Today is the feast day of both St. Teresa of Calcutta and St. Lawrence Giustiniani. These two saints—who lived nearly 600 years apart—show us how to follow the will of God for our lives when others do not understand it. Mother Teresa was given “a call within a call” to leave her initial religious order in order to start the Missionaries of Charity, working amongst the poorest of the poor.
St. Lawrence Giustiniani was known for his religious piety, humility, and rigorous practices of penance. His mother sought an arranged marriage for him, but he chose religious life and the priesthood.
Many people who loved both of these saints did not fully understand what God was asking of them. Some even stood in the way of God’s will for them, but both Mother Teresa and St. Lawrence sought to follow God’s will above all else.
The path to holiness is largely about learning how to relinquish our own wants and desires for the will of God. It is a holy detachment from the things of this world, including the opinions of others, even people we love very much. This isn’t easy for any of us. It’s a constant battle as we navigate our relationships with others.
There will be times for all of us when we will find ourselves at odds with spouses, family, friends, co-workers, brothers and sisters in Christ, priests, and other people we trust and rely on. God will lead us down a path that differs from what He is asking of the people around us. We will have to make the choice to accept that path. As we journey down that path, there will be periods of confusion and conflict as we attempt to understand and live what Christ is requiring of of us. The saints know this better than anyone.
What we discover in these periods of conflict and confusion is that the more we live in accordance with God’s will, the greater the peace we will find in our souls. The more we battle against what He is asking of us, the more we will live in a state of turbulence and unrest. I was reminded of this recently when I resigned from the last ministry I am involved in in my parish. It is a ministry that I have been involved in for nearly a decade: pro-life ministry.
It is not because I no longer firmly believe in the great need for Catholics to be a light to a culture lost in darkness and death. Abortion is the greatest human rights issue of our day and I still plan to attend the March for Life. It is also true that euthanasia is on the rise and violations of the dignity of the human person are rampant. The reality is, and some will not understand, God pulled me out because He has different battles that He needs me to wage. They are largely hidden battles fought through prayer, penance, and the great desire to learn how to love with the Immaculate Heart of Mary. My family is my primary vocation, but Christ has also given me a secondary vocation of fighting for His priests. I can’t do that if I am engaged in battles everywhere else.
I am pulled in a lot of different directions by different people, especially in my parish. As I start to allow myself to get pulled in these different directions, the unrest in my soul builds because I know it is not where God is asking me to go. I still struggle to say “no” to people when they ask things of me. Sound familiar? It’s something a lot of us have a hard time doing. We must learn to say “no”, because if we don’t, we may find ourselves saying “no” to God and “yes” to a path He doesn’t want us to walk. He gives us the grace to fight the battles He is asking of us, not everyone else’s.
We are not called to serve in every ministry or charity within our parish or community. In fact, one of the biggest mistakes people make in ministry is not discerning where God is asking them to serve. Sometimes we have to go down the wrong path a few times in order to discern where we are best able to use our God-given gifts. Other times, God may call us to a ministry for a set amount of time and then pull us towards another ministry or vocation. Problems arise when we are not open to God’s will over our own or when we fear what others will think of us over what God is asking us to do. He knows the best mode of sanctification for each one of us and it differs from our neighbor.
The saints serve as guides to show us how best to love and serve God. Mother Teresa, St. Lawrence Giustiniani, and many other saints surrendered themselves fully to God’s will. There is no other way to become a saint except in choosing to give one’s self fully over to God and allowing His grace to sanctify us. ‘Not my will, but Your will.’ This includes a willingness on our part to do things that may hurt others even though it’s not what we are trying to do. It means knowing when to stand up and fight and when to leave things to prayer. It’s an openness to all that God is doing in our lives, especially the very things we don’t understand. No matter what this life brings and what is asked of us, Christ is with always us, and that is enough.