By Amber Kinloch
“This is all I desire: to be where God wants me to be.”Venerable Frederic Baraga (1797-1868) from his November 27, 1833 letter to Rev. Frederick Reese, vicar general of the Cincinnati Diocese.
I often hear people expressing a wish to possess some good quality another has. They wish they were more humble and patient, better at singing, more disciplined, or possessed of a deeper interior life. These comments, voiced with honesty, do not seem to be rooted in envy. Rather, someone is expressing a genuine desire to be better.
But is that desire a good one?
Sometimes it is. We are called to be saints, not mediocre, half-holy souls. We should aspire to be the best we can be, but not for ourselves. Rather, we aspire to be the person God is calling us to be. And here is where the rub comes in.
I might wish to cultivate a deeper interior life like my friend. Indeed, I should try. But I cannot simply imitate my friend in everything. God has traced out a unique path for each one of us, and I must let Him lead me along the path He pleases. Likewise, we should strive to cultivate an appreciation for who and what we are, right here, right now.
Sometimes, our gaze gets riveted on our defects and shortcomings. We regularly lose our temper while a friend is always calm and cheerful. We struggle to mortify our sweet tooth while another apparently has no trouble with passing on dessert. When it comes to serving at our parish, the best we can do is bake goodies for the parish picnic and serve as a lector at Sunday Mass. Meantime, that one lady teaches 4th Grade CCD, heads a Bible study and a knitting group, and serves as an adorer. She does this all while raising a family and looking after her elderly parents.
In comparing ourselves to others and saying, “If only—”, we lose sight of God and the truth of what is.
I would like to be a runner. It seems like such a joy. But my body is not built for running (at least not this current earthly edition). So, I walk. And I enjoy it.
We should aspire to be better in many aspects. But we should not desire to change the essence of who and what we are. We can admire the good qualities in others while appreciating our own selves and being content with who we are and what we have.
The scope and magnificence of one’s virtues and gifts is of no account. St. Thérèse of Lisieux reminds us of this when she writes in her autobiography about the garden of souls.
“Jesus deigned to teach me this mystery. He set before me the book of nature; I understand how all the flowers He has created are beautiful, how the splendor of the rose and the whiteness of the Lily do not take away the perfume of the little violet or the delightful simplicity of the daisy. I understood that if all flowers wanted to be roses, nature would lose her springtime beauty, and the fields would no longer be decked out with little wild flowers.
“And so it is in the world of souls, Jesus’ garden. He willed to create great souls comparable to Lilies and roses, but He has created smaller ones and these must be content to be daisies or violets destined to give joy to God’s glances when He looks down at his feet. Perfection consists in doing His will, in being what He wills us to be.”(The Story of a Soul, p. 14, translated by John Clarke, O.C.D.)
Keep your eyes riveted on God and His Will. He will lead you to become who you’re called to be—a saint.
Meantime, appreciate who and what you are, right here, right now. Write down a list of your good qualities—don’t be shy about it! This isn’t a matter of puffing up your pride, but of honestly assessing yourself. Praise God for all that is admirable about you. It all comes from Him and has been given to you for a purpose that you might manifest His love and glory. Don’t hide that light under a bushel basket.
“But what about my defects?” you might protest. “They’re so obvious and numerous. My good qualities seem very small in comparison.”
Perhaps that is so, but it’s no cause to be discouraged. Everything about you in this moment, this is the material God desires to work with. Already, you are graced with the incomparable dignity of being created in His Image and Likeness. You mirror a unique facet of Him as no one else can. Trust!
Let God work in you and mold you further into the person He desires to be. The process, slow and painful as it is, will be brought to completion, and you will marvel at His work.
So will I.
Amber writes from the bunker of her living room. There she hunkers down with her laptop and a blanket while keeping an eye and ear tuned in to the activity of family life. Music set on loop keeps her energy flowing as she muses on the deeper happenings of ordinary life and what food to restock the fridge with.
Becoming a saint is slow and painful indeed Thank you for the necessary reminder that God chose to make us who we are, unique in all of His creation, for His purposes. As long as we keep trying to do His will, He will fulfill His purposes for and through us.
Wow!!!! This is exactly what I needed to hear and absorb today and always!!
I’m about to launch a private practice where I tend to the sick and dying and I often have thoughts of that sound like this…if only I was a good speaker like so and so,It would help me get my point across better , or if I was more like that person. I could do xyz better. I always overlook my gifts and compare myself to others…what an insult to God!
I love everything about this – using it as a guide for my journaling tonight!
I especially love the encouragement at the end, “everything about you in this moment, this is the material God desires to work with.”
This is so true. And, seeing our strengths as a gift from God also helps us to not criticize others who do not have them. Instead of being proud of my list of good qualities about myself, I can use the list as a reminder that I cannot take credit for having gained them.
Excellent reminder that keeps us grounded, humble, and appreciative of what we have and who we are….thank you!
Right on the money!!!
Pope Saint John Paul II frequently accented that each of us is an unique and unrepeatable individual.
In progressing in the spiritual life there is a tension between two poles: emulation and individuality.
Saint Ignatius during his conversion process was reading lives of saints and said to himself: “Suppose that I should do what St. Francis did, what St. Dominic did?…St. Dominic did this, therefore, I must do it. St. Francis did this; therefore I must do it.”
That is emulation. However, he was not called to be St. Francis or St. Dominic but St. Ignatius,
We can borrow an element from different admirable lives to mix profitably into our unique and unrepeatable individuality, (we are all an unique minestrone) i.e., for imitation but remember that, well let me use my name and you supply yours, I am called to be Saint Dennis Brown.
The former Cardinal Ratzinger was asked, by Peter Seewald how many ways to God there are and he answered “As many as there are (individual) people”
One of my former spiritual directors, Father John Hardon, S.J., once asked us in class: Did you ever thank God that you are who you are and not someone else?”
Remember that gratitude on Thanksgiving
Not sure I’m in complete agreement, After all, Saul had to get knocked off his horse to start his transformation. He had to face his faults. Like someone recovering from alcoholism, first we need to recognize our shortcomings to deal with them. We often were rightfully told as children to imitate Jesus and the saints .
Thank you for featuring the quote of Bishop Baraga – the great Shepherd of Michigan’s UP wilderness.
“Unum est necessarium” Only one thing is necessary – to do God’s Will.