Grace in the Ordinary

I have taken for myself the parents of the Martin Girls as my patrons for trying to live the ordinary demands of an ordinary life, as an authentic path for seeking God. Perhaps it sounds odd, but accepting the ordinary has been very difficult for me.

One of the hardest lessons I have had to learn in the spiritual life is the reverence that the ordinary, natural elements of life deserve. It is only in being grounded in the rich earth of ordinary life that the supernatural can be authentically received. In spite of my lifelong devotion to St. Thérèse, I spent many years quite frustrated by the routine and pressures of living the demands of daily life.

Mounds of laundry and dishes, hurrying to work, and hurrying home again to family expectations: all these felt like barriers to responding to God. The realities of my life did not seem to match any concept of holiness that might refer to me.

What did it take to open my eyes to the very real presence of God hidden beneath the surface of the demands of ordinary life? Years of simply doing what looked like the next right thing and a flood of graces. What did I ponder on in those days? Mostly survival from one necessity to the next. But once I began to believe that the call to holiness is universal and specific to each circumstance, then my soul was free to rejoice in all things.

What moved my soul beyond survival mode to the awareness of the presence of God? Fidelity to Mass, I think, even though I judged that I was not really praying. I carried a rosary in my pocket, even though as a young woman I rarely actually said it all, let alone meditate on a Mystery. The mystery to me was how profoundly I loved my family even though I was totally overwhelmed by them. By such tiny, desperate steps I began to believe that nothing can separate me from the love of Christ, because He chooses to be with me in all the chaos that I often considered my daily life to be.

If I’m not aware of God in the ordinary joys and sorrows of life, not in a state of deep gratitude for the natural elements of life, then I’m not yet truly in love with Our Father who created the natural, and said that it was good.

All things are created by God. Therefore, the most natural, common elements of life have the potential to be a revelation of God Himself. Growth in holiness cannot be His gift to me if I don’t learn to recognize the gifts that He has already given me and is giving me each day.

I’m just beginning to appreciate the importance of the teachings of St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Augustine on the relationship between grace and nature. The God-given nature of each individual is specifically given as the foundation for the relationship that He desires to offer to that soul. By means of the characteristics of my particular personality, profession, and limitations, God chooses to reveal Himself to me, and through me. There are no separate categories of life in respect to encountering the living God. God is all in all.

By Jacqueline-Thérèse

Living the Sacrament of Matrimony with a small flock of children and grandchildren. Greatly influenced by the Eucharist, the Oblation of St. Therese and the Rule of St. Benedict. In service through retreat work, fostering lay communities and vocation discernment.

The End of the Story

Leaving the convent and returning to the world was quite the experience, to say the least.  Did you feel the same way?  I was in the convent, going about my day and then two days later I was in a car driving to my parents’ house.  My routine was suddenly turned upside down.

I certainly did not know where I was going or what my future would hold.  It was difficult to fight off the anxiety and fear.  Now what?  Where will I work?  Can I find a job?  What kind of job?  Do I have clothes?  Where can I live?  Once the immediate needs passed, other questions set in.  Do I have a vocation at all? Is there a plan?  Do I have a path?  Is my holiness in jeopardy now that I am back?  Does God still love me?

Though I have been back for a few years, the latter questions still periodically crop up in my mind.  As I am in the heat of the moment, feeling rather hopeless and confused about my future, nothing seems possible.  I am a weak sinner and ending up in Heaven seems basically impossible.  Oh, if only I were St. Teresa of Avila or St. Francis de Sales (for example), then I would be fine!

But recently I realized that they probably felt the same way at times.  When they were alive and struggling through life just like me, they had to feel confused, lost, unsure, etc. because they did not know what would happen in the future.  They did not know if they would end up in Heaven and they certainly did not know that they would be canonized by the Church!

But I know the end of their stories.  Therefore, it is easy to view the difficulties they experienced as being “no big deal.”

Yeah, St. Therese died from TB, but so what? She ended up in Heaven, so it’s fine.

St. John of the Cross was thrown in prison but he was holy so I am sure that was easy for him.

Bl. Margaret of Castello was abandoned by her parents, but she totally got over it.

Really? Do I really believe this? That these saints were not human at all and did not struggle? It is ridiculous, and yet I think I slip into this very easily. And more than that, I somehow think that what I am experiencing is so much worse! It’s rather funny, actually.

So what can I learn from this? Today is passing and tomorrow will come and surprise us all. What I am experiencing right now will not necessarily determine my future. Many studies show that envisioning what you want and how you will attain it increases the chances of it becoming a reality. This is not the case only for material wealth and worldly success. I need to picture myself in Heaven with God and imagine myself acting in ways that will get me there! When St. Thomas Aquinas was asked, “What does it take to become a saint?” He answered, “Will it.” Is that not the same thing? We have to be like little children and trust that the Father wants us to be eternally with Him in Heaven infinitely more than we want it for ourselves!

Finally, we need to have confidence that what Jesus tells us in today’s Gospel is TRUE:

Jesus said to his disciples:

“Do not let your hearts be troubled.

You have faith in God; have faith also in me.

In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places.

If there were not,

would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you?

And if I go and prepare a place for you,

I will come back again and take you to myself,

so that where I am you also may be.

Where I am going you know the way.”

John 14:1-4

 By Rosa Mystica