Faith in the Everyday Moments
Editor’s note: A goal expressed in our Miles Jesu charism statement is “to bring Christ into the secular world by the witness of our lives, in a spirit of availability.” It’s important to remember that “the witness of our lives” means the daily grind, life’s little stumbles and failures, and all the little things we do that seemingly go unnoticed—this kind of service goes to the core of “availability.” While it’s easy to feel sure of being an apostle every now and then when something dramatic comes up, if we see only such moments as “witnessing,” then we need to look a little deeper.
It’s so easy to see a kind of apostolic glamor in the good works of others. Someone in my pro-life group talks a girl out of an abortion in front of a clinic one Saturday. A gifted retreat master comes to the parish and droves of people go to confession. A wealthy acquaintance establishes a scholarship fund at the local Catholic high school. Or maybe it’s just that i’m visiting a friend’s house and notice how sweetly her children bow their heads and say grace before supper. Every life has a few such moments, and they are indeed beautiful. But it takes an effort to be an apostle when it’s not glamorous at all.
Last month in the charism article we recalled how Our Lord likes to speak to us in a quiet voice, noting the quote in 1 Kings that his voice came in the “whispering breeze” which followed the storms of thunder, fire, and flood. It’s so easy to hear him in the thunder of a rally, the fire of some extra-good sermon, or the deluge of grace accompanying some dramatic moment. He is there then, working through the apostolic efforts of his followers. But when all the excitement dies down, he is still there, speaking in that whisper which he so favors, and inviting us to serve him in that same quiet way.
It’s part of the almost inescapable pride and weakness of human nature to look for satisfaction in the feeling that we have really “done” something. Of course, there are many important things out there needing to be done! Let’s make sure we do them! But life is not a series of stepping stones from great event to great event with nothing but air in between. It is a path to be followed step by persevering step, finding and serving Our Lord in the big ways but also in the small ways; many times in hidden ways whose value may be mysterious even to us.
We can fantasize of achieving it in our own efforts. We can be so bent on feeling like we’ve really done something, that we lose track of the immense value God places on all the little boring and unsung things. Maybe we’re not completely convinced that he brings his wonders about in his own way and in his own time, and that our faithful perseverance in those boring little things is important. He who created galaxies from nothing and scratched the human race out from the dust of the earth, surely will know how to write more of his poetry with us, his leaky pens!
God will always use our efforts to cooperate with him. Sometimes we will have the joy of seeing the obvious effects....and sometimes we will serve and please him best by trying to cooperate with his grace with nothing but bungled failures laid out in full view for him, for us, and for the world to see. Sometimes, though—most of the time—our cooperation needs to consist in carrying out his will in the everyday things, whether anyone notices or not. The important thing is to cooperate and trust that, no matter what, God will use our efforts in mysterious ways that we will rejoice in seeing revealed in eternity.
St. Therese of the Child Jesus has an undeserved reputation of sugary piety, of being some kind of living proof that everything will be sweet and perfect if you only have the luck to be born a saint. In reality she struggled with the same weaknesses we all do. Deeply aware of her limitations, but knowing that human limitations are not an impediment to God’s grace when they are united to sincere good will, she wrote these amazing words in a note to one of her novices: “Make to the good God the sacrifice of never gathering the fruit—that is, to feel all your life a repugnance to suffering and humiliation, to see the flowers of your desires and good will fall to the ground without producing anything.” She was not looking for apostolic glamor! All she wanted to do was dedicate everything to God in a way so pure that it goes beyond a need for any feeling of accomplishment.
Many times the best way to be an apostle is just to “be there” for someone. There is a slogan from the Cursillo retreat movement that is perfect for anyone who wants to make their everyday life and work into an apostolate: “Make a friend, be a friend and bring that friend to Christ.” This is done by keeping foremost in mind what will help that person the most to come closer to God, not what will fulfill MY apostolic fantasies. The thing which the people we work with, for example, are won over by, is kindness and charity and particularly by our willingness to listen to them and empathize. If they are won over, they will open up as a friend. That is when there will be the chance to console them in sorrow, guide them in ethics, encourage them in prayer, and all the rest. It will not be glamorous. Maybe they will never think to say thank you. But God will be changing them—and us!—with his quiet whispering. Let them see the example of a devout Catholic without a lot of preaching: a Catholic who loves the Church, trying to be good. That’s the job description of an apostle.
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