I like BIG, beautiful things. I have BIG ideas. I have a BIG personality. I am expressive and animated and work best when I see the whole picture, the BIG picture of a project or goal.
For those of you who are detail-oriented, I might be your worst nightmare. Heck, sometimes I am my own worst nightmare. If I get excited about something, I simply cannot think in small baby (practical) steps. My mind takes me to a BIG place and a BIG vision.
My spiritual “goals,” so to speak, have always oriented towards “doing something BIG for Jesus.” I’ve always wanted to be a missionary and to bring the Good News to people in a BIG way.
This is a good and “holy” desire, to want to help people come to know the Savior of the world. Right? Anybody with me on this? Isn’t that what we are called to do? Make Jesus known and loved?
Well, I thought, “There are so many saints, let me find out who the patron saint of missionaries is. Let me find out who are the ones who did BIG things for Jesus! Who are the most powerful missionaries of all time? What did they do, and how did they do it?” I began my quest to discover some pretty interesting things.
First, guess who the patron saint for missionaries is? St. Therese the Little Flower. She wanted to be one of Jesus’ “Little Flowers.” She spent her life doing little things with great love. She is known for her simplicity in how she loved others and loved Jesus in small and childlike ways.
Although there are thousands of missionaries who have accomplished amazing things and helped to build up the Kingdom of God in a powerful way, our Church selected a simple woman, who never left the convent, to be the patron saint of missionaries. Not only that, but she is one of four female Doctors of the Church!
Ok, so I admit it.
When I learned that she was the patron saint of missionaries, but never went on mission–I felt disappointed and slightly confused. Honestly, I was looking for a female who paved the way for me to travel the world to tell people about Jesus. St. Therese did not fit MY idea of the world’s most influential missionary! Also, when I discovered she was known for her “little way,” I thought, “I can’t relate to her, let me find someone else to learn about how to do BIG things for Jesus.”
I started researching the saints and their stories. As you may know, I guide groups on pilgrimage with Magnificat Travel, a Catholic Pilgrimage Company. I have walked in the footsteps of saints while searching for the ones who did “BIG things for Jesus.” I have been on a quest to find who they are and how they lived.
Well, the more I searched, the more I discovered some major similarities with the saints. Again, I admit that I was slightly discontented to find such great emphasis on the LITTLE details!
I discovered the focus of these spiritual champions was always on loving Jesus in the small things, and then He would make great things happen through them in His way in His time. Their focus was on honoring Him, loving Him through the good times and the bad, for richer or poor, and in sickness and health. They wanted to offer everything to Him. Everything. Another interesting piece is that many of them never saw their mission fulfilled while on earth, so they were detached from the outcome.
So, you can imagine how my “BIG idea” self might have had some serious resistance to these LITTLE ideas. I thought, does it really matter if I wash the dishes with love, or make meals with love, or do anything that seems boring and mundane with love? Does it really matter? How does this actually matter in the big picture of things? What difference does it really make? Will anyone notice or care? What about all the people who are starving, or orphaned, or in prison? Hello? We have BIG things to do! Right?!
Well, according to the saints, little things matter the most. The point is, the way we live does matter. It matters now, and it will certainly matter later. According to the saints, even the smallest act of pure love makes a difference for us in all eternity.
Here is what St. Faustina says:
Pure love is capable of great deeds, and it is not broken by difficulty or adversity. As it remains strong amid great difficulties, so, too, it perseveres in the toilsome and drab life of each day. It knows that only one thing is needed to please God: to do even the smallest things out of great love –love, and always love. Pure love never errs. Its light is strangely plentiful. It will not do anything that might displease God. It is ingenious at doing what is more pleasing to God, and no one will equal it. It is happy when it can empty itself and burn like a pure offering. The more it gives of itself, the happier it is. But also, no one can sense dangers from afar as can love; it knows how to unmask and also knows with whom it has to deal.Diary 140
Here is the great news: God doesn’t expect us to love out of our own strength. Rather, we humble ourselves and allow Him to love others through us.
It turns out the #1 ingredient for holiness is humility. According to the saints, the best way to grow in humility is through doing little things with great love.
Here is the Mother Teresa of Calcutta Humility Bootcamp version: She kept a list of ways to cultivate humility for the sisters in her care.
- Speak as little as possible about yourself.
- Keep busy with your own affairs and not those of others.
- Avoid curiosity (she is referring to wanting to know things that should not concern you.)
- Do not interfere in the affairs of others.
- Accept small irritations with good humor.
- Do not dwell on the faults of others.
- Accept censures even if unmerited.
- Give in to the will of others.
- Accept insults and injuries.
- Accept contempt, being forgotten and disregarded.
- Be courteous and delicate even when provoked by someone.
- Do not seek to be admired and loved.
- Do not protect yourself behind your own dignity.
- Give in, in discussions, even when you are right.
- Choose always the more difficult task.
The Power of Humility
“It was pride that changed angels into devils; it is humility that makes men as angels.”Saint Augustine
The devil preferred to leave Heaven for eternity in Hell rather than to humble himself before his creator. And humility would have protected Adam and Eve from thinking they could disobey God and become like Him.
