March 15, 2012
Do you ever send God that always popular question: Why am I here?

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For more years than I care to put a number to, I have been wondering what is my purpose. Some people are blessed with a very clear understanding of who they are and how to use their gifts.  I know people who have a definite vocation - to religious life or marriage, absolutely, but also to a profession. For example, some are teachers in every fibre of their being, or are clearly made for youth ministry.  For some of us, "who am I" is less evident.
I don't know if this is the case or not, but I wonder if it is a harder question for women than for men?  We get conflicting advice, don't we?  Put your career first; No, no... you can have it all; A woman is not a woman unless she is a wife and mother.

Well, frankly, all three suggestions leave me in the dirt.  I'm neither a driven career girl, nor am I a wife or mother.  Because I don't want to be left out, I reject the proposition that my fulfillment can come only through one of those three scenarios.

This very subject has come up in various ways quite a lot lately.  Women (yes, men too) glean so much of our identity from what we do.  But no matter what it is we do, we still feel like we're coming up short somehow. Why do women feel guilty when they work or when they stay home?  Why do women judge another woman for the choices she has made about children, breastfeeding or bottlefeeding, working, not working, living simply and frugally or having financial success, covering or not covering her head, skirts or trousers... enough!!

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With all of that rambling through my mind in a tangled knot, trying to figure out what to write about it, I went to bed last night thinking I really ought to pray on what to write about.  Leaving that thought behind, I went to the readings of the day, which brought me to Deut. 4: 1, 5-9 which is about Israel being taught the statutes of God, and being commanded to observe them well, and to in turn teach them to our children and our children's children.

Was this the answer I was looking for then?  Would a woman's fulfillment come from teaching her children the commandments?  What if she doesn't have children?  Well, we know that we can extend that passage of scripture to include any person we come into contact with.  What if she isn't a gifted teacher (or evangelist)?  That led me to Romans 12: 6-8:

"Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us exercise them: if prophecy, in proportion to the faith; if ministry, in ministering; if one is a teacher, in teaching; if one exhorts, in exhortation; if one contributes, in generosity; if one is over others, with diligence; if one does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness."
There, I think, is the answer.  If we examine our lives - each of us - through the Divine Economy, we will see that we are already fulfilling our mission in the course of our ordinary days by using the gifts we have been given, even if it doesn't look like ministry or seem important, because we desire it - even if we are only doing so for very brief moments at a time.  I think we are feeling guilty because we want to be making a a real contribution, we want to get it right, we want to be doing good work, we want to honour God, to be like Our Lady.

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Our wanting it, gives God permission to use our skills and circumstances to teach, encourage, lead, heal, prophecy, etc.  His work is often invisible so we can feel ineffectual, but let's learn to trust that He is present in our lives and the lives of our friends and sisters in Christ.  Let's encourage each other, bolster each other, applaud each other, accept each other.


No matter what it is we do in life, what we are is children of God.  He formed us, created us, called us into being.  Our fulfillment is in Him, not in what we do, so it is good to place ourselves in His presence every day so we can draw strength for the duty of the moment... whatever that may be.

2 comments:

  1. The Ordinary CatholicMarch 17, 2012 at 4:37 AM

    Questions about who we are, what we are and what our place and duty is while here in this life, has been and will always be asked. It's inevitable when we do not see the whole picture of creation, to ask these things. As you said, we see others in marriage and in a career and we see success. We become conflicted when we hear the clamor of the world trying to tell us what is important as opposed to what our faith tells us is important.

    Therese, the Little Flower, figured most of this out with her "Little Way" which consisted of doing what we consider the most mundane of things in daily life. She took her ordinary life, with her ordinary skills(she thought)and did them for Him. Her life would be considered nothing in today's world compared to the celebrities, statesmen, the wealthy etc. that the world holds up as models for success, yet it is her example of living life for Him in ordinary things that seems to reverberate deep within us. There's a lesson there.

    We were not all created to be the shining star in this world:first violin. Some of us have been given the humble triangle to play in His celestial orchestra. We were given a score to take home and learn our part. We see all those notes meant for every one else, and then, when the time comes, and after a certain number of beats we strike our triangle. All we hear at the moment is that seemingly unimportant "ping" of our triangle as we practice alone.

    Then, the moment comes when the whole orchestra assembles for the premiere concert. We sit there with our lowly triangle waiting to play our part, while we listen to the extraordinary music played by all the others. The rumble of the massive tympani shakes us to the core, the sweet sound of the strings teasing our senses while the horns blare to the coming crescendo.

    We ready ourselves to strike our ordinary, diminutive triangle, sure we will be drowned out by all the other important instruments, then... the Maestro quiets all, our part comes and we quietly strike our instrument, and as the 'ping' is sounded, it is heard. The Maestro smiles and we then realize that our little part 'fits' perfectly once we hear it amongst the thousands of notes that he wrote.

    He knew the importance of our part for he composed the score. We however, sitting in our room practicing, could only trust that the little part we were given to play, with the little instrument that was small enough to place in our pocket, had meaning in this composition. It will be in the final movement, when all is said and done, that we will see the genius of the Maestro and how all of our instruments and parts to play, fit blessedly together.

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  2. How very beautiful, OC. And very consoling, too. Our faith is full of paradoxes (the first shall be last, etc.) and St. Therese is one of them: she lived her "little way" and the Church has declared her a saint - and Doctor - because of it. Despite what it has been named, her Little Way takes constant practice, diligence, and effort... nothing little about that!

    It is in playing our part, no matter what it is that we will see God and be our best selves. My hope is that women will help each other do so, through encouragement and support. Let's get there together! As Vatican II wrote to women, it is up to us to save the peace of the world. If we're tearing each other down and paralyzing ourselves because of worldly false standards, how can we hope to have peace ourselves, let alone foster it in our homes and communities?

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