Monday, November 2, 2009


Crypto-quotes are the path to enlightenment, as I have come to believe! Words of wisdom, once deciphered, might come from Seneca or Albert Schweitzer or from a wide range of other sources. The truth is always less in the teller than in the telling itself. Just a few days ago the newspaper’s ‘Celebrity Cipher’ offered this insight:

Always be a first-rate version of yourself, not a second-rate version of someone else.

The source of this quote—Judy Garland.

This is much like a story told about some of the “Desert Fathers”—hermits and monks who lived in the wild lands in Egypt, Palestine and Syria in the 4th and 5th centuries especially (a period of time scholar Peter Brown referred to as “The World of Late Antiquity”). In this particular story, a young monk seeks insight from an older master (an abba, as he was called) about how to discern a vocation or career in life. The old man told him, “The Scripture tells us that Abraham was hospitable, and God was with him. And David was humble, and God was with him. And Elijah loved solitude, and God was with him. So whatever you desire to do that allows you to follow God, do it, and be at peace.”

The advice given here is really not much different from the advice we can find in the Scriptures, in the Book of Ecclesiastes (9:10)—“Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might…”

And one can also say, in this spirit, whichever path one finds one on that can lead to God and is in one’s personal nature, follow it with enthusiasm. Not all of us do all things, but from many different paths and ways of life we can find our way to God.

To refer back to the ‘quiz’ I offered a few postings ago, for All Saints Day—do we all have to become priests and bishops, like St. Augustine? Need we all found (or join) religious congregations like St. Francis and the Franciscans, St. Ignatius and the Jesuits, or St. Vincent de Paul and the Vincentians? Need we all become penitential hermits, like St. Thais? No. These were their ways to God; what is ours is all that matters.

Is your path to God through motherhood or fatherhood? Might it be through direct service to the poor? Could it be through teaching or counseling? Perhaps it is by being a good student-athlete. It’s a matter of joy, really—the joy that comes from the mutual pleasure of a relationship with God:
I know God made me for a purpose—for China. But He also made me fast; and when I run, I feel His pleasure on me.

Eric Liddell (in Chariots of Fire) knew this kind of mutual pleasure—happiness at pleasing God, and receiving His pleasure in return.

Do our desires truly put and keep us on the path of following God? When we are honest, we know that this is the easiest to answer of all the questions we might ask.

“Whatever your hand finds to do…”

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