When I graduated from college in 2003, I received a plethora of gifts as most grads do, ranging from money and books to candles and inspirational mugs. But the one that I cherished above the rest was a magnet that featured now-Blesseds Mother Teresa of Calcutta and Pope John Paul II.
In the photo, the pontiff was cradling Mother Teresa’s face in his hands, and the words underneath were those spoken by her: “We are called not to be successful, but to be faithful.”
Now more than ten years old, that little magnet has traversed through four moves and several states, always ending up in a prominent place on our fridge. It serves as a daily reminder to me of my primary vocation: not to seek worldly success, but rather to ask for God’s will in my life and to do all I can each day to follow what He asks of me in love.
It’s funny how something so seemingly miniscule can become a motto or hallmark in one’s life, which goes to show that we never know which gestures become most treasured to people who cross our paths in life. This magnet meant so much to me, because both Mother Teresa and Pope John Paul II were saints who roamed the earth during my lifetime; they were relevant to me and yet also inspired me to desire to give all to God, no matter the cost. Their lives somehow allured me to Heaven and to focus on keeping my treasure there and not on earthly or material goods.
One could imagine, then, that I was pleasantly surprised when soon-to-be St. Pope John Paul II “chose” me this year to walk with me as my special patron. My feeling of spiritual kinship with him developed long ago while he was still quite visible in our world, though I remained invisible to him until he joined the Heavenly realm of saints and angels. Though I was just one small, young girl from “Nowhere, Indiana” who easily blended with the billions of people all over the globe, somehow once Pope John Paul II joined the ranks of Heaven, he chose me.
I’ve pondered that as I’ve sought his intercession this year for specific spiritual gifts or virtues I know need to be cultivated more deeply in my interior life. Why would someone who was so influential in history – not only Church history, but social and political history – have chosen to walk with me spiritually this year: I who am all but unknown and invisible to the world?
What amazes me about our beloved Pope is that he radiated humility and never sought to be noticed or acknowledged. I believe he acquired that perfect union with God that mirrors the beautiful communion spouses share with one another, and this perfect union meant that his heart was one with God’s heart. Because of this, Pope John Paul II never strayed from following God’s will, no matter what the task at hand – from being instrumental in the crumbling of the Berlin Wall to baptizing infants of Vatican employees who would never remember anything about him other than his strong hand pouring water over their heads.
You see, that is what makes a saint a saint: a person who is unafraid of what God may ask of him or her, a person who knows that God’s path to his or her sanctification may include being scorned, ostracized, and invisible as in the case of St. Therese Lisieux or a very visible and onerous responsibility of shepherding an entire generation of people as in the case of Pope John Paul II.
Whatever the reason he chose to walk with me this year, I am both humbled and honored to share this quiet, reserved and private relationship with him that has become a link among Our Lady and other special saints whom I cherish – all of whom have revealed to me through their lives and intercession why I matter to God and how I can love Him more fully. It is a surreal moment to contemplate the truth that all of our lives somehow intertwine in the end, that those of us who never met while on earth will somehow become perfect friends in heaven when we finally achieve that perfect union of love with Love Incarnate.
Pope John Paul II has taken me by the hand this year, and I hear his words echo often in my weary, exhausted world of uncertainty: “Do not be afraid.” Even today, on my birthday, I read the Scripture, “Take courage. It is I. Do not be afraid,” from Matthew 14:27. Though these words do not carry answers to all of life’s troubles or questions, they bring solace and peace to my soul, where they reside in a quiet confidence that is treasured in my soul every day.
And I believe the message of the magnet I own is a universal one: one that should provoke us to ponder how we are living our daily lives. Are we choosing to live for ourselves, for others, or according to the world’s expectations? Or are we seeking God in small ways throughout our ordinary days, asking Him to give us the grace to remain faithful to His will? Let us remember to seek to be faithful, not necessarily successful this year.
Copyright 2014 Jeannie Ewing