(interior of San Chappell/ Paris, France/ Julie Cook 2007)
“I assure you, my children, that when a Christian carries out with love the most insignificant everyday action, that action overflows with the transcendence of God. That is why I have told you so often, and hammered away at it, that the Christian vocation consists in making heroic verse out of the prose of each day. Heaven and earth seem to merge, my children, on the horizon. But where they really meet is in your hearts, when you sanctify your everyday lives…”
Blessed Josemaria Escriva
Many of us, especially those of us who are not Catholic, were first introduced to Father Josemaria Escriva by Dan Brown, in his book The Da Vinci Code and most likely did not even realize it—I for one did not. Fr. Escriva was the founder of the Opus Dei, an “institution” within the Catholic Church which teaches that all ordinary people living ordinary lives are called to holiness and by simply living our lives and striving to serve God and finding His love in the simplicity of our daily activity–that is a path to sanctity.
None of that cloak and dagger business for me. No secret societies or rituals…my true introduction to Fr. Escriva was when I happened to watch a small production movie, There Be Dragons—a movie based on the Spanish Civil war, the true life of Josemaria Escriva and that of one of his childhood friends– how their individual choices of life led to the dramatic climax in the movie.
The movie has its basis in fact, though there are always liberties taken in the name of theatrics. What the movie did however, was to pique my interest in an individual who had been previously painted as perhaps a little dubious by my first introduction to Opus Dei by Dan Brown.
Choices made, especially during the heat of conflict and war, most often showcase the true character of an individual. That an individual will continue doing the “right” thing by people, demonstrating God’s love and compassion through their own actions, and by not backing away from the convictions of faith, regardless of personal harm and or safety, is a true demonstration of Divine Love–which is something all Christians are called to reflect in their own lives lived— it is that- a conviction of faith and doing the right things in the face of danger-that is what I took away regarding Fr Escriva’s life.
Mother Teresa echos the same sentiments of the life of an individual, how even though we may be just one person, one small individual, that it is possible for even the one small person to indeed bring about change and goodness. I have used this quote of hers before, a quote that speaks to the power of one: “I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.”
It is important for each of us to understand and to remember that just by living our ordinary lives and by going about our daily routines, we can make a difference, we can demonstrate God’s goodness. So often we think we must do something of great importance, we must leave our ordinary worlds and go to far away exotic places in order to create positive change.
I can remember my own frustration when having read one of the countless biographies on Mother Teresa, closing the book, just sitting in a silent sadness that I was just here in my rather simple and boring life–just getting up each day, going to work, tending to my family—nothing on a grand scale, no massive impact for a world in desperate need of help—when it dawned on my that I was simply to make an impact in my own world—what was it that I could do in my own world, which at the time consisted of a small southern high school, that could bring about positive change and showcase the love and mercy of my God.
I got together with a small group of teachers with like minded hearts and we developed a small initiative for our kids who we knew were going hungry on the weekends– by providing food for them and their families. The initiative became a school-wide campaign. I won’t showcase that story here as it has it’s own separate tale—but my point is that we all can begin at home, in our own lives, spreading love, forgiveness, care, compassion, hope– all being a reflection of the unconditional love shown to each of us by the Cross on Good Friday, that is the holiness and sanctification that we share with the world.
It does all begin with us, the individual—know that it is you who reflects God’s love and compassion on a world in desperate need. It is you who can begin the cycle of love rather than that of death, sadness, and sorrow. It is you who wipes away the tears of hopelessness. It is you who opens your arms in comfort. This is your calling. It is now, it is today.