You are who you are


#1

Dear brothers and sisters,

One of my greatest faults is that I become so easily discouraged when I look at the many holy men and women whom I’ve met both in prayer and actual life, thus when I look interiorly I find someone who is broken, sinful, and so far from holiness that it makes the journey ahead seem all but impossible. It’s as if I were travelling a long, flat dusty road, carrying a great many weights, and for each step I take – a step which requires great effort and determination, perhaps even requiring pulling myself back up after great exhaustion – the road continues on for miles and miles and miles. The horizon goes on forever.

Comparing our own spiritual journeys to another’s spiritual journey is an exercise in futility. What we will gain is an even greater hardship, an additional, unnecessary cross, and perhaps even despair. It won’t take long before that long, flat dusty road seems purely impossible.

St. Therese of the Child Jesus ponders this question at the beginning of her autobiography. Taking a cue from her elder sister, Pauline, whose religious name was Mother Agnes of Jesus, St. Therese muses upon the garden of souls which God is continually tending, “and I understood that every flower created by Him is beautiful, that the brilliance of the rose and the whiteness of the lily do not lessen the perfume of the violet or the sweet simplicity of the daisy.” It’s common in our pride and self-esteem to want to regard ourselves as God’s own special rose, to want to be that prized flower which receives sunlight from the True Light, to want to receive plentiful water from the Living Water, and to be sheltered from the storms which may ruin our fragile petals; however, like St. Therese, we must too understand that “if all the lowly flowers wished to be roses, nature would lose its springtide beauty, and the fields would no longer be enamelled with lovely hues.”

St. Therese is only echoing, though, the classic passage from St. Paul where he, in his First Letter to the Corinthians, teaches, “As a body is one though it has many parts, and all the parts of the body, though many, are one body, so also Christ.” In short, there is diversity in unity and unity in diversity. We should not become discouraged by the role within the Church which Our Lord assigns us, for “if a foot should say, “Because I am not a hand I do not belong to the body,” it does not for this reason belong any less to the body. Or if an ear should say, “Because I am not an eye I do not belong to the body,” it does not for this reason belong any less to the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be?” Likewise, if you should think, “I am not a great contemplative like St. John of the Cross,” this does not mean that you belong any less to the Body; or, if you should think, “I am not capable of great acts of penance and poverty like St. Francis of Assisi,” this also does not mean that you belong any less to the Body; even if you think, “I am a damaged limb, a broken heart, a fractured bone, a blind eye,” you are still a member of the Body! “Because the loaf of bread is one, we, though many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf.

Even St. Paul in his great wisdom was only echoing in these quoted passages what the Great Wisdom said in His first sermon, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven,” and similarly, “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land.” Christ is calling us to humble-heartedness, which means recognizing our place in the grand scheme of things as a beloved child of God, placing the needs and interests of others above our own, and making God the center of our lives through prayer. We shouldn’t be asking, “Why am I not like my brother or sister in Christ?” but, rather, “How can I make the most difference to my family? my friends? my parish community?” When we know our place, then we can we recognize in others that they too are also children of God, thus allowing us to be more gentle and loving towards them despite their differences.

In her life, St. Therese may have regarded herself as the smallest of daisies, but as she (like a true sunflower) continually turned her soul towards the Sun, she became one of God’s finest roses. So, let us all strive to put behind us the paltriness of comparison and take delight in being who God created us to be. You are who you are: embrace that person, tell that person you love them, that you forgive them, and that you will do what’s best for them.

May Our Loving Mother guide you all towards Her Infinitely Compassionate Son!


#2

What a beautiful reflection – thank you for sharing it! I hope you’ll be able to remember your own words when you feel like you’ve “failed” or have sinned. You’re so right – comparing ourselves, our own spiritual journeys, to others, should never make us feel worse. The point of comparing our journeys to the journeys various saints or others have taken is to receive solace (in recognizing that everyone struggles) and encouragement to keep going.

I pray today will be a wonderful day for you, filled with joy and blessings. :hug1: :slight_smile:


#3

Yeah, this is my version of the spiritual post-it note. :wink:


#4

Good and wise post. This can even be seen in a marriage, where the two aren’t in the same stage of spiritual growth. One is not greater then the other, just a different stage. One may need to uphold the other and vice versa. One may fall from a great height, while the other steadily carries on, stopping to pick up the fallen. The strengths remain hidden until they are needed. Tim


#5

Cool! :thumbsup:

Thank you for posting this.


#6

Ahhh, but the Doctor of the Church, St. Therese, the little flower, was one huge exception too. She was a holy little child, (spoiled yes, and recognized in herself as a young child, that she needed to change her selfish ways). She didn’t ever think of herself as a Saint, she saw her broken, sinful ways too.

