by Patricia Lawton.
Catherine Doherty, our foundress, often talked about the importance of "being" over "doing". It has taken me many years to begin to understand what this means. After all, in Madonna House, just like in any other family, it takes a lot of doing to sustain ourselves and serve others.
Here in Roanoke, for instance, we are sometimes asked to give talks and presentations to various groups at the local parishes.
The three of us do a lot of preparation for these events: praying, reading, talking together—and sweating. Often by the time we show up for our presentation, I am so full of what I am going to do, it’s a wonder the Lord is able to get in there at all!
But my Beloved is so merciful. Last year Margarita Guerrero and I were asked to give a presentation at a parish for their weekly Lenten soup supper. It was a small gathering of about a dozen people, several of them of retirement age. When we finished our reflections, we asked for questions.
One man began by saying that he and his wife had been to Italy several times and wherever they went—to Assisi, Rome, and other places—he had been struck by the happiness and enthusiasm of the priests and religious.
It made him wonder about the North American Church. He didn’t see this same kind of joy here, and it made him worry about the future of vocations and the Church. "But tonight," he said, "I have seen that same joy in you ladies, and that gives me great hope."
Well! I was waiting for a question that would reflect how stimulating our presentation was—and he was remarking on how happy we are! And then I remembered Catherine’s words—"What you do matters, but not much; who you are matters tremendously."
Who am I? I am a woman whose Beloved is a great and merciful Lover who dwells within me. In return, I strive to love him back. I follow my Lord very imperfectly, but I follow him.
What does that "following him" look like? It looks like a kitchen compost bucket that needs to be emptied outside in the 98 degree (F.) heat. It looks like endless piles of papers that need to be sorted or a bathroom that needs to be cleaned for the third time in a week.
Most of all it is loving and forgiving my MH sisters over and over, and humbly receiving forgiveness again and again that plunges me into the merciful ocean of the heart of my Beloved.
You see, the "doing" and the "who I am" go together. It is from the certainty and awe of how much my Beloved loves and treasures me that my "doing" flows.
When the man at the talk commented about our joy, it was as if the Lord were saying to me, "Patricia, I meet you here, in this task, whether this task is cleaning the bathroom or giving this talk.
"Here I pour out my healing, transforming love upon all your brokenness, all your yearnings. Through the faithfulness of all those who follow me like this, I bless and renew each one in my Mystical Body. Through your faithfulness, I am giving hope to this man who is discouraged about my Church."
Now I admit that many days I don’t feel beloved by God. I have my wounds and foibles like everyone else. But the secret is to make a conscious decision to choose to believe it. And believe me, that decision will turn into conviction.
When anyone embraces the ordinariness of life out of their knowledge of God’s love for them, the Holy Spirit does amazing things. That man, who received such hope wasn’t so much affected by our talk as by all that was "underneath" the talk—our day-by-day, moment by moment "yes" to the Lord.
And the Lord loves us so much that from time to time he shows us a fruit of our faithfulness, as he did that day when he renewed that man’s hope in the American Church.
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