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Photo: Fr. Lawrence Lew, O.P., "Rosa Mystica," 7/3/2012

s s e n i l o H o t

Words of Wisdom from Pope Francis “The Solemnity of All Saints is ‘our' celebration: not because we are good, but because the sanctity of God has touched our life. The Saints are not perfect models, but people through whom God has passed. We can compare them to the Church windows which allow light to enter in different shades of colour. The saints are our brothers and sisters who have welcomed the light of God in their heart and have passed it on to the world, each according to his or her own ‘hue'."  Angelus Address for All Saints Day, 2017

Read on for a reflection on Perfectionism and Sanctity, Spiritual Tips, Bl. Solanus, recent trips, and a book recommendation

Photo: Fr. Lawrence Lew, O.P., "Visio Caelorum," 7/3/2012

Perfectionism and Sanctity

The Solemnity of All Saints, which began the month of November, invites us to consider the universal call to sanctity. Reflecting on the saints inspires us to consider our own answer to God's call to holiness. Often, we associate holiness with perfection, and Jesus even commands perfection in the Gospel of Matthew when He says, “So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect” (5:48). How is this perfection to be understood? A strong temptation in our culture would be to understand the call to perfection in terms of what is often called perfectionism. According to this mode of thinking, perfection eliminates margin for error, and the self-worth of the individual hinges on goals set either by oneself or by external demands. This can create a frenetic anxiety over getting things "just right." Jesus came to set us free from the fear that lurks behind perfectionism, for He says to each one of us, “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light” (Matthew 11:28-30).   Despite these words of promise, many Christians also experience perfectionism. In fact, perfectionism can take on a particularly painful form for Christians: it can cause people to misunderstand Christianity and to miss Jesus’ call to fullness of life. Because of our culture, many perceive reality in terms of laws and expectations. Everything can be reduced to following the rules. 

Photo: Fr. Lawrence Lew, O.P., "Maranatha." 8/21/10

Perfectionism and Sanctity, cont. When faced with the Beatitudes, the call to virtue, and Jesus’ command to be as perfect as His Father, many are tempted to see these as rules to be followed instead of as expressions of the divine invitation to be loved and to love. Giving in to this temptation can make people frustrated, frantic, and fearful because they find the Christian life to be an area they can’t master. Unlike the pursuit of excellence in school, sports, music, or baking, we cannot be perfect Christians through our own hard work.

Photo: Fr. Lawrence Lew, O.P., "Veni Sanctificator," 1/24/11

When faced with the paralyzing fear of not being able to achieve perfection as Christians, perfectionists are invited to let go of our self-imposed image of the perfect Christian, rather than becoming discouraged and giving up. The latter option is tempting and subtle, yet strangely familiar to perfectionists. Many very good people have avoided or given up on some task when they perceive that they won’t do it perfectly. Christians likely won’t directly give up on God in this way, at least at first. Instead, they may live a life of self-reliance. They will strive to fulfill the Christian laws but may forget Christ and the power of His resurrection. This burden of striving for perfection on our own is precisely what Jesus takes away from us, replacing it with His yoke, which is light and easy. What is this yoke? Although there are many possible answers to that question, one proposal is that the light and easy yoke Jesus asks us to take on our shoulders, and into our hearts, is the New Law. The New Law is the Holy Spirit present in our hearts (Thomas Aquinas, ST I-II. Q. 106, A.1). This is the yoke that we can freely choose to accept, and with it, be freed of the burdens that weigh us down. This is the yoke Jesus places on our shoulders and into our willing hearts so that His joy may be in us and our joy may be complete (John 15:11).

A Few Practical Tips for Perfectionists (and everyone else, too!) 1. Each morning, make an act of faith in Jesus' love for you, which does not depend on anything you do or don't do. repeat this often, especially after a mistake or sin. 2. Deliberately do something that you aren’t very good at—play sports if you’re a music person; paint a picture for the first time since elementary school and give it to a friend as a present; make a tasty new recipe for guests, etc. Do things where you risk failure. 3. When you are feeling sad, angry, frustrated, or embarrassed, stop for a minute and ask yourself, “Why do I feel this way?” Talk about this with the Lord. 4. Start to notice how often and for what occasions you apologize. What is the point of your apologies? Are they truly out of charity for the other person, or are they out of fear? 5. When you feel yourself getting worried about something or overly focused on the perfection of some project, ask yourself, “What’s the worst that could happen if I don’t do this perfectly?” Perhaps, the worst is hardly noticeable to anyone. Then, let it go! 6. Set time limits for projects/activities where you tend to spend a lot of time because of perfectionism. Stick to the time limits. 7. Ask a friend or family member to help you let go of the quest for perfection— they’ve probably noticed lots of areas where you need to relax a bit. Try your best to listen to them. 8. When you are in a perfectionistic burst of activity, pause for a moment and imagine what you look like from above (literally and figuratively) in that moment. Then, laugh. 9. Don’t try to hide your mistakes. Make them into funny stories to share: “Remember, that one time…when I spent an hour cleaning the front door? Those were the days!” 10. Read and pray the psalms, especially those that deal with trust in God.

