The priest at my Orthodox parish said over and over again, “Orthodoxy is not a spectator’s sport.” When I was a child, I didn’t understand what this meant. Although I had read many lives of the saints, I did not recognize that they were not passive participants. As I grew and read about my patrons, I suddenly came to the realization that Christianity in and of itself is active and not passive at all.Passivity and complacency are two problems that contemporary man faces on a daily basis. In religion, it is very easy to say that one believes certain things and then not do anything about them. For example, a man goes to his parish church for Sunday Mass every week, but lives his life as if he were a pagan. It happens to everyone including myself. All of us are complacent at some point in our journey because we don’t truly understand who God is and how He works in our day to day lives. Being passive to God’s graces and inspiration is the easiest thing for us to do, but it is also the most deadly.
Against passivity and complacency, there is the antidote of activity. By activity, I don’t mean that we must be running around on all cylinders all the time. It means, rather, that we work for God every single day that we are on earth. Our work can be almost anything and everything from assisting at daily Mass and praying the Rosary to our daily duties that we offer up to the Lord. We need not scourge ourselves like the Cure of Ars or throw ourselves into the snow like St. Francis, but we must do something. Anything that can bring about the greater glory of God.
The Benedictines, an Order to whom I am greatly attached, view the work of God as the recitation of the Divine Office. While the Benedictines do spend a large part of their day on their knees in prayer, they also labor ceaselessly for souls. They may operate schools or universities, they may run hospitals or orphanages. In whatever endeavor they and other religious find themselves, all of their work is done for one end and one end alone: the greater glory of God.
St. Alphonsus Liguori, one of my all time favorite saints, made a promise that he would never waste a moment of his life. St. Alphonsus lived his promise to the letter and it bore much wonderful fruit. While St.Alphonsus was always busy with the affairs of the Redemptorists and his diocese, he always found time to write and study the writings of the Holy Fathers. After the age of fifty, he wrote over 100 books and all of them are chockfull of quotations from Scripture and the Doctors of the Church. How did St. Alphonsus manage all of this ceaseless activity and how was he able to do so much for the Church? That question is one that only God can answer.
St. Robert Bellarmine, another favorite saint, was also engaged in ceaseless activity for the glory of God. For most of his long life, St. Robert was a diplomat and theologian engaged in fighting against the enemies of Holy Mother Church. He wrote countless books and treatises. He met with kings, cardinals, and popes. Although the re-translation of the Vulgate had been botched by Pope Sixtus V, Bellarmine was willing to sit down and edit much of the Bible on his own as well as with a committee. This would be enough to exhaust the energy of any man, but St. Robert Bellarmine was also a bishop at one time and a spiritual director to countless souls including the young St. Aloysius Gonzaga. If one were to read St. Robert’s life, one would wonder how it was possible for one man to accomplish the work of ten. Once again, it comes down to not wasting a moment of time and working tirelessly for God and God alone.
In our own lives, we may not have the same opportunities that St. Alphonsus and St. Robert had. We may live humdrum lives in the suburbs, slums, farms, or hamlets, yet God calls each of us to a unique vocation.
Many years ago, I was reading the local paper when I saw a photograph that riveted me. It was of a man and his family standing around the kitchen table praying. On the wall was a crucifix made out of corn sheaves. The man was a farmer who worked ceaselessly with his family and he was also a Knight of Columbus and a pillar of his parish community. For all of his struggles, God was the center of his life and being. God was what made Him tick and allowed him to toil day after day for his daily bread.
In order for us not to be complacent with regard to spiritual things, we must put God first. In everything that we do, say, or write, God must be the ultimate end and not our own glory. The famous composer Franz Joseph Haydn dedicated many of his beautiful masses and symphonies to the glory of God. Flannery O’Connor, one of the best known Catholic writers of the twentieth century, was also a wonderful inspiration to those who saw her at work. Her Catholicism defined who she was and the work that she did. I’m sure that you can come up with more examples of people that you have met in your own life and that have also shown you what it means to live for God.
With all of this in mind, I encourage you with every fiber of my being that you go to a church today and make a visit. Kneel in front of the tabernacle and open your heart to the Hidden Jesus. Tell Him that from this very day, you resolve to dedicate your life to Him and that you want nothing more than to serve Him and love Him with every fiber of your soul and being. Promise Him that whatever adversities He may send you, in whatever circumstances you find yourself that you will love Him. Give Him your heart of stone today and He will give you a heart of flesh.
Our Lady of the Angels, pray for us!
St. Robert Bellarmine, pray for us!
St. Alphonsus Maria Liguori, pray for us!