just a set of rules or a Sunday obligation,” he continued.

As his passion for his faith deepened, a personal mission surfaced — to re-engage Catholics who have become disengaged. “I want to help awaken the sleeping giant that is the Catholic Church,” he said.

In his book, Wood explains that Christ has given us the Church, which provides us with the weapons we need to stand in the middle of our culture and live in truth and love. Scripture, sacraments, and prayer will free us from a society based on individualism and pleasure.

Ordinary Lives, Extraordinary Mission can be condensed to one stark message: Become a saint; nothing else matters. The author details five steps to personal growth according to God’s design, beginning with defining an individual mission amidst our society’s “What’s in it for me?” mentality. The steps conclude with a call to live authentic Catholic lives spiritually, emotionally, intellectually, and physically.

“The truth is, the Catholic Church accepts everybody, just as God accepts everybody. Come as you are. However, you’d better not expect to stay as you are. The call of the Gospels is a radical call to change.“

An extended analogy explains that everything we need to accomplish our mission of becoming saints on the Holy Highway to Heaven is in God’s Church. Baptism is the entrance ramp of the road to salvation. The Eucharist fuels our journey, and Reconciliation washes us clean and provides maintenance and repairs. Angels are our seatbelts, protecting us from unexpected harm. And the GPS that provides guidance and direction? Mary and the saints.

Wood said, “As an eye doctor, it’s my vocation in life to help people see the world more clearly. However, as a disciple of Christ, part of my mission in life is helping people see the truth more clearly. This world may be in darkness, but the Church is the light. We are the light of the world.“

Dr. Wood will be speaking at several events in Fort Worth in January, three of which are open to the community:

  • Sunday, Jan. 4 at St. Patrick Parish Hall, potluck supper after 5 p.m. Mass
  • Monday, Jan. 5, Young Catholic Professionals, St. Patrick Pastoral Center, 7 p.m.
  • Tuesday, Jan. 6 at St. Andrew Church, 7 p.m.

His presentations are accompanied by Simply RC, two musicians whose soaring talents match their zeal for the Lord.

As he balances his optometry practice, speaking engagements, and family responsibilities, Dr. Wood is completing a second book, Saints in the Making, scheduled to be published in 2015.

Dr. John Wood has transitioned from a collegiate track star to a speaker, author, optometrist, husband, and father, but his determination to excel endures. With his track and field championships behind him, his outlook has changed from “Win, Win, Win” to Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus. Jan. 4-8, he will speak at several events in the diocese to assure Catholics that holiness is possible and that we are all called to be saints in our ordinary lives.

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