One of my favorite quotes comes from my favorite saint, St. Francis of Assisi: “For it is in giving that we receive.”
It’s so true! When God has given me the grace to be genuinely selfless, when I joyfully and wholeheartedly serve others, putting their needs over my wants, their bright smiles, tight hugs, and gratitude fill my heart more than any tres leches cake or panda plushie ever could.
I admire people who give of themselves joyfully and naturally, because that doesn’t come easily to me.
As the youngest of five, I was the baby of the family. If one person didn’t pay attention to me or get me what I wanted, there were five other people I could go to. And at least one would usually appease me. No surprise I grew up spoiled. God also blessed me with an easy, privileged life, so materially I never wanted for anything.
I have to add real quick that even though I was born into a Catholic family and was even Baptized and received my First Communion, I didn’t grow up with a Catholic worldview. I’m sad to say the only times I remembered God were the nights before tests, praying for a 100% when I hadn’t studied. Also, I don’t blame my family for not instructing me in our faith. We’re Mexican (my parents and siblings immigrated from Mexico, and I was born here), so being Catholic is more tradition than choice. They did their best and I’m grateful.
So, who does a spoiled, privileged girl with a secular worldview become? A selfish girl.
I was used to asking and receiving. And when I didn’t get what I wanted, I was not happy. Because instead of being grateful for what I had, I focused on what I didn’t. For example, romance was a big thing I wanted from an early age and never got. Seeing everyone else experience what I desperately desired fueled my selfishness, jealousy, and vanity.
Back then, wearing secular-colored glasses, I didn’t recognize these feelings as harmful. I honestly thought I was a good (enough) person. Only after beginning my restorative journey with God have I realized how unhappy I was. And how that affected how I (mis)treated others. I thought I was a good daughter, sister, and friend, but truthfully, I was shallow, barely sympathetic, and sometimes in my darkness, cruel. While I wasn’t an outright villain, I was certainly no hero either.
Thankfully, God loves even His selfish, ungrateful girls with all His Heart as He does His kindest and most selfless ones. He’s always calling us home.
My conversion was slow (because I’m as lukewarm as they get), but each day, each year, it hit me more and more that the God who created me became the humblest of men and endured indescribable sufferings to rescue me, because He loves me with all His Heart. And He even feeds me with His Body and Blood!
My small human brain couldn’t fathom such infinite love. But my small, broken, ugly human heart longed more and more to be worthy of it. To be healed and made beautiful again by Our Lord.
Restoration though isn’t an overnight fix. Often I made excuses to avoid serving. “When I’m rich, I’ll give to others” or “I don’t know how to help, I’ll just get in the way”, etc. Other times I served with an attitude. Still God didn’t give up on me. He never gives up on any of us.
Around the same time I began learning about saints who gave up much, sometimes everything, for the service of others, my two older sisters also became more involved in the Legion of Mary. They’ve always been the type of naturally selfless people I now admire, so they’d already been giving their all since joining the praesidium in our parish a few years earlier, but I was still so inwardly focused back then to notice the amazing work they were doing. By now my sisters had begun attending the Senatus (higher council) meetings of our region where they connected with more experienced legionaries who invited them to a PPC, or a door-to-door evangelization trip. Though they were both scared, they accepted the invitation.
When they returned from their weeklong trip, I saw in my sisters the same joy I learned the saints received from serving. They gave all of themselves for Mother Mary and her Legion on that trip, and I’d never seen them more exhausted—nor their smiles brighter. It inspired me to be more selfless like them. To strive for that joy you only get from giving.
With the grace of God over the last few years I’ve become better at giving wholeheartedly, especially with my family, and enjoying it. There are still days I fall into my selfish habits, times when I still make faces when asked to give of myself, but they’re less often.
This year God’s given me more opportunities to level up and give to those outside my family. One of which was an invitation to be a contributor for Little With Great Love!
The LWGL mission is so powerful and uplifting, I was honored for the invitation to join this inspiring group of women. However, my first instinct was still to say no. Not only because I worried I didn’t have something to offer, but also because I like being in my safe, familiar bubble.
Thankfully, one of my morning prayers ends with this, “O Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church, teach to all those the Master calls to say a joyful ‘yes’ as you did at the Annunciation.”
This on its own reminded me to have faith and courage like our Blessed Mother, but I’ve also seen firsthand the miracles God works from someone’s humble and faithful “yes” despite fears, in my sisters. And I’m always looking to be more like them. So, through this discernment and encouragement from my sisters and Lisa and Caitlyn, I said yes—still afraid, but excited!
And God gave me a beautiful present.
The day after I agreed, the First Reading was 2 Corinthians 9:6-10. I fell in love with this whole passage, but especially the end of verse 7 through verse 8:
For God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that you may always have enough of everything and may provide in abundance for every good work.”2 Corinthians 9:6-10
Wow. Not only did it affirm my yes and give me peace that God would fill in the gaps in what I lacked, it also provided the exact title for who I wish to be.
I desire to be God’s cheerful giver. I wish to pour my heart out for others with joy as Jesus does for me.
So, hi! I’m Citlalin, fantasy writer by day, wannabe hungry panda by night, ready to serve and give to this beautiful and inspiring ministry when and where I can, learning from amazing ladies and excited for how God will continue to shape me into one of His cheerful givers.
One last thing. It’s way easier to admit I’ve never dated nor been in love, than admitting my natural selfishness. I wear my perpetual singlehood as a badge of honor. Sharing my ugly beginnings? Not so much. However, I know I must for the infinite love and mercy God’s blessed me with to shine that much more brilliantly.
And, for any recovering selfish, ungrateful girls out there, I get you. I understand if you feel ashamed and maybe think you’re a horrible person. Maybe you believe you’re unworthy of mercy and forgiveness. But you’re more than worth it. Our heavenly Father restores all his children. Those broken by others and those of us broken by ourselves. He longs to reforge our broken hearts in His Sacred Heart. All He needs is our “yes.”