By Arie Reath
“What is a saint but simply a resolute soul, a soul that uses power plus action?”
~ Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta
What is it about a bookshop that draws people in? Is it the musty scent of printed paper, the sense of calm and peace amidst a chaotic world? The stacks seem to ooze comfort, understanding, and wisdom. Almost like coming home.
One drizzly Friday evening, I was feeling a little gray. I decided to take some time to do something that I enjoy. For me, that meant driving straight to Barnes and Noble after work. I could have done any number of things: I could have hit the town with my friends, gone to see a movie, enjoyed dinner out somewhere downtown, something a little more social perhaps… But I wanted to be among books--my inanimate friends. Probably more than that, I was craving silence.
I was perusing the stacks when my eye fell on a tiny book. I tend to pay attention to those moments: what about this tiny little book, of which there are no other copies, caught my eye among this tidal wave of information?
It was a book containing snippets of Mother Teresa’s teachings. I didn’t wait to purchase it, I sat down and devoured it, hungry for the insight it contained. I have since passed on the book, and I can’t even remember its title, but the following words have stuck with me:
“Everything depends on these two or three words: I will or I will not. I must put all of my energy into this will. St. John Berchmans, St. Stanislaus, St. Margaret Mary said I will, and they did become saints. What is a saint but simply a resolute soul, a soul that uses power plus action?”
The simplicity of this question stopped me dead in my tracks.
Spiritual discipline is like anything else we desire in our lives: physical fitness, building our career, strengthening relationships… All the principles are the same, simple principles. Yet we complicate them. We entangle ourselves in the world, in desires for things not of God. We desire affirmation from others, we desire talent over virtue, we desire recognition, seek pleasure, and put ourselves before the needs of others. Don’t we?
I had to ask myself, am I resolute in following the Lord, striving for SAINTHOOD, as St. Mother Teresa did? I wasn’t sure I wanted to know the answer, and I was even less sure that I wanted to change my answer, because on some level, I knew the consequences of such a decision.
We don’t want to believe that we are capable of becoming saints, because then we’d have to own up to it. We would have to start living differently and living by example. We would be under the scrutiny of others. We would be accountable for speaking Truth even when it is uncomfortable or awkward.
We would have to do things we don’t always feel like doing, such as loving hard personalities, working hard when we are exhausted, seeing the path toward “Easy Street” and rejecting it! That doesn’t sound like much fun to me.
But there is beauty in the road less traveled.
Meditating on the words of St. Mother Teresa, I was surprised to find in my heart that amidst all my inconsistency, my self-doubt and fear of the call to be a saint, somehow I have one thing that I know to be true of myself. Of this I am absolutely resolute: the Devil will never have me. I am the Lord’s, and He is mine.
I was reminded recently that all God wants of us is us. He wants your heart, not your abilities. He can give you whatever abilities you need to do His will, but so often we tend to focus on what we do not have. He wants your “yes.” Yes, it is that simple. Are you willing to give it to him?
I want to leave you with the wisdom of one of my favorite poets.
The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
Image via Debbie Herbeck