There’s no getting around it. If you look at Christian history it would seem that the smallest and most humble of persons are the very ones that shake things up in a big way.
Just off the top of my head, there’s St. John Vianney, known as the Cure of Ars; a humble parish priest in France who was placed in a remote hamlet. He barely made it through seminary and was not viewed as someone of strength and influence. Thus, sending him off to a small distant parish where residents were more likely to be found in taverns than church seemed like just the place for a lackluster, priest. Oh, but God sees the things we don’t. The only quality God needs is a faithful servant, humbly reporting for duty.
It was not long before St. Vianney’s holiness impacted the parish at Ars and people began coming to him from throughout France then eventually even from other countries; reaching 20,000 a year by 1885. There’s something about miracles that draws people like honey draws flies. Well, that’s probably not a dignified enough comparison. For it is God that accomplishes the miracles and He is the one that ultimately draws us in. Fr. Vianney emptied himself of pride and filled up on God. His specialty was the confessional. During the last ten years of his life, Fr. Vianney was known to spend up to sixteen to eighteen hours a day hearing confessions.
Recently, I did an article on exorcism. It was there that I heard repeatedly from exorcists that the Sacrament of Confession is among the Church’s greatest treasures. It is more powerful than an exorcism, which is a blessing. Confession infers grace and resurrects souls from dead to a life full of grace. So, it was perhaps Fr. Vianney’s time in the confessional where he did his greatest good – resurrecting the dead.
Simple Souls Always Welcome
Fr. Solanus Casey is another soul who began his priesthood in the same vein; simple enough to struggle mightily through academics, yet holy enough to prevail to the priesthood. Having gotten in by the skin of his teeth, the question became in what assignment would he do the least amount of harm. Given his poor showing in academics, he was deprived of the faculties of hearing confessions and restricted on his preaching. As the porter at St. Bonaventure in Detroit, he let people in and visited with them while they awaited the priest they had actually come to see. It was not long before Fr. Solanus became the person the visitors came to see. Soon they came to see him by the thousands. Again, miracles tend to attract attention.
Blessed Teresa of Calcutta was a small, humble, plain looking nun without money or influence of any kind. She showed the world that the only influence one needs to get things done is a strong faith in God and willingness to do His bidding. I’ve read several books about her with my children. I have always liked my kids to take a look at her picture. “Look at her,” I have said. “She was just a small, little nun… nothing out of the ordinary about her. She just began picking up people off the streets and taking care of them. She did nothing to market her image. Yet, the whole world came to know and love this simple, faithful woman.”
Mother Angelica was an unlikely pick to become a world-wide media mogul. Instead, a quick glance at her childhood and she’d probably be voted most likely never to rise past mediocrity. But as she once put it, she was a “dodo” for Christ. She explained that being a dodo only requires following God’s lead wherever that takes you. Often that means attempting the impossible. That’s where the dodo part comes in. To the world, you look foolish, attempting the impossible. To God, since nothing is impossible, this quality is something He can really work with.
Not Equipped? Perfect!
Beginning with our first pope, Peter the Fisherman, God has shown us that he prefers the simple. Actually, this preference started long before the New Testament. The likes of Moses, Noah and David, the shepherd boy turned king, are a few examples of this.
Obviously, the list of meek and humble souls doing amazing things is practically endless. We all know that. Thus, I’ll go no further naming names. Yet, for some reason, so many of us feel as if the really big accomplishments for God are meant for somebody else. Most people become intimidated when faced with large tasks with the potential to impact many. We chug along in our day-to-day existence, not wanting to stick our necks out too far. If it comes to making money or getting a promotion, however, often it’s a completely different story. But with holiness and Christian service, we are often timid or lukewarm.
Ultimately, God decides the impact of the task he gives us. As Blessed Teresa is often quoted: “God does not call us to success, he calls us to faithfulness.” Most saints with a far reach did not set on a course to do anything big in this world but set their sights on heaven. St. Therese, the Little Flower of Lisieux, France is an example of that. Her desire was to remain small and in her “little way” to follow God through the hidden life of the cloister convent. Not until after her death and the publication of her journal that revealed her “little way”, did the world come to know and love this saint.
One of my favorite “saint stories” is that of St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, the saint of the Sacred Heart Devotion. Jesus appeared at her convent in Paray le Monial, France and revealed the burning love of his Sacred Heart. He wanted her to make this devotion known to the world. When Margaret questioned Jesus for choosing such a lowly person as herself for such an ambitious task, He responded that if he could have found someone lowlier, he would have. Clearly, lowliness can be an asset.
The biggest thing the saints show us is that merely reporting for duty every day is all God asks. Someone wiser than I once said, “God does not call the equipped, he equips those he calls.”
Life has a way of overwhelming us mere mortals. I don’t know anyone who feels like they have it all together all the time. Many days or lying awake at night, I’m tempted to panic for one reason or another. But I have a favorite Scripture verse I say to calm myself down:
Three times I besought the Lord about this, that it should leave me; but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” I will all the more gladly boast of my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities; for when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:8-10)
Really, when you think about it, the smaller we feel the better off we are. At least we are not kidding ourselves into thinking we can handle everything ourselves. Once it becomes clear to us that we are not the ones in control, we can give control over to God. And he is always going to do a much better job than we ever could.
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