It’s encouraging to know that the saints and other holy people struggled with many of the same things that we do. Sometimes I fall into the trap of placing very holy people on a pedestal, envisioning that they somehow remain untouched and protected from the trials and tribulations we face in everyday life. I used to liken convent living to that of heaven—everyone is in love with God and therefore surely radiates happiness and kindness all day, every day, right? Wrong.
In the book, Mother Angelica: The Remarkable Story of a Nun, Her Nerve, and a Network of Miracles, Mother Angelica did not always find it easy to live with some of her sisters in the convent: “It was a cross of learning to live with one another…a cross of learning to love,” she said.
These crosses in our lives, however big or small, ultimately lead us closer to God if we unite our suffering and struggles with those of Christ and respond with humility and true charity.
The truth is, no matter what our vocation, God has both joy and sorrow in store for us. It is through these joys and trials—yes, even suffering!—that our souls become polished and we have the opportunity to exercise grace.
The wisdom of the saints on such matters has beautifully paved the way for us. I really identify with the sensitivity of St. Thérèse of Lisieux. (Like me, she is quite sensitive and pensive. Unlike me…she’s a saint.) In her autobiography, The Story of a Soul, she gives an example of one of her childhood friendships—one that she held dear to her heart—ending abruptly for reasons she can’t explain. Thérèse’s friend, who went to visit some family members for a few months, simply lost interest in her while she was gone. Upon her friend’s return, Thérèse rejoiced, while her friend “acted quite cool” toward her. Even at a young age, Thérèse’s wise and humble response to this hurtful shunning astounded me, as she immediately decided she would, “continue to pray for this girl and to love her still.”
There’s a lot about how St. Thérèse lived her short life that never ceases to inspire me. When my feelings get hurt or I’m struggling with a difficult person and trying to figure out how to respond, I often refer to this bit of wisdom from her:
“I now realize that true charity consists in bearing all our neighbors’ faults, never being surprised by their weaknesses, and being edified by their smallest virtues.”
—St. Thérèse of Lisieux
True charity starts with charitable thoughts. Jesus taught us that we should “judge not, lest we be judged.” While this is no doubt challenging, the lives and wisdom of the saints and holy people who went before us (Jesus included!) provide help, encouragement, and shining examples for how we should live our lives.
This post was also published on Being Catholic blog.
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