Most reading of the Saints always show us how broken, sinful and awful they too thought of themselves. I believe it was exactly because they were getting closer to God and the closer they got to HIM, the more they saw how far from Him they were spiritually.

That might be where you are on your journey. Continue on, carrying your cross in union with Jesus and eventually, when you get to Calvary…you will see that it was He who helped you carry that cross and not you helping Him afterall.

All who follow Jesus are going to suffer in some way, keep offering it up. Never give up, journey onward, someday you too will find it a great joy to receive all from HIM and you will glady carry it, for Him, for yourself, and then for others.

You seem like someone who would be willing to do anything for Jesus, prayfully read the book of Job.

Remember what St. Therese said to the Lord when she fell out of that carriage? If this is how you treat your friends, no wonder you have so few.:smiley:


#7

Amen!

How well you put it.
I have been there and felt that desperation that comes when I start to compare my spiritual journey to other’s. At times it almost got the better of me. When I was finaly graced with the understanding of what you just said, it “moved mountains” for me. Thank you so much for sharring and may Our Loving Mother always continue guiding you towards Her Infinitely Compassionate Son and please keep sharring your thoughts/reflections.
I love it, “you are who you are”. I would just add “make sure you can live with yourself and the choices that you make”.


#8

You’re right.

I think if we closely examine the life of St. Therese, as Thomas R. Nevin does in his biography subtitled “God’s Gentle Warrior,” it’s easy to see that St. Therese used a number of instruments to measure her own spiritual journey compared to others’, including texts known as circulaires which were read during meals at the Carmel. The *circulaires *were sort of like a combination of the hagiography and the obituary, often detailing the life and holy death of other Carmelite nuns throughout the world. you can imagine the psychological impact hearing and reading these circulaires might have had on the other sisters in the community, especially someone like Therese Martin who demonstrated time and again her fierce resolve to accomplish what she set out to accomplish, even if that meant crawling through treacherously narrow spaces beneath the Colisseum in order to pray at the precise spot where many martyrs shed their blood!

What distinguishes St. Therese, and what made her representative of the Carmelite sisters, isn’t so much that she regarded herself as the worst of sinners, for as Nevin illustrates in his biography there were many much more humble, contrite sisters than even she, but it was in how she overcame herself by being uniquely herself. This is a great paradox! However, as her life unfolds, and she writes about her unfolding life, Therese draws a great many parallels showing how where she is at a current moment is the culmination of many great preludes from her childhood and early adolescence. She she reflects on her limited secular experience from the Carmel of Lisieux, all her trials, all her joys, all her sinful ways are experiences from which she learns how to love Jesus all the more thoroughly. It was through the circulaires and writings of John of the Cross that she finds focus and direction, not empty, hapless comparison.


#9

How does one find a healthy balance? When I was reading St. Faustina’s diary, I would say to myself, “this woman is a Saint, no doubt”, and felt pretty bad about my own state. It seems the promise’s are of great hope in the Lords mercy though. Tim


#10

On Comparisons, Great saints, and measuring up …

I pray that I may see myself as God sees me. This helps me somehow to remember to reflect on my actions as I go thru the day. So in essense, I am comparing myself now to the self God wishes me to become. Often times it is down right frightening to see myself as God sees me now. But, in praying for this cross it helps me with my personal jouney towards becoming a Saint. We are all called to be Saints for only Saints enter into the Kingdom of Glory. :slight_smile:

Thanks for the reflections on the Little Flower. She is very special to me.

–Cadian :knight1:


#11

I know, she is so awesome, she saw the hand of God in every part of her life. She did have her own dark night of the soul and I am sure that in reading St. John of the Cross she was greatly releived to know that was expected. She only had to hang on to Jesus to get through it and I am sure that more than some, she had great trials to overcome spiritually.

One thing that I thought was also so funny and yet so enlightening was how Satan use to sometimes try to torment her at night while she was sleeping, once, she turned over and said: “Oh, its only you”!!:stuck_out_tongue: Then she went right back to sleep.


#12

We are all called to be Saints for only Saints enter into the Kingdom of Glory. :slight_smile:

And what is the definiation of a saint? A sinner who keeps trying. Therin lies the mystery to me. In carrying ones’ cross, one will fall it is to be expected and embraced. But just as Our Lord fell, He also rose and so must we. And herein lies the challenge, over coming ones guilt and shortcomings and having the courage to say: Here I am sinful and sorrowful, I have transgressed and with each transgression I have caused my Lord, my Friend, my Brother, and my loving Redeemer many grevious insults. But here I am, picking up my cross lovingly, embracing my sufferings (and offering them up to you my Lord), and forever seeking forgiveness for my sins and offences and Dear Lord they are many. Even so, may they be met always with your mercy, forgiveness, compassion, understanding, and openess. I ask this for all my brother and sisters of the world as well as myself.

