By Sister Francis Maris, O.C.D.
and Sister Mary Scholastica, O.C.D.
I have seen this phrase multiple times and it’s generally used in playful, silly situations but on the deeper spectrum of life, it still rings true. The struggle is real… for everyone.
Recently Sister Mary Scholastica and I were talking about faithfulness and living in the present moment and vocation and life. You know, those conversations that take on the big questions in life. She and I think alike on many levels but each being unique, I was introduced to a new perspective. That is what is so amazing with relationships in the community, in families, with friends and humanity itself. Each person has a very unique and thought-provoking perspective. This article attempts to take on both perspectives in our conversation. Sister’s words are italicized.
Every new beginning, be it a new year, a new job, a new season, a life-changing experience, brings about a moment of pause. We consider it an opportunity to begin afresh. While this is true, how many of us continually let the moments of the day pass us by. Before we know it, it’s three months past the “new opportunity” and we find ourselves in the same place. Have you experienced this? I have. Maybe this is why I have always loved the thought of God’s faithfulness. “If we are faithless, He remains faithful – for He cannot deny Himself.” (2 Tim 2:13)
But I ask myself, what really is faithfulness? Dictionary definition: loyal, fidelity, constant, steadfast; true to the facts; have a strong belief in a religion. But what is it for me?
To be faithful involves a life-long daily struggle. I’m speaking here about the basics of being faithful to God which essentially means being faithful to your true self, to the vocation He has called you to live. It’s not always pretty nor easy. It can even look boring and tedious from the outside. Don’t be deceived. Underneath the surface, it is beautiful, heroic and life-giving. This daily struggle is essentially what I’ll call the battle of the present moment.
I totally understand what Sister is saying. I know it to be true. Yet I find myself asking the question, why does being faithful resonate differently within me? She continued on with the following points.
One full day equals 24 hours or 1,440 minutes or 86,400 seconds. How many of us can look back at yesterday and say, “Yes, I fully lived every single minute of the 1,440 minutes given to me (understanding that we do sleep).” It’s a sobering thought because most of us can’t say that. It also brings to light how intentionally and thoughtfully I am or am not living. Before we know it, life has passed us by.
We spend much of our time wishing for what could have been, would have been, should have been instead of seeing what IS. We do it consciously at times and unconsciously other times. The “what is” even if we don’t like it, don’t understand it, don’t agree with it is where we experience God. He IS present in every moment of every day. To consciously live each moment of the day according to how God wishes it, is truly heroic. It is in a very real sense, a white martyrdom. Saints live like this. In the 1,440 minutes of the day, they are tuned in to how God is speaking to them, trying to overcome their own preferences and seeking to align themselves at their core to the person God is calling them to be. This is certainly not for the faint of heart.
So now I’m starting to appreciate the different perspectives. Sister is talking about faithfulness within the time we are given each day and finding God present within it. I initially started to think that faithfulness is experienced differently within myself. Yet in my interior language, I realized that I think the very same thing. For me, faithfulness is being attentive to God’s will and striving to the best of my ability to do it. She was saying the very same thing. But it is also about being faithful to the relationship I have with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. I think the faithfulness in hearing God’s will and doing it is the fruit of the faithfulness in our relationship with God. There is the striving to know WHO God is and allowing Him to transform me to become more and more like Him. If He is Love, then I too am love (in the process) and that’s where I measure faithfulness. I also know He is the one who always remains faithful. I won’t. But that’s okay because the desire is there and the striving. He’s God. We’re not. That’s all He asks of us.
It begins from the moment your alarm goes off: rising and thanking God for the beginning of a new day; leaving your home in the morning for work saying a conscious kind word to members of your family; crossing paths with an erratic driver whose way you happen to be in and letting him go first; being patient with a colleague whose personality you don’t like; trying again when things are not going well at work; choosing to be with your family instead of watching TV which is the easier route and the list goes on. This is only one day. Choices you make within your day today form you to be the person you will be tomorrow.
Yes, Sister is describing in concrete examples, how I am/we are faithful to Him, to Love, in the relationships and day-to-day experiences with others. Yes, this is faithfulness.
A day in my life is not too different from yours. Every moment there are choices. Sometimes I choose well and sometimes I choose selfishly. It’s the human element. The supernatural element is what gives us the grace of bypassing our natural tendencies to discern what is best, not just what is good and to act on it.
For me, it might look something like this. Mid-day when we have our mid-day examen, a time of encounter with the Lord, the natural tendency would be for me to continue “working,” which is in and of itself a good, instead of going to prayers. As sisters in the community, we have times when we gather together in community for meals, prayers, and recreation. It is part of the way of life I have been called to live. Hence, the best thing I could possibly do is to stop working and go to examen. That is where the grace for me lies. My 15 minutes of examen would be 15 minutes of my day fully lived. That’s just one moment, one decision of my day. There are another 1,420 minutes I need to account for! Do you see what I mean?
I realized that what I thought was a different perspective was really the same perspective spoken with different words. I wonder how many times in relationships do we turn off rather than listen and find out how much we share in common. Overall, what Sister is saying that translates in my language, we tend to make choices for ourselves rather than Love. Living life fully leads to happiness and peace. Therefore choosing Love (choosing relationships with the Lord and others and the faithful actions that proceed from these) brings me happiness and peace… a life fully lived.
This is why God’s faithfulness is so necessary for us to remember. He helps us be faithful. Our daily fidelity in some small way impacts the people around us and these people impact others. Your fidelity and mine to our God-given vocations quite literally builds up and strengthens our communities, our Church, the world.
I couldn’t have said it better. Thank God for our friends who help us understand who they are, who we are and the deeper meanings and “what really matters” in life.
The very fact that we struggle is a good thing. It means we are engaged. It means we care.
It’s real. The struggle is real… but the struggle is the means to a life fully lived… a life for and with Love.
As we begin our journey through 2019, may God be our strength and may His faithfulness be a source of consolation during the times we get weary on the journey. He will pick us up when we fall and He will help us rise again.
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