Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Living Radically

We Catholics adore the radical. We thrive on extreme examples of faith; on stories of saints who were crucified, roasted alive, caught deadly diseases in the line of priestly duty; on tales of saints who floated and bi-located, had mystical visions, foretold the future, and ordered around kings and Popes. This should not be cause for astonishment. When you love someone, you want to serve them radically. When you love something, you want to throw yourself heart and soul into it until there is either nothing left to throw, or nothing left to throw at. And I would certainly hope that we Catholics love Christ and our Faith!

Yet, even as we are attracted to this radical love of God, we are often frightened by it. Is it surprising that, in the face of the holiness and extraordinariness of Padre Pio, my mother declared that he made her feel scared, because she could never be that holy? Is it any wonder that a forum friend of mine did not wish to read about Mother Teresa, because then she might feel obliged to make such a great sacrifice…and she did not think she could handle that? Sometimes, we stand in awe and admiration of the Radical Love and lives of the saints. At other times, we run away; not unlike Jonah. Often, it moves us to despair that we will ever be “so holy,” and we feel this way whether we gave up at the mere thought of being radical, or put forth a good effort and still failed to begin a Mother Teresa-like movement.

If you guessed that this is not a good thing, congratulations. You have a brain. While it is only fitting to admire complete, total, radical self-gift, we must not fall into a very common mistake.

We must not confuse radical with big, or vice versa.

We all too often do this, and in the face of obvious radicalness, we come to see small, everyday acts as lesser. Would Saint Gianna Molla mean as much to us if she had not died (despite the fact that her choice for Life was technically completely unrelated to her cause of death, anyway)? Probably not. Her death adds drama her story, the apparent radicalness we Catholics like. A surgery—no matter how risky—is not quite as interesting as dying. Thus we hear more about her death than we do about her life (which, in my opinion, was rather more a testament to her faith and charity). We look at Mother Teresa, all the people she touched and the movement she began, and Saint Therese of the Little Flower seems to pale in comparison.

I think that we need to remind ourselves that it is not the drama which made the saints great. It was their love shown in the little things. Even Mother Teresa’s life was not big. We see her actions as one unified whole, something big and grand. Yet this is not so. We only see it this way because we are on the outside looking in. To Mother Teresa, every poor person, every hug, every look, every word was individual. It was a small everyday thing. Small things just piled up to a point where they looked like something big. Her life was one, long, Little Way. She is no different from Saint Therese. She realized what we so often forget:

There are no great things. There are simply bunches of small things. There are only repetitive, every day, ordinary things done with repetitive, every day, extraordinary love.

I think we should remember this next time the fire we have to go out and “convert all the peoples” dies down and we find that we have seemingly done nothing big. I think we should remember this when we cower before the greatness of Padre Pio and despair that we will ever be that holy. I know I need to remember:

When we make all the little things radical, only then can we really live our faith radically. Only by bringing the little, everyday things in our lives to God can we bring our entire lives to Him.

Radical is Small.

No comments:

Post a Comment