Do It Anyway: A Guide for the Rest of Us

There is a famous poem attributed to St. Mother Teresa that goes something like this:

If you are honest, people may cheat you. / Be honest anyway / Give the world your best and it may not be enough / Do good anyway / If you find happiness, people may be jealous. / Be happy anyway.

I’m not sure if the beloved saint actually penned or quoted the poem, but it is surely needful in our current society. We find ourselves tangled in fear and hurt, and often, we’re afraid to do the right thing.

Lately, I’ve often thought of St. Mother Teresa and her impact on the world.

Earlier this year, I read an authorized biography of the saint from Calcutta, often moved by her ability to shun what the world finds important (awards, accolades), in exchange for what the world deems useless (the poor and marginalized). Before, I thought Mother Teresa was little more than a “coffee cup saint,” someone who said nice things that made inspirational mugs sell like hotcakes. Yet, the more I read, the more I discovered the power of love and how Jesus used Mother to change the world.

In December 2018, I began formation as a Lay Missionary of Charity (LMC) with the Missionaries of Charity (MC) sisters in Brooklyn, NYC. When I was a Protestant, I was a member of an ecumenical order of lay Benedictines and lay Franciscans. It was a good experience and a great introduction to monastic living in the “outside” world. After I became Catholic, I yearned for the rhythm of the monastic life, but I didn’t know where to turn.

I grew up familiar with the Dominicans who ran the local Catholic college and a few parishes near my home in rural Kentucky. Of course, I was acquainted with the Benedictines, but the Franciscan charism never appealed to me. After moving to New York, I considered formation with the lay Carmelites, but the charism also didn’t seem like a good match. I desperately wanted some “school” to help me follow Jesus better, but I was coming up short.

Yet, St. Mother Teresa and the Missionaries of Charity always found a way to work their way into my daily life. A quote here, a reminder there. It was evident that that Jesus was pointed me towards formation with the LMCs. Honesty, I couldn’t believe that God would guide me to study the life of a saint who I believed was just okay and maybe good for a few quotes on social media. But, as Jesus often works, His plans are better than my own.

As I reflect on my brief time with the MC sisters and the small LMC group, I thought of my own spiritual practice, and how sometimes, it requires a nudge to “do it anyway.” Like the MC sisters, LMCs are required to participate in a variety of spiritual practices, such as praying the Angelus and praying some hours from the Liturgy of Hours. Sometimes, this can be taxing, and quite frankly, seem like an intrusion into my busy schedule. Reflecting on my entry into this new “school of love” with the LMCs, I present an updated version of the oft-quoted and oft-attributed Mother Teresa’s Do It Anyway. 

Do It Anyway: A Guide for the Rest of Us

Praying the Angelus will often seem a chore at noon, when your schedule is crammed packed. Pray it anyway.

Going to Mass during the week will be tedious and cause you to alter your life. Go to weekday Mass anyway.

Reading the Daily Readings may seem useless when your mind is filled with cares and worries. Read it anyway.

People will think you’re exclusive when you preach and offer them the message of Christ. Evangelize them anyway.

Your friends may not understand your joy when the world seems to crumble around you. Radiate joy anyway.

Praying for your enemies may enrage you and cultivate more anger for a brief time. Pray for them anyway.

Reaching out to the poor will require you to pour out yourself, sometimes more than you want. Reach out anyway.


May God bless you as we enter 2019. Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us. Our Lady of Mercy, pray for us.

 

 

 

 

 

2018 in Perspective

 

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I want to take a moment to wish you a very Happy New Year! I pray that, even though we’re fewer than three days into 2018, you’re experiencing happiness. The new year always brings a sense of a fresh start to me and I love the feeling of anticipation and hope. The first days of a new year are like looking at newly-taped boxes: the months lay ahead like unopened gifts. It’s a very fun time, at least for myself.

This year will be my first full calendar year as a confirmed Catholic. Instead of sliding into 2018 without any passing thought, I wanted to create an intentional entrance. In many places on the Internet, especially Twitter, the idea circulated of a patron saint for one’s year. Many that I follow on the social networking site had picked a saint to pray with throughout the new year, using the Saint’s Name Generator (the site, after a simple click, will display a saint’s name and feast day: some known, some lesser known).

Granted, I am very wary of using any type of randomizer to determine God’s will in any situation. But, with the vast number of saints, I knew the generator would be of assistance. After clicking through, I was pleased that I was presented with Blessed Pier Giorgio Frasatti, often referred to as the Man of the Eight Beatitudes. In brief, Frasatti is noted for his piety and care for the needy. He died of an illness, possibly contracted from his work in poor neighborhoods, at the age of 24. Also, shortly before his death, he became a Tertiary Dominican. Interestingly enough, in the past months I have been interested in Dominican spirituality. In 2018 I look forward to learning more about the life and Catholic faith of Blessed Frasatti.

Finally, I have dedicated my year to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. In a nutshell, the Sacred Heart devotion is focused upon the love that Jesus had, and still has, for humanity. EWTN describes the devotion this way:

“In honoring the Heart of Christ, our homage lingers on the Person of Jesus in the fullness of His love. This love of Christ for us was the moving force of all he did and suffered for us — in Nazareth, on the Cross, in giving Himself in the Blessed Sacrament, in His teaching and healing, in His praying and working. When we speak of the Sacred Heart, we mean Jesus showing us His Heart, Jesus all love for us and all lovable.”

A personal struggle I have is that of freely giving mercy and love. I’ll readily admit that I want to slide people into categories: the deserving and undeserving. Those who deserve my mercy, grace, and love are those who are living in a way I approve. These are “proper” people: those who are generally good and well-rounded, but sometimes just hit a tough spot. That’s where I can step in with my ministry of love. Everyone else not in my self-declared “deserving” category is a person to be tolerated, and in a best-case scenario, ignored.

While I write these words, I can physically feel the conviction of the hardness of my heart. While I’m subconsciously sorting people into “deserving” and “undeserving” categories, I often forget that Jesus did not become incarnate just for me and my internal list of approved people. Even worse, I forget that “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). I’m a sinner, you’re a sinner. We are all in the same group: undeserving. Despite all of this, Christ died for every soul that has (and will) live.

I chose to dedicate this year to the Sacred Heart because I want to be more like Christ. I want to be more open and loving of those around me, not just those I think are worthy of my love. Even though I believe myself to be good, I’m still a sinner. Christ chose to die in order to reconcile me to God. Through this fact, Christ gently puts me back in my place and reminds me that despite my best intentions, I am still in need of His grace, mercy, and divine love. Jesus is truly the Good Shepherd.

So, do you have a saint who you will walk and pray with this year? Do you have a special devotion to the Sacred Heart or a favorite prayer practice? If so, I’d love to hear about it. You can contact me here. I pray that your 2018 is full of the love of Christ. Allow Him to change you from the inside out. In the words of St. Pope John Paul II, “Do not be afraid. Open wide the doors to Christ!”

Happy New Year!

Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us!

The higher we go, the better we shall hear the voice of Christ. // Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati