From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

Spirituality: Braggarts, one and all

by Father Michael Savelesky, for the Inland Register

(From the Feb. 27, 2003 edition of the Inland Register)

Recently at a Mass with children I asked my little congregation if their parents were a “bunch of braggarts.” The silence was amusing. Perhaps their blank faces reflected ignorance about the meaning of the world “braggart” - or perhaps they were terrified about confessing something true about their parents (who sat just behind them!). I ended the facial standoff with an admission for them: Parents are always bragging about their children.

A question to the parents themselves validated my point. Hands immediately shot up when I asked how many parents at that moment carried pictures of their children in their purses or wallets? Smiles of delight spread across many a face when I inquired further if they ever took those pictures out and bragged about their children to relatives, co-workers and even strangers. Several even chimed in a chorus of, “Of course we do!” Their pride was obvious.

Parents are always bragging about their children - and rightfully so. It’s not that they live vicariously through them, but rather that they delight in knowing that they have brought life into the world and that they have wonderful dreams in their hearts for their children. They know the potential of their kids and wish nothing but the best for them.

At baptism preparation class I often ask parents what dreams they have for their children, what they want them to get out of life. After hearing the sometimes nervous answers like “I want my kid to be an National Football League champion!” or “My daughter is going to be a concert pianist like me!” – I press for a deeper reflection. Obviously, parents then realize that they want more for their child than good jobs, successful careers, athletic achievements or overflowing bank accounts.

One night a mother surprised me with her response: “I want my child to grow up healthy and strong and to do God’s will, even to become a saint!” Now this was not a woman whose piety camouflaged a fear of facing the real world. She herself was a successful business woman and, as evidenced by her life of prayer and service of others, was a solid citizen in the Kingdom of God. In 30 years of priestly ministry I have yet to hear a response that cut more directly to the point. She obviously had wonderful dreams for her child, but those dreams reached beyond the categories our culture instills in our hearts.

In my younger years, the late Bishop Bernard Topel of Spokane used to constantly remind young and old alike that their “first vocation in life was to become a saint and to do God’s will.” Those were the days when people used to think that only priests and Religious had to struggle with doing God’s will. The bishop’s point was well made – and remains a valuable quip. Every baptized person is called to holiness and the satisfaction of God’s will.

It could be argued what images or notions lie behind a phrases like “to do God’s will.” Mine used to be that God had everyone’s purpose in life written on a blackboard which hung on the wall just inside the Pearly Gates of heaven. And I used to live with the fear that, once I got there and met St. Peter (the proverbial gate keeper) I would discover to my astonishment that my real vocation in life was to be a house painter and not a priest!

We correctly should toss out of mind any idea that our lives are predestined in such a fashion. God’s will for each of us is that we flourish and excel as true sons and daughters, becoming the best person each of us can become. That means millions of free-will decisions on our part. It also means that we constantly ask ourselves the question: What must I do to be faithful to who I am? Yet who I am always lies ahead of me, in mystery and invitation. The path of self-discovery continues until the day I die.

The pursuit of money, success and career is but a partial answer to the fundamental question of faithfulness to one’s self. In fact, as we know so sadly, the blind pursuit of these things actually can destroy our very inner being, our soul. Do we not hear echoed here the Lord’s caution: “What do people gain if they win the world and lose their very self in the process”?

Our contemporary culture with its preoccupation with consumerism and image constantly tempts us away from God’s will and thus away from being faithful to who we are as sons and daughters. We lose our way and we lose our dignity. We lose our happiness. People who are truly happy seem to be in touch with the dynamic of God’s goodness welling up within them. God’s will is unfolding within them and they seem to know it. In their detachment from the things of this world, is found a marvel that speaks to that quiet space within each of our hearts, reminding us that that same happiness is within our reach as well. Our first and fundamental vocation in life is indeed to do God’s will.

(Father Savelesky is pastor of Assumption Parish in Spokane. His book, Catholics Believe, is available from Harcourt Religion Publishers.) (Download an order form in pdf format to print)

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