The Real “Stuff” of Holiness
by Sister Mary Scholastica, O.C.D.
In my book, time is an elusive thing. So is the memory. Both are hard to tangibly grasp. Both can seem restrictive. Neither is guaranteed. Both also offer a boatload of opportunity.
Time and memory are two words that have come to mind repeatedly these last months as we have struggled as a nation and as a world through a pandemic, natural disasters, injustice, daily life struggles.
Time. It is a gift. One of the few guarantees in this life is that we won’t make it out alive. Some of us may live a few short hours and others of us into our 100s. We have no control over this and no knowledge as to when our “time” will come. If indeed this is the case, which it is, the question we all should be asking ourselves is: “How am I using the time I have been gifted with?”
Many of us wish we could do extraordinary things. I do. One could say that’s not a “humble” thought. I suppose it is and it isn’t. To want to do extraordinary things for the sake of standing out and being noticed, is probably not humility speaking. To wish to do something extraordinary to have God’s light shine a bit brighter, to make this world a better place…now that’s special! And It’s all related to TIME and our use of it. We have 24 hours in a given day. The choices we make all day long actually forms us into who we will become. The choices made in our lives actually makes an impact on the world.
Enter 2020. Many of us have been working from home and have had limited outside activities. You may be tempted to ask, “What difference can I make in a situation like this? I’m just barely surviving. I’m struggling every day.” These thoughts have been verbalized by many of us. The amazing thing with God is that He uses absolutely everything for our good and oftentimes for a greater good.
Each day, regardless of the circumstances we find ourselves in, we have the choice to embark on the path of living life fully. This is extraordinary. It’s choosing to change our filters of what appears to be mundane, a block, a disturbance, a struggle and seeing it as an opportunity and blessing. It’s not just about choosing to change filters as oftentimes we can’t do it alone. It’s not just choosing at a given time to think positively. That can only last for so long. It’s asking God to walk with us through the messiness of life and as we do, our filters naturally start adjusting. He changes your life when you let Him in.
Living in this way (which is not an easy thing to do) radically changes how you choose to use the time you are blessed with. You may be doing the exact same unseen things that you did yesterday, but somehow it’s different. It’s life-giving. It’s purposeful. Somehow in your day, you start to think more and more of God, more and more of others, less and less of yourself.
St. Therese knew that her sacrifice of repeatedly and joyfully offering her services to a nun who was difficult to live with was how to fully live the moment she was given. It was her “little way”. Ordinary, yet so extraordinary. Her daily life was comprised of these small acts of great, sacrificial love that largely went unnoticed. How else can one explain how a cloistered nun who only lived for 24 years in the confines of her convent walls, who died in 1897 would become world renowned and a friend to millions in 2020? It’s how she chose to use the time she was blessed with and by being faithful to every minute given to her, she changed the world. This meant being faithful through the mundane, the routine, the joys, the struggles, the suffering she endured due to her family sorrows, the suffering she endured in dying of tuberculosis. This fidelity to daily life in her vocation is bearing fruit beyond what she could have ever imagined. It became an immense source of grace for others.
To be faithful to the time given to us today…this is the real stuff of holiness.
It is too often that we look back and think of all the time we did not use well. I would imagine that feelings of regret are something we all experience. The time we wasted by not being attentive to the moment, by focusing instead on ourself and our sometimes selfish desires. Thank God we are blessed at every moment to try again, to never give up, to start afresh with each new day.
Here is where the memory also comes into play. Memories give shape to our lives. It connects the past, present and future. It brings joy, it can also bring sorrow. It reminds us of a wide range of feelings and thoughts experienced throughout the span of our lives. That is why memory loss is such a tragedy. The individual is no longer able to connect to people, to places, even to things.
Memories also fashion us in unique ways. It can hold us back. We remember the hardship when we failed, so we don’t try again, instead protecting ourselves from the seemingly negative experience. We remember a hurt and close ourselves off from others. Memories can also move us forward. We remember the blessings and the joys of an experience and we forge ahead confident in this sense of love. Memories are faulty. Given enough time, there is a high possibility of our “forgetting”, unconsciously and consciously changing the details of the memory to suit us. What a powerful tool the memory is! And when you think about it…how much control memory has over all of us.
It was in the month of March when states started to issue stay-at-home orders due to the pandemic. With the uncertainty and the abrupt halt to our “normal” lives, people were reminded of the reality that life is not a guaranteed gift and that at a moment’s notice life can drastically change. During this time period we were inundated with people seeking some sort of consolation, seeking support in their search for God and the meaning of life, seeking some kind of peace during this time of fear. However, as the shock and novelty wore off and as we become more and more deadened to covid news, and the “millions” who are struggling with this, there is a new “normal”, tedium is setting in. It often does. It has always struck me how quickly we forget. We just forget.
The memory of graces received can battle against our human frailty. Our memories do not sustain us. Time does not serve us. The one constant truly is and only can be turning to the Lord in trust. Turning to the Lord knowing that He loves us and seeks what is good for our souls. Just think back to all the times in your life when you KNEW that God was watching out for you. When you KNEW that God was giving you the grace you needed exactly when you needed it. Looking back in retrospect, I’m sure you can see all the different things God allowed to happen, all the different ways He’s moved in your life so that you could be the person you are today.
As we continue to move in unknown spaces and times of uncertainty, REMEMBER your blessings and use your TIME well. Rest in the knowledge of God’s faithfulness. Be the saint you are called to be. Our world needs saints today. Our world needs you.