Yet, through our humility and thus obedience to God, the devil is defeated. St. John Vianney, the Curé of Ars, who was often harassed by the devil, related a conversation with him. The devil said: “I can do everything you do, I can also do your penances, I can imitate you in everything. There is one thing, however, that I cannot do, I cannot imitate you in humility.”
Litany of Humility
O Jesus! meek and humble of heart, Hear me.
From the desire of being esteemed…
Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being loved…
From the desire of being extolled …
From the desire of being honored …
From the desire of being praised …
From the desire of being preferred to others…
From the desire of being consulted …
From the desire of being approved …
From the fear of being humiliated …
From the fear of being despised…
From the fear of suffering rebukes …
From the fear of being calumniated …
From the fear of being forgotten …
From the fear of being ridiculed …
From the fear of being wronged …
From the fear of being suspected …
That others may be loved more than I…
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be esteemed more than I …
That, in the opinion of the world, others may increase and I may decrease …
That others may be chosen and I set aside …
That others may be praised and I unnoticed …
That others may be preferred to me in everything…
That others may become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should…
O Jesus, gentle and humble of heart, make my heart like yours!
This prayer ain’t for wimps, y’all. It will make a saint out of us! How can we pray these words above and not change in some way? Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it!
In summary, I am still learning that my desire to do “BIG things for Jesus” starts with humility, it starts with putting myself last, it starts with not being easily offended or using my words to point out errors in others.
I am learning how to ask God to help me to be a blessing to others every day in Little Ways. This has been freeing and somewhat life-changing for me.
Whether it be making a meal or a cup of coffee, giving away my favorite things rather than my unwanted items, smiling when I don’t feel like it. Or retraining myself from complaining, being grateful on purpose or encouraging people… (especially those who frustrate me), forgiving those who hurt me or anything in between–it matters to Jesus, and He matters to me.
See what this Scripture says about being small:
For you are a people holy to the Lord your God; the Lord your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on earth to be his people, his treasured possession.Deuteronomy 7:6-8
It was not because you were the largest of all the nations that the Lord set his heart on you and chose you—for you are really the smallest of all the nations. It was because the Lord loved you and his fidelity to the oath that he swore to your ancestors, that the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.
Jesus gives us specific instructions in regard to humility. He says things like, be last rather than first, turn the other cheek, if you humble yourselves He will exalt you, do things for people who cannot repay you, love your enemies, and pray for them. All of these things lead to doing big things for Jesus. Humility naturally wins people over. True humility is beautiful and attractive.
The truth is our intentions do matter. Our actions, even the smallest ones– they matter. All the saints say they matter and so does Jesus.
So today, let us go forward and do whatever little tasks are in front of us with great love for Jesus. Let His name, His love, and His mercy be known through us in the LITTLE things, and may these little things lead to doing something BIG for Jesus.
Can I get an Amen?
St. Therese’s “Prayer to obtain humility”
(Prayer 20) written July 16, 1897.
O Jesus! when you were a Pilgrim on earth, you said: “Learn of Me for I am gentle and humble of heart and you will find rest for your souls.” O Mighty Monarch of Heaven, yes, my soul finds rest in seeing you, clothed in the form and nature of a slave, humbling yourself to wash the feet of your apostles. I recall your words that teach me how to practice humility: “I have given you an example so that you may do what I have done. The disciple is not greater than the Master…. If you understand this, happy are you if you put them into practice.” Lord, I do understand these words that came from your gentle and humble Heart and I want to practice them with the help of your grace. I want truly to humble myself and to submit my will to that of my sisters. I do not wish to contradict them nor seek to see whether or not they have the right to command me. O my Beloved, no one had this right over you and yet you obeyed not only the Blessed Virgin and St. Joseph but even your executioners. Now in the Sacred Host I see you at the height of your annihilations. How humble you are, O divine King of Glory, to subject yourself to all your priests without making any distinction between those who love you and those who are, alas! lukewarm or cold in your service… At their word you come down from heaven. Whether they advance or delay the hour of the Holy Sacrifice, you are always ready, O my Beloved, how gentle and humble of heart You seem under the veil of the white Host! To teach me humility you cannot humble yourself further. Therefore, to respond to your love, I desire that my sisters always put me in the lowest place and I want to convince myself that this place is indeed mine.
I beg you, my Divine Jesus, to send me a humiliation whenever I try to set myself above others. I know, o my God, that you humble the proud soul but to the one who humbles herself you give an eternity of glory. So I want to put myself in the last rank and to share your humiliations so as “to have a share with you” in the kingdom of Heaven. But, you know my weakness, Lord. Every morning I make a resolution to practice humility and in the evening I recognize that I have committed again many faults of pride. At this I am tempted to become discouraged but I know that discouragement is also pride. Therefore, O my God, I want to base my hope in You alone. Since you can do everything, deign to bring to birth in my soul the virtue I desire. To obtain this grace of your infinite mercy I will very often repeat: “O Jesus, gentle and humble of heart, make my heart like yours!”