“Let her alone, Henry. This is an excellent paper, and she’s going to ace it.” I tried to pretend I agreed with the favorable judgment being made of me before my brother Henry interrupted: “Yes, but she’s lazy and complacent. She had weeks to write this term paper, and she’s only now getting around to writing it – the day before it’s due.”
Pretending not to give a thought to what he was saying I continued typing. Then Henry said to me: “The words on that paper are eloquent and convincing. You’ll get an “A” for sure. But I won’t be proud of you because your heart’s not in it. You’re just getting by.”
I’ll never forget that night nor the tone of exasperation in his voice. Although he was only four years older than me, he was in many ways my inspiration and mentor. He knew how to set goals and go after them relentlessly. He had a passion for music, a thirst for learning, and a unique capacity for friendship, storytelling, and for making people laugh. During my high school years we shared numerous interests and dreams. We shared a lot, laughed uncontrollably, and argued too. He drove me places, took me out to eat, teased about my friends, and gave me all sorts of “counsels” which older brothers are prone to do. And any chance he could, he spoke about college and dreams for the future.
I would leave our conversations at times teeming with hope for the future or bursting with laughter or fuming with annoyance – but never the same. Looking back it seems that during those years, no interaction with him was simply ordinary. He was a rascal of sorts, but one bursting with vitality, hope, and determination.
“Do things with heart and determination. Whether it’s playing a sport, writing music, working a job, going to school, or helping someone out – do it with everything that’s in you. We were made for more than mediocrity.” Though sometimes it was difficult for this young woman to acknowledge the wise counsel of her twenty-one year-old imp of a brother, twenty-five years later his words continue to remind me that we were born “for greater things.”
I sense him at times asking me: “Are you soaring high or just getting by?” As the new academic year opens and schools, teachers, and families throughout the country begin anew, let’s take a moment to review our goals and deepest aspirations in the light of God’s dreams for us. We each have a purpose and destiny – one that is to be lived with passion and hope at each step. Now is the perfect time to begin anew under the torrent of Him who “in Christ has given us every spiritual blessing in the heavens.” (Ephesians 1:3)
May the words of St. Paul resonate from our hearts: “Whatever you do, work at it with your whole heart, as for the Lord and not for men.” (Colossians 3:23)
Sister Ines, O.C.D
To learn more about the Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles, read their biography below and visit their website.
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Sister Elizabeth Therese, O.C.D., Vocation Directress
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Alhambra, California 91801