I believe we are all called to the small duties within our vocation but we are all called to greatness within them. Listen to God’s inspiration, right where you are. There is a seed planted in your heart that longs to take root. There is a longing there, your heart beats for you and as a gift for others. I have seen the heart of a saint: it lives. My heart pounded in its presence.
Mesmerized by Saint André Bessette’s heart I learned a forever lesson; one I have always been inclined to believe, yet doubted, the greatness of smallness. How can I have great faith in God moving mountains and yet lack the faith to build something from nothing?
I wondered these things as I returned home from Vermont, where I had retreated for months, putting our family’s life into perspective from afar, (our responsibilities, finances, health and faith) in addition to spending a few days researching purchasing a Vermont fishing lodge. Maybe the answer to relieving my husband of some of his hard work was a new business. Yet that heart in Montreal begged me to answer. How could I have faith that God would sell our house in Montana to buy a business on an island, yet lacked the same trust that God would finish what he started, what he planted in my heart so many years ago in Montana?
After being diagnosed with epilepsy it seemed that so much of what my husband and I had been working towards ( land, simplicity, farming, and a retreat for others) became a thorn rather than a bud waiting to blossom. If you already read A Small Offering and 18 Years to the Farm, you know how we did give it to God and how I did wrap my brain around a little neuro-malfunction and took a deep breath in Vermont, where I rested under my mother’s quilts, safe, nestled (with 6 of my little ones) for two months. Sounds kinda dreamy? Yes and no.
Our lives are part of a bigger story, one waiting for an ending. Let me remind you, life is a journey, a path toward heaven, the way of the cross, a long and rugged road to sainthood. As grateful as I am to have had the time to reflect in Vermont, I must not romanticize the reality of motherhood: the chores never cease, the evening wails never mellow, the daily struggles remain. On this road there are moments of gold and many more potholes than one wants to dwell on. But you know this; you too live in this world and you too are called to be a saint, in your little ways and in your capacity for greatness.
My heart is always torn when I go home. I stand on the shore of shale, the waves lap towards me, rolling in memories. My heart longs to breath new life into this little place, Alburgh Springs, into the sad little church where I was baptized and first received Jesus; it sits as it was 30 years ago, and the collection brings in $148. I want to inspire the town, to rouse them, to paint it in hope.
I daydreamed while I was in Vermont (always do) what it would be like to live near my parents, my best friend and of another means of employment for my husband. What if his hands didn’t have to be caked with callouses and his hours endlessly long, building on a dream — would it really ever happen? Maybe we should just sell it all, the real estate is hot in the Flathead Valley, maybe we could build something new? I know not to answer these questions with a simple pros and cons list; they must be sent to heaven.
So I took a trip to Saint Joseph’s Oratory in Montreal, not only to show my boys what man can create for the glory of God, but also to pray. To pray from from the wells of my longing to do God’s will, to pray to the Saint who has always heard us. I have prayed to St. Joseph to guide my husband at work. He has always helped us with our homes and property sales; he has always been a steadfast comfort and presence. I visited Saint Joseph’s many times as a child and never understood the connection between St. Joseph and Brother André. I never understood that the massive shrine exists because of him: a fatherless, motherless, and rejected man.
I read Brother André the Saint of Saint Joseph’s Oratory to the boys as we drove to Montreal. He was a small man, puny they say, an orphan without enough stamina or endurance to be accepted into the religious life. Eventually, he became Brother André, porter for the College of Notre-Dame-du-Sacré-Coeur in Côte-des-Neiges. There he stared daily at what was right in front of him, Mount Royal. There he dreamed and was inspired to build a a cathedral in honor of his heavenly father, Saint Joseph. Saint Joseph’s now proudly stands taller than St. Patrick’s and Notre Dame in Paris at three hundred and sixty-one feet.
I took all my prayers with me that day. I prayed for healing (Brother André performed miraculous healings). I prayed for my husband and his work to St Joseph the Worker. I prayed for my friends’ business to sell. I prayed for God to take away the wrong desires and strongly plant his will, his desires, in my heart.
I didn’t know that the heart of a saint, of Brother André was at Saint Joseph’s, preserved, his love so great it could not decay. I sat in awe, in front of it, entombed love. I wrote:
My heart beats in rhythm to the words, “poor and humble servant.” You were inspired by higher ground believed the impossible was possible. Your heart, full of love and charity preserved for us all to see it. Simple, prayerful, joyful, little, weak, humble … the way of the cross inspired you, your great vision became reality. Here I sit, where I needed to. Thank you.
I prayed if God did not want me in Vermont to take the desire from me and firmly place it where it belonged. He heard every whisper and plea. God took away the desire to sell it all and move and replaced it with a greater desire to finish what we started. To live where my children can freely romp, forage, run, hoot, and holler. To build and to serve the needs of others on our land, to offer a retreat for families. My heart was reinvigorated to keep focused. Yes, Cory and I would have to forge on, work instead of vacation, but the way of the cross reminds us that the future and what we are working towards is glorious. C.S. Lewis wrote, “Aim at Heaven and you will get earth ‘thrown in’: aim at earth and you with get neither.” We have to hold true to what we know, that the saints know God because they work for him and do not stray from the target.
Joan of Arc said, “Act and God will act.” So today, I write this as a first act to remind myself that our land is a refuge for others, a home to the spiritually lonely and undernourished. I am reminding myself and therefore inspiring you as well, that you must act on your deepest desires even when they seem impossible, because our faith tells us nothing is impossible with God. Brother André’s work was hard and he was belittled yet he focused on a mountain and built the impossible. I share so we both can remember that what is in front of us is where we start.
“The duty of the moment is what you should be doing at any given time, in whatever place God has put you. You may not have Christ in a homeless person at your door, but you may have a little child. If you have a child, your duty of the moment may be to change a dirty diaper. So you do it. But you don’t just change that diaper, you change it to the best of your ability, with great love for both God and that child. … Doing the duty of the moment means focusing our whole person — heart, soul, body, emotions, intellect, memory, imagination — on the job at hand. And it must be done, because the duty of the moment is the duty of God.” –Catherine Doherty
We all desire to do God’s will, to trust our judgement to have faith in the longings of our heart and to believe they were put their by God. We have to remember that when the road gets weary and long is the time to put one foot in front of the other and nothing more; it’s not the time to scrap the journey, it’s time to shovel the snow and tend the fire.
In our smallness let us reveal our greatness that comes from God. When you question God’s will, God’s plan for you, ask; take it to prayer, take it to the heart of the saints, they are ready and waiting to guide you HOME.
Copyright 2018 Maggie Eisenbarth