I cashed in a birthday gift from Chris – one of eight intervals of baby-less half hours – recently and sat at Starbucks with my free birthday Peppermint Mocha to read Flannery O’Connor’s prayer journal. It was delightful and moving and now I want to initiate her cause for canonization.
I related deeply to her desire for holiness, not out of fear of Hell but with a desire to love virtue. The theme throughout her short prayers was a fear of mediocrity, both in her writing and in her spiritual life. “I don’t want to be doomed to mediocrity in my feeling for Christ,” she writes. “I want to feel. I want to love. Take me, dear Lord, and set me in the direction I am to go.” I loved this part from one of the final entries in her journal:
“What I am asking for is really very ridiculous. Oh Lord, I am saying, at present I am a cheese, make me a mystic, immediately. But then God can do that – make mystics out of cheeses. But why should he do it for an ingrate slothful & dirty creature like me.”
“Make me a mystic, immediately.” Oh, how I resonate with that desire.
“Lord, make me a saint/better mother/more loving wife/stop watching The Bachelor immediately and preferably without any inordinate effort on my part.”
When I get frustrated with my lack of holiness, I tend to make huge spiritual resolutions and disappoint myself when I do not attain them. But recently I’ve realized it is usually because I neglect the small yeses to grace that come with daily faithfulness. And Blythe’s post about the heroic minute really encouraged with me as I continue to muddle through the sloth and selfishness that hold me back from being a better homemaker and a better Christian. The path to holiness is not about big life-changing encounters – although, those do happen and are very real – but choices as normal as choosing a reaction of love instead of frustration with the baby when I find he has pulled all the books off the shelf again or choosing to put the phone down and bring the laundry to the basement.
I’m slowly realizing grace is not an esoteric theological concept but a minute-by-minute both supernatural and earthy – incarnational, really – reality. Participating in the sacraments have made this very real to me and has made holiness actually seem possible through Christ’s gift of Himself. Though I still groan with creation waiting for all things to be made new, failure no longer seems inevitable. It is incredibly freeing. We have oodles of small opportunities for a heroic minute during the day that help us leave the life of cheddar and move closer to St. Teresa of Avila territory. But hey, even St. Teresa thought there were seven mansions to move through in our interior castle.
“God leads each of us on an individual way; one reaches the goal more easily and more quickly than another. We can do very little ourselves, compared to what is done to us. But that little bit we must do. Primarily, this consists before all else of persevering in prayer to find the right way, and of following without resistance the attraction of grace when we feel it. Whoever acts in this way and perseveres patiently will not be able to say that his efforts were in vain. But one may not set a deadline for the Lord.” (Edith Stein in a letter to a struggling student before she became St. Teresa Benedicta)