Getting Better Should be Our Default Setting

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"Getting better should be our default setting" by Patti Maguire Armstrong (CatholicMom.com)

Image credit: By Petr Kratochvil, PublicDomainPictures.Net, CC0/PD

For a grandmother, it might seem that listening to a talk on Christian adulting would be superfluous. It was the topic for Prayer Day at the University of Mary last fall presented by Father Michael Schmitz, the director of Youth and Young Adult Ministry for the Diocese of Duluth and Chaplain for the Newman Center at the University of Minnesota-Duluth. He is an author and offers weekly homilies on iTunes and bulldogCatholic.org and appears on regular video messages on Ascension Presents.

Even though I have been an adult for plenty of years, I found that the goals he shared for becoming the adult God created us to be, should be life-long.

Becoming an Adult

In his own family, Father Schmitz shared that his parents had installed a default mode to growth in him and siblings. Being good just as they were, was understood. Getting better was expected.

“You are made by God on purpose; who you are is good, but you are made to be better,” was the message he grew up with. “It was not if you are going to serve but when. Not if you are going to exercise but when. It was the same with prayer and going to Mass and self-improvement in general.

“Our attitude every morning” he said, “should be that the world needs me. God has entrusted a task — a mission — to you. Sometimes that mission is who are you going to become today, not even what you are going to do.”

Father Schmitz paused a moment and addressed the crowd emphatically. “Your life is an important story; it matters.”

Father Schmitz said the first step towards growth or change is to accept where you are now beginning with acceptance of our spiritual life. “Accept that this is what you are dealing with,” he said. “Sometimes you don’t like what you see whether it’s your appearance or background or what you got yourself into but accept reality. The sooner you accept the realities of your life, the sooner you can start moving and default to growth. But first I have to let God love me as I am, not as I want to be.”

Too often, he said we present a false version of ourselves to the Lord and talk to him as we think he wants us to talk to him. “God does not love that false person because that person doesn’t exist,” he said. “He’s chosen the real you, the only version that exists.”

Jesus meets us where we are at, Father Schmitz said. Using the example of St. Peter, he explained that his love for Jesus began as a brotherly love—fillia in Greek—but ended up as agape, unconditional love. Thus, in the end, St. Peter was willing to die for Jesus but wanted to be crucified upside-down feeling unworthy to die the same way as Jesus had.

Most importantly, according to him, is taking responsibility for our own spiritual lives and nurturing a prayer life, regardless of the environment we are in. Prayer, he said, is the personal lifeblood for what it needs to be a Christian. “If I’m not praying, I’m not a Christian,” Father Schmitz said. “Prayer does not help your relationship with God, prayer is your relationship with God. If you are not praying, you don’t have a relationship.”

To those who tell him they don’t have time, he tells them that the reality is that they don’t have faith. “If you believe that prayer actually mattered, you would not treat it as an option,” he said.

Another mark of being an adult, Father Schmitz said, is competence. “How do we become competent? We train; we work at practicing our faith.”

Competence, he explained, begins with what St. Jose Maria Escriva, called the heroic minute: “The moment your alarm goes off you get up. Sometimes we are intimidated by penance or asceticism, not wanting to go to an extreme. Well, how about waking up on time?

“Waking up when the alarm goes off begins with making a decision on what time to set it the night before,” Fr. Schmidt said. “If I stayed up late on purpose when am I going to wake up on purpose? Integrity, according to him, is doing what you said you were going to do. “Be the kind of person who does do what we said we would do,” he said.

In closing, Father Schmitz challenged everyone to stand where God has planted us, be prepared to fight to live your faith and grow in confidence.


Copyright 2020 Patti Maguire Armstrong

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About Author

Patti Maguire Armstrong, is the mother of 10, and has a B.A. in social work and M.A. in public administration. Her newest book is Holy Hacks: Everyday Ways to Live Your Faith & Get to Heaven. Others include Big Hearted: Inspiring Stories from Everyday Families and the Amazing Grace Series. Follow her at @PattiArmstrong and read her blog at PattiMaguireArmstrong.com.

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