Sin takes one away from God, and if one is not careful it can and will most definitely keep one from God. In my experience with people, once they commit a sin. They lose all hope, which in my personal opinon is worse then the sin committed. Because in losing hope, one is saying God will not forgive, He cannot forgive. And there is nothing God cannot do, Luke 1:37 But as in any relationship, there is a give and take. One must reach out, have faith, and ask forgivness. More importantly, they must rise and pick up their cross. Many are stuck at the fact that they have dropped the cross in the first place. The remembrance of picking it back up is lost in their sea of guilt. There are two moments in Christ’s life that stick out to me especially when I think about sin and trying to not let my guilt overcome me. And they both took place while He was dying on the corss before His mother and her sister, the disciple he loved, and His beloved friends. Not to mention the Roman guards that were there. And even so He shouts out: “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” My God, My God why did you abandon me? And then not shortly after He says, “Father in your hands I place my spirit!”

WHAT?! When I pray the rosary, I like to mix it up a bit. So from time to time, I say the scriptural rosary variation. And it never fails when I read these verses, my heart drops. Here is Our Lord, the Son of God, Born of the Blessed Ever Virgin Mary, the Resurrection and the Life and he shouts out, My God, My God why did you abandon me? And then He follows up, seconds away from death, “Father in your hands I place my spirit!” There is a lesson if not many in this mystery of His life.

God created the world good, not perfect. And we humans are a special breed, for we were given free will. The combination of a good world and free will is not always the best thing in making perfect decisions :wink: But in having free will we can show more effectively that we love God, by the choices we make with the grace we were blessed with, free will.

So that is the main thing I try to remember when reading the stories of the saints, keep trying never give up. Never give up, never surrender… um movies from my teen days rearing their ugly head :stuck_out_tongue:

Mahogany


#13

Another way of looking at “you are who you are” is comparing yourself from age two to where you are today. If you happened to have lived into your senior years you can see more clearly how “fair” God has been with the challenges he has given you. Believe me, God is fair. Young women with monthly mood swings are at a greater disadvantage than young men who are not “gifted” with that challenge. Young men have other challenges which I have not personally experienced but they are plenty. Being pregnant, going through labor pains, and dedicating many years to always taking second place for the good of the family is another special gift for women. Watching your children drift away from the church and disrespect most of the values that you hold most dear is a challenge God may give to you as you enter your senior years. Living at a time when the country that you have loved has lost its soul and is teaching immorality in the schools is another challenge to deal with.
God knows how to give each of us just the right number of challenges so we can all become saints. The challenges will only end on the day we die.


#14

great thread :slight_smile:

I struggle with this too at times. I read about the Saints and I feel like compared to them, I’m the most broken messed up sinner. And sometimes I get discouraged.

I really like what you said here and how to overcome that :thumbsup:

Someone once told me…if you become a Saint, you will not be like St Therese, or St Gemma, or St Francis, or ANY other Saint who ever lived.

Each Saint is unique… and each has a unique journey.

Don’t try to be like them, but rather be inspired by their virtue and love for God. Be the person that God created YOU to be. And yes we have all that sin and stuff that gets in the way…but so did the Saints.

it’s best not to compare ourselves to anybody but just seek God’s Kingdom first, and all else will come :slight_smile:


#15

A really, really good post, Epistemes. I very much appreciated it. It tells me all the more how much I have to deflate myself.


#16

I think St. Ignatius of Loyola gave his spiritual sons, the Jesuits, one of the greatest methods to remain focused on the kingdom of God while not succumbing to the vanity of idle comparison. This method is known as the Examen Prayer.

As this website illustrates, the Examen Prayer moves through a series of reflective-meditative stages that begins with placing ourselves completely before God and ends with a heart-to-heart talk with Jesus. What’s important about this prayer are the stages in-between where a person examines his/her day, studying one’s motives, how something could have been handled differently, taking some pride in a good deed performed, and just being thankful and gracious for all that the Lord has provided, good or bad, because every moment truly is a moment of grace.

I think if we all were to take a few moments at the end of our day to just rest and focus on our relationship with God and how it has unfolded in the day past, perhaps rather than just dozing off in front of the television, or hustling forward with the next busy activity, then I think the temptation to see ourselves as something “lesser” would eventually dissolve.


#17

That site is very good. As I struggle along, I remember so much from my early childhood too.
Reminders of all the good things that I ought to have been doing all these years that some-
times I wasn’t and now I want to even more than ever.

A daily examination of conscious. My father taught me how important that was when I was
young, the Sisters taught us to do this before going to confession and my parents taught me
to pray this prayer daily after reviewing my day and after making my confession:

O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended Thee. I destest all my sins because of
Thy just punishment, but most of all, because I have offended Thee, my Lord and my God, who
art all good and deserving of all my love. I firmly resolve, with the help of Thy grace, to
sin no more and to avoid the near occasions of sin. Amen. (Thank you for the reminder!)

As you can see, that prayer focus’ more on being sorry for offending God because He
deserves all of our love, not because we fear the punishment we deserve for doing so.

My father was an excellent example of that to me, I loved him so much that I wanted to
please him and I wanted him to be proud of me and not embarressed or hurt by my actions that
would not have been pleasing to him. I wanted to obey him because I loved him, not because I
feared any punishment from him. He was a very kind, loving man who showed the love of God in
his own life, he modeled that. He made it very easy for me to believe in a loving God the
Father. (That was another reason I was so attracted to St. Therese’s little way of God being
our Father.)

I know that if it weren’t for the grace of God, I would be unaware of my sins, and I would
probably continue to go on sinning against Him and probably not even notice that I was. Or
if I did notice, not care that I was. This is why praying to the Holy Spirit is so important
to me now, to know myself. Sometimes, more often now than ever, I notice right away when I
am doing something wrong, like an inner voice speaking right up and correcting me.

I want to please God because I love Him, not because I fear the punishment that I would
otherwise so justly deserve for sinning against Him. In other words, I personally don’t want
to commit sins because I love Him, not because I fear Him. Perhaps that is why it is so
difficult, like you said, trying to be better, knowing that we aren’t always. You said that
you were a perfectionist, perhaps I am too and that might be why its so difficult to acheive
as we constantly fall short of the goal. I pray for the Holy Spirit to enlightment me to
when I am sinning by my thoughts, words, actions and inactions and sometimes I feel like I
will never make it. Of course on my own, I won’t, but…for the grace of God.

I love this prayer too from that site that you gave us.

Take, Lord, and Receive

Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty, my memory,
my understanding, and my entire will.
All I have and call my own.
Whatever I have or hold, you have given me.
I return it all to you and surrender it wholly
to be governed by your will.
Give me only your love and your grace
and I am rich enough and ask for nothing more.

St. Ignatius, from the end of the Spiritual Exercises


#18

Beautiful “Ep”! Thanks so much, for posting it. This is why I love St. Therese so dearly. Because she speaks to the very, very small souls… such as “MV”. :o And gives great hope, for those of us… not destined to be the Brilliant Rose in God’s garden… but instead, the humble daisy. (I would even be thrilled to be a blade of grass in God’s garden!).

I’m sure you’re also familiar with the incident from Thereses’ early childhood. One of her elder sisters (I can’t remember if it was Marie… or Pauline) was explaining to her… about “degrees of happniess” in Heaven. The elder Martin sister filled a large tumbler to the brim, with water… and placed beside it a small thimble; which she also filled to the brim with water. Then she asked Therese… “Which of these is the fullest?”. Therese rightly answered… “They are equally full”.

And in this way… Therese learned that even the smallest, humblest soul… will be completely happy in Heaven. That gives us such immense hope… does it not?

God bless :slight_smile:


#19

Tonight, in talking with Our Lady, she impressed upon me something truly important, something humbling, and yet something immensely difficult – especially for those of us who, like myself, are often so full of themselves that it can be blinding:

What Sts. Therese and Paul say about diversity in unity and unity in diversity, of recognizing that the Church operates with many different parts, all hinges on one crucial point: You must accept that you may never aspire to the holiness which others will aspire to; however, you can take solace because God will love you all the more.

St. Therese’s words may ring pleasant in our ears, for she truly had a way with words, but the challenge – a challenge which will require much mortification on our part – is recognize that, yes, we may very well not be the rose of God, that we are much more likely to only be His tiniest wildflower. True, while God will love us because He finds all of His flowers beautiful, the tiniest wildflower must be able to look at the lovely roses without envy, to take solace and comfort and even humble pride in being God’s wildflower and nothing more than a wildflower. This is the call to humble-heartedness which Our Lord speaks of in the Beatitudes.

So, the next time you hear St. Paul’s admonition to the Corinthians, asking them to take heart in only being the leg, arm, or eye of the Church, recognize that what’s at heart in St. Paul’s admonition is that the leg, arm, or eye is much more likely to feel insignificant when it sees the great pragmatism of the other parts; this is the temptation of comparison. When we compare ourselves, we become envious with others and we devalue ourselves. When the wildflower desires so strongly to be something other than a wildflower, it will forget to turn towards the sunlight its given and will eventually wilt and die and crumble.

May Our Lady continue to guide you all!


#20

We do need to always keep trying to grow closer to God, to be more holy, but I definitely agree that we shouldn’t compare ourselves with others. Any such standard would be a purely human comparison. Praise God we have His mercy to rely on and grow in.


DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.