By Sr. Ann Carmen Barone, O.S.F.
I received a rare gift today – a letter, a beautifully handwritten letter from a Lourdes alumna. She had written to fill in the gaps since our last meeting. It was a thank you for taking time with her as she navigated her way through a long list of serious challenges and difficult choices. If anything could go wrong, it did for her during her senior year. It was her faith, the understanding of her elderly parents and the support of her church community that sustained her. I was sometimes the voice of reason, sometimes the voice of gentle and persistent assurance and more often the listening ear as she voiced her own answers.
The letter was full of good news about her daughters, her brand new granddaughter, her move to be nearer them and discovering new employment opportunities. And she’s getting married. I’m still smiling and giving thanks as this happy chapter of her life unfolds.
Her letter included the last verse from this section Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians.
May Christ dwell in your hearts through faith, and may charity be the root and foundation of your life. Thus you will be able to grasp fully with all the holy ones, the breadth and length and height and depth of Christ love, and experience this love which surpasses all knowledge, so that you may attain to the fullness of God himself.
To him whose power now at work in us can do immeasurably more than we ask or imagine – to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations, world without end. Amen.
Why do I let myself get tripped up over what I can’t do, what’s beyond my skill or talent, what doesn’t seem to have an easy or simple answer? Why can’t I be satisfied to take the small steps that move me toward the bigger goal? Perhaps the focus is wrong. The scripture clearly reminds me, and us, that if I allow God to work in and through me, I can do more than when I try it as a solo act.
This reminds me of the story when Francis was asked by his dear friend Masseo why the whole world was running after him. Masseo pointed out that Francis was not very wise or learned, he wasn’t good looking nor was he a nobleman. The saint humbly stated that God had chosen someone so weak, sinful, and vile so that it was clear that every virtue and every good is from God and not from the creature. Francis truly believed that whoever boasts must boast in the Lord. Masseo focused on what Francis was NOT as he tested the saint’s humility. But he also knew what Francis was – a man committed to living the Gospel, to embracing the poverty of Christ. And his passionate response drew others to believe and follow.
I’m looking at the letter I received and remembering that in every meeting with this student I never thought of what I couldn’t do. I placed us both in God’s loving care and trusted God to help me get out of the way. And God helped me do what was mine to do.
By the way, the student included her email address in the letter. I was tempted. Just for a second. I’d better go find my pen. Right?