Friday, February 3, 2012

To See Rightly

I wrote previously on trying to define myself via hobbies rather than by my vocation, a mistake that is too easy for me to fall into. This got me thinking about vocation. I was preparing for a talk to give to some high school students on chastity, and had to read up on the concept of "grace." After consulting my handy-dandy Catechism, I read again about how various types of graces helps us in various stages of our lives. Thanks, God! Good ideas in that book...

Sanctifying grace is what we receive before, but especially after, baptism. This is given to all of us, because we are all called to a universal vocation. We are also given sacramental graces, the aid necessary to worthily receive and live out the reception of various sacraments. This is not given to all, but only to those that are receiving that Sacrament: so priests do not receive the graces to be married, but they do receive the graces to take holy orders. We can also receive actual graces, or grace given to a person to deal with a particular situation they're facing.

Baptism of St. Augustine by Louis de Boulogne II

What really struck me is the sanctifying grace. Everyone receives it. Why do we all receive it? Because we all have the same universal vocation: we are all called to eternal life. Of course, we all have individual primary vocations that refer to our state of life: priest, religious, married, consecrated single. But these are the "many mansions" in the Father's house; the path remains the same for all. Each vocation consists in completely giving of ourselves for the other: your spouse, or the Church.

Yet we want to individualize, specialize ourselves: we want to believe that our path to Heaven is much, much harder than the next guy. This segregation of ourselves from our brothers happens especially in Catholic parishes, most of which are quite large. We have the knitting group, the young adults, the youth group, the moms group, etc. etc. And so we explain ourselves via these titles. Catholics in particular love adjectives. Conservative, liberal, orthodox, charismatic, cradle, cafeteria, convert. This is a great tragedy, for we all partake in the same Eucharist and are bound by it to call one another brothers.

The Institution of the Eucharist by Federico Barocci

The problem with segregating ourself by activity or age or state of life is that we do not see God's greater work. We start to focus on this one small portion of the tapestry of humanity, and so we start to see mostly what is wrong with it - we gossip about those in our own group, maybe dismiss those in other groups, or just believe what others say about them because they seem so far removed from us. I had this experience recently when a woman called me; a woman who is the favorite topic of gossip at our parish for her inappropriate dress and sharp temper. I join in just like everyone else, yet I realized when she called...I had never had a real conversation with her. Ever. A few polite hellos and such, but I could barely recognize her voice. I had dehumanized her by distance, made her my ticket to get along with others - oh here's a joke about this woman, this will break the ice because at least we all can't stand her.

What I want is to see my parish as a family: different in so many ways, but united in love. I want my own eyes to perceive her that way, so that I can treat her that way effortlessly. But until I do gain true sight, I will strive to treat her that way anyway. The Church is greater than we realize, there is a "cloud of witnesses" with us constantly - the Church militant forgets the Church triumphant, the saints, our Heavenly siblings that cheer us and intercede for us at the throne of God. I am working alongside future saints now, my siblings now. I must have the courage to see them.


  1. LOVE THIS! I just wrote a (much less-eloquent) blog about a similar topic. The problem I face more often than any is hearing my friends constantly talk bad about/make jokes about either "traditonal" or "charismatic" Catholics (whichever they don't consider themselves to be) and I'm stuck in the middle trying to do damage-control to the image of the Church as a whole. It's crazy how we don't realize the effect our jokes and our words have on the Body of Christ. We're supposed to be working toward the same Truth in love, building up the Body and not tearing it down.

    Thanks so much for this post!
    Grace :)


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