As the daylight slowly increases and we continue through these penitential days of Lent, our souls move through the dark and into the spring of Our Lord’s Resurrection. It isn’t uncommon to remain motivated in the early days of Lent, but slowly we become impatient due to our fallen nature. In a world that now expects perfection, we are faced with unrealistic expectations for ourselves as Catholics.
Instead of searching for perfection, and let’s be honest because many of us don’t have a tinge of perfectionism in our bones, we should instead aim toward excellence. This is truly what Catholicism teaches, that each soul should aim toward excellence in this life, because after all, we won’t gain perfection until sainthood is reached in heaven.
Better to illuminate than merely to shine, to deliver to others contemplated truths than merely to contemplate. – St. Thomas Aquinas
What does it mean to “aim for excellence”? It isn’t a phrase that only refers to one area of a person’s life, instead, excellence should be applied to all areas. It is in changing ourselves for the better, a little bit each day, rather than believing we can change others in order to achieve excellence. Not in the sense of earning recognition, reaching outlandish goals, or seeking unneeded material items, but instead to excel in our spiritual and daily lives. If the spiritual life is put first, which is not always easy with little children, loads of laundry, and full workdays at the office, we will focus on our earthly purpose, which is to know, love, and serve God.
We all have different paths in which to follow towards our goal of everlasting heaven, but given these varying vocations and our God-given temperaments, each soul has a special path in this life and even though we may be mothers, that does not mean our paths towards sanctity will be identical. In fact, it is more than likely that each of us will have very different earthly duties. It is in the small things that bring us towards excellence, such as keeping the laundry under control, volunteering for another event at the children’s school, smiling as we clean up another spilled cup of water, or finding the strength after a long day to spend fifteen minutes in mental prayer with Our Lord. Isn’t that the beauty of the Communion of Saints? We all work together for the Glory of God, but through different means and differing routes.
This is the very perfection of a man, to find out his own imperfections. – St. Augustine
As we walk through the season of Lent and know that each dark night of the soul awaits the blooms of spring, we must use our offerings and spiritual advancements or disappointments to grow in virtue and love towards uniting our hearts with the Lord. There is no better time in the Liturgical Calendar to examine our own misgivings then during Lent. As we aim to walk alongside Jesus during these forty days, we must be willing to admit our own failings and understand that our accomplishments are only earned through the grace of God. With that mentality in mind, there will be no misunderstanding – for we have failed due to our own sins, but we have risen solely by the hand of God.
In order to enter each new spiritual stage, we must never forget that it is God who brings us up, for we cannot do it by ourselves and our never-ending aim toward excellence can only be reached by God’s helping hand. Only through persistence can excellence be attained. This can be easily seen in the recitation of the daily Rosary, an incredibly powerful prayer that can move hearts towards Our Lord through His Blessed Mother. Continue praying the Rosary, don’t expect it to be perfect, but desire to improve each time whether through mental contemplation or less distraction. Yet sometimes the distractions are exactly what God sends to us in order to help us grow. But continue to persist all for the glory of God. What a glorious thought – to envision our presence before the face of God one day in heaven because we never gave up striving for excellence!
Our hearts were made for You, O Lord, and they are restless until they rest in you. – St. Augustine
Copyright 2018 Danielle Heckenkamp