Recommended Reading Everything is Grace: The Life and Way of Thérèse of Lisieux By Joseph F. Schmidt, FSC In this spiritual biography of St. Thérèse, Joseph F. Schmidt, FSC explains the human and spiritual difficulties Thérèse faced throughout her life and how she overcame them through acceptance of God’s grace and mercy. Thérèse’s, temperament and many of the spiritual movements of her time made it especially tempting for her to take on a perfectionistic approach to her spiritual life. She resisted this by cultivating the Little Way of trust in Jesus, to the point where she could rejoice over her faults and failings. 

“I tell you, Little Brother, we do not understand heaven in the same way. It seems to you that sharing in the justice, in the holiness of God, I would be unable as on earth to excuse your faults. Are you forgetting then, that I shall be sharing also in the infinite mercy of the Lord? I believe the Blessed have great compassion on our miseries, they remember, being weak and mortal like us, they committed the same faults, sustained the same combats, and their fraternal tenderness becomes greater than it was when they were on earth, and for this reason they never cease protecting us and praying for us.” From Thérèse’s letter to a priest, as quoted on p. 300. Photo: Fr. Lawrence Lew, O.P., The Spirit with Sevenfold Gifts 3/23/11

Auburn University (Oct. 27-29)

The Sisters joined Auburn students and campus ministers for the Pan y Vino retreat. The students led the retreat and did such a great job!

New England (Nov. 2-10) The Sisters visited our mission in Providence, RI and participated in many events at Providence College as part of the OP Jamboree. They also traveled to Boston, joining young women from throughout New England for the Freedom Trail. It was beautiful to pray for the souls of those who contributed to the founding of our country (see above left). We concluded the day with Adoration, Confession, and Mass at Sacred Heart Church in the North End (see below right). Sister Peter Marie also had the opportunity to visit the women's discernment group at Assumption College.

Beatitification of Bl. Solanus Casey

Several of our Sisters were able to be present in Detroit, MI for the beatification of Bl. Solanus. This was especially exciting for Sister Casey Marie, who grew up near Detroit and whose patron is Blessed Solanus!

The Sisters in Ford Field, awaiting the Beatification Mass.

Sister Casey Marie and her parents at the beatification. Sister Casey Marie's grandmother and great-uncle met Bl. Solanus and told her about his holiness and the power of his prayer.

The Sisters praying in the chapel at St. Bonaventure's, where Bl. Solanus prayed. The Sisters praying at the tomb of Bl. Solanus.

Bl. Solanus Casey

Fr. Solanus was born into a large Irish family and grew up in rural Wisconsin. On Christmas Eve, 1896, Fr. Solanus arrived at St. Bonaventure Monastery in Detroit after hearing the Blessed Mother tell him, “Go to Detroit.” After many academic struggles, he was ordained a “simplex” priest in 1904. As a simplex priest, Fr. Solanus was restricted from hearing confession and preaching formal homilies. Fr. Solanus’ assignments took him to New York City, Yonkers, New York and later Detroit, Michigan, where he was appointed porter or “Doorkeeper.” People flocked to Fr. Solanus, trusting that he would help them find healing and peace. He listened to their troubles and showed them how God was at work in their lives. He believed that every prayer would be answered in God’s own way. So convinced was Fr. Solanus of God’s providential care, that he encouraged everyone to “thank God ahead of time.”

Image: Mahatma Gandhi, Sept. 27, 2013. pg

The Wisdom of Bl. Solanus

“One of humanity’s greatest weaknesses is setting a limit to God’s power and goodness.” “Shake off anxiety. Last year it was something that you now smile about. Tomorrow it’s about something that will not be serious if you raise your heart to God and thank Him for whatever comes.” “The thing the world calls ‘life’ is so short after all, and the hereafter so eternal, that nothing here ought to really disturb us.” Quotations and biography from Blessed Solanus Holy Card, Solanus Casey Center

Profile for Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia, Nashville, TN

Vocation office e newsletter november 2017  

Vocation office e newsletter november 2017