31 July 2007

Simple faith

A priest at our parish used to talk about having a simple faith, to be childlike in our relationship to God. To be trusting and patient, even when our human selves tell us to take action. St. Therese was like this. From Story of a Soul, italics are those of St. Therese:

"See, then, all that Jesus lays claim to from us; He has no need of our works but only of our love, for the same God who declares He has no need to tell us when He is hungry did not fear to beg for a little water from the Samaritan woman. He was thirsty. But when He said; "Give me to drink," it was the love of His poor creature the Creator of the universe was seeking. He was thirsty for love. Ah! I feel it more than ever before, Jesus is parched, for He meets only the ungrateful and indifferent among His disciples in the world, and among His own disciples, alas, He finds few hearts who surrender to Him without reservations, who understand the real tenderness of His infinite Love."

And, another:

"O my Jesus! what is your answer to all my follies? Is there a soul more little, more powerless than mine? Nevertheless even because of my weakness, it has pleased You, O Lord, to grant my little childish desires and You desire, today, to grant other desires that are greater than the universe."

With the popularity of EWTN and Relevant Radio, many Catholic converts and apologists are being heard. This is a wonderful thing. It has helped me learn about the incredible gift of faith that has been handed down to me, providing a more solid foundation than I had. I could listen to many of the programs all day long, but feel I'm being called to grow in my faith without having all the answers, not being able to quote scripture or council documents, not knowing all there is about the early Church. This is a challenge for me. All my life, school and work have ingrained in me the need to have a solid and broad base well prepared before you take the next step, because everything builds upon it.

The more I reflect on St. Therese, one of my patron saints, the more I can identify with her, as I've seen examples of trusting God right in my own family. My brother, a fallen away Catholic, criticized my 82 year-old aunt for saying she had a simple faith in response to one of my brother's very high-brow questions. She didn't have all the answers herself, but the Church did. Within her bible and Catechism, she had nearly all the bases covered. Why should it bother her that she doesn't retain everything about the Church in her head? No one has all the answers.

I never knew my dad's father. He died before my parents married. An older cousin who lived with my grandparents has told me stories about my grandfather that pretty much sum up my idea of him; glues together the pieces told to me about him. By all accounts, he always had a rosary in his hand. He was a big, powerful man, but also gentle and kind. His physical presence afforded him respect, but his personality is what retained it. Years of struggle to feed his family and financial insecurity during the depression taught him to rely on Our Lady. He had a great sense of humor, loved to read the paper and loved sports. The story I love about him is where he was watching a football game. He was also, as always, saying the rosary (not the preferred or recommended way to say the rosary). As my cousin walked by the room she heard him yell to the TV, "Run, dammit. RUN!!" Followed softly, without missing a beat by, "Hail Mary, full of grace..." I think he must've been meditating on the Pigskin Mysteries.

My maternal grandfather was very similar. I cherish the example he provided of having a simple faith. He was beloved by his family, friends and the entire community. He lived his faith by being humble, generous, kind and effervescent with his joy. If a neighbor needed anything, be it help or food, it was generously and kindly given from his own meager means. He was a farmer that trusted in God completely. No work was done on Sunday, even if it meant that crops might be ruined if left in the field. God would provide. Many times, his last dollar went in the collection, never reluctantly and never begrudgingly, but with gratitude. After chores were done, often late at night, he would gather his children into his bed and read them stories. Before going to bed himself, he got down on a small kneeler and prayed.

When I started reading, Story of a Soul, I didn't appreciate it for all the lessons it contained. Despite the fact that many things St. Therese wrote about are evident in my own family, I didn't think it applied to my life. My grandfathers, I'm certain, didn't read about St. Therese, but they stumbled onto some of the same ideas themselves through their faithfulness. I think there is much to learn from St. Therese's life and the lives of other saints. It seems there is no cookie-cutter mold that makes a saint. They all had their own strengths and weaknesses. I may want to be a better apologist or be able to quote scripture, but it might not be what God is calling me toward. After reading, Story of a Soul, I have learned that if I have a simple faith and trust in God, He will gradually show me what His plan is for me. I just wish I was a better student.

"O Mother, how different are the ways through which the Lord leads souls! In the life of the saints, we find many of them who didn't want to leave anything of themselves behind after their death, not the smallest souvenir, not the least bit of writing. On the contrary, there are others, like our holy Mother St. Teresa, who have enriched the Church with their lofty revelations, having no fears of revealing the secrets of the King in order that they may make Him more loved and known by souls. Which of these two types of saints is more pleasing to God? It seems to me, Mother, they are equally pleasing to Him, since all of them followed the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and since the Lord has said: "Tell the just man ALL is well." Yes, all is well when one seeks only the will of Jesus, and it is because of this that I, a poor little flower, obey Jesus when trying to please my beloved Mother."
Story of a Soul, St. Therese of Lisieux

4 comments:

tara said...

swissmiss:
"See, then, all that Jesus lays claim to from us; He has no need of our works but only of our love,"

How simple--yet how hard. God only wants our love, but sometimes we think we need to earn the love--through our works and talents. God gives everything! If we become engrossed in our own inadequacies we think we are unloveable by God--He made us the way we are and loves us--all He wants is our love of Him not of our self.

Good Post!

swissmiss said...

Tara:
You hit the nail on the head. I never really thought I would be affected by Story of a Soul so much. It seemed to be just a nice story, but also very removed from my own life. Then all of a sudden bells started going off and the simple book became quite profound. Now I need to learn to be childlike and start to take baby steps. I'm not sure what direction to start walking in though ;}

Ray from MN said...

One of the Seven Last Words of Christ on the Crucifix was "I thirst."

"He was thirsty for love!"

swissmiss said...

Ray:
Love the new pic!
And I had never thought about that. Quite a connection. I had also heard you need to read St. Therese's story several times just to get the ground floor of what she was saying.