Worth Revisiting: Living Privilege

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privilege
noun priv·i·lege \ˈpriv-lij, ˈpri-və-\

  • : a right or benefit that is given to some people and not to others

  • : a special opportunity to do something that makes you proud      (Merriam-Webster)

I grew up in a single parent home, the daughter and granddaughter of educators, not affluent but replete with love and the basic necessities of life. While I didn’t always like the food or the clothes I had, I never spent a day hungry or lacking shelter. Instilled in me was the understanding that despite the meager and lean times, there were always others who had so much less. I was indeed privileged.

One day when I was about 6, a young woman with three young children in tow approached the door of my house. I had recognized the two little toddlers clinging on her dress from the neighborhood, and had curiously wondered where they actually lived. Entering, they were unusually quiet and withdrawn not even wanting to make eye contact. Immediately  inviting them to take a seat, my mom got quickly to work. In what seemed like a blink of an eye, she had produced a fine meal from our dinner the night before. And using our best tableware she welcomed these new visitors as honored guests. The once shy faces lit up as they saw all of the food before them and boisterously became themselves once again.

Asking  me then to go and play with them for a bit, my mom sat down with their mother as she fed the infant in her arms. In hushed tones they spoke, their conversation forever remaining just between them. Packing up more food and clothing for them to carry with them, my mom reminded them that they could always return. This they did, though not staying for any great length of time. I asked my mom once why she gave, when that merely meant that we had less that week, or had given up that shirt she had just purchased with the tags still on it.

“This is what it means to love unconditionally”, she told me, “to care for others more than yourself. You may not understand this today but you and I have been blessed with the opportunity to share”.

This is the very definition of privilege and with it comes a tremendous responsibility to do all this with great love. Perhaps you do not feel that you have much to give or that others more able will step up to help. Yet, you have what only you can give…yourself. God knows your struggles, your needs and desires but he also knows your gifts. After all, he gave them to you. You see the world and ask why it all seems so troubling and unchanging- it begins with each of us to be the change in the world around us. One life at a time, every day anew. I promise that one life that will most certainly be changed is our own.

“You know well enough that Our Lord does not look so much at the greatness of our actions, nor even at their difficulty, but at the love with which we do them” – St. Teresa of Lisieux

Peace,

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Overcoming annoyance… Lead me on St. Thérèse!

“Formerly one of our nuns managed to irritate me whatever she did or said. The devil was mixed up in it, for it was certainly he who made me see so many disagreeable traits in her.”                    (The Story of a Soul, St. Thérèse)

To a chosen few, I have confided that this less than perfect, but usually patient child of God does indeed have her moments. There, I said it! All joking aside, however,this week I was reminded of St. Thérèse’s own difficulties with her fellow sister with someone in my own life.  While I didn’t outwardly display my inward feelings of annoyance and profound frustration, it was in truth all consuming. Occupying my mind, and keeping my heart at bay, I found myself unable to truly listen or engage in anything being said.  This inner hollow numbness, at the words being spoken was so striking, I caught myself aghast at my disconnect from the conversation and her expression of pain. Why was she telling me this? Why was I being drawn into her inner circle, is there no one else?, I was thinking. Then it sank in, God wasn’t asking anyone else in that moment…he was asking me.

As I did not want to give way to my natural dislike for her, I told myself that charity should not only be a matter of feeling but should show itself in deeds. So I set myself to do for this sister just what I should have done for someone I loved most dearly.” ( St. Thérèse)

So, therein lies the challenge, and the invitation that is set before me. To not only tolerate, but to extend the same love that I would show for someone “I loved most dearly”.  This requires not only desire but an intentional effort, something not usually needed for those whom we find easily to love. And yet for it to be meaningful, and not hypocritical, it has to begin with love and involve a change in heart. Yet, where do I start? Prayer.  Here is a gift that blesses not only the one being prayed for but the one who prays.

Every time I met her, I prayed for her and offered God all her virtues and her merits. I was sure this would greatly delight Jesus, for every artist likes to have his works praised and the divine Artist of souls is pleased when we do not halt outside the exterior of the sanctuary where He has chosen to dwell but go inside and admire its beauty.”  ( St. Thérèse)

Beauty, yes, God has most certainly given each one of us virtues and merits..that is worthy to be praised and recognized. While hidden at times, perhaps, they are there awaiting discovery and appreciation nonetheless. And still, I wonder, God’s brush strokes and artistry remain hidden at times within me? Most certainly, I wasn’t showing my best self to her, the fullness of who God had created me to be.

I did not remain content with praying a lot for this nun who caused me so much disturbance. I tried to do as many things for her as I could, and whenever I was tempted to speak unpleasantly to her, I made myself give her a pleasant smile and tried to change the subject.”  ( St. Thérèse)

Ah, here we have the next step, small outward gestures of love and concern. Not for the world to see, but that speak of our gratitude for God’s beauty within each of us.  St. Thérèse never said this was easy for her, in fact she speaks of her internal reluctance to do so. The resistance I feel, I cannot help but recognize is God himself prompting me to grow.

When I was violently tempted by the devil and if I could slip away without her seeing my inner struggle, I would flee like a soldier deserting the battlefield. And after all this she asked me one day with a beaming face: “Sister Therese, will you please tell me what attracts you so much to me? You give me such a charming smile whenever we meet.” Ah! it was Jesus hidden in the depth of her soul who attracted me, Jesus who makes the bitterest things sweet!”(St. Thérèse)

You too, St. Thérèse? Whilst the saints inspire us so much in the joys, delights and flights of ecstasy experienced in seeking to love and serve God, so too do their challenges. To this I say thank you, St. Thérèse for your openness and admittance of imperfection. Thank you for sharing so generously of the struggle. For in doing so, you have given the rest of us striving to be someday saints hope and companionship in the journey.

Peace,

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