You Don’t Need to Succeed

Fr. Robert Wild

Did you ever consider (maybe not, because they are so hidden!) that the most essential realities are often not consciously noticed, not attended to, but taken for granted?

You probably have not adverted to the white page on which you are reading these words. Yet, without the white background, you would not be able to read. The white page is the light illuminating the words.

We do not pay attention to the air we breathe, the sun that shines, the ground on which we walk. These realities are always present, giving sustenance, substance and light as we go about our tasks.

In one of her commentaries on the Little Mandate concerning hiddenness, Catherine speaks about this theme of the ordinary things which form a background for life.

And isn’t it true that most of life grows in hiddenness? The Lord spoke of the seed growing in the hiddenness of the earth, and the farmer not knowing how it grows. The baby grows in the hiddenness and darkness of the womb.

Dreams and desires grow in our hearts, too, and thoughts in our minds. The artist, the composer, the philosopher, creating in their solitudes—are not the beginnings of their works almost always hidden from view?

Hiddenness is an act of hope, an act of reliance on God’s power to bring forth life. The seed dying, the baby growing slowly, the artist creating in solitude, not knowing often what fruits his creation will have but hoping it will give life and beauty to the world.

An embracing of hiddenness is an act of reliance on God’s power to bring forth life: Only God can make things grow (cf. 1Cor 3:7), says St. Paul. Hiddenness [in us] results from the desire that God shine forth and be glorified, not ourselves.

One of the aspects of the Lord’s life that amazed Catherine most of all and which she pondered endlessly, was not only how God could be unknown in Nazareth for 30 years, but also why he should have chosen this path.

Thus Catherine’s tremendous journey to Christ was also a journey into the mystery of this hiddenness of his earthly existence.

To do God’s work does not mean to be “effective” in the worldly sense. The mystery of hiddenness means believing that your union with God is the important thing—not results. God asks us to be faithful to him, not effective or successful. The results depend on him.

In a letter to our staff in our house in Pakistan, which had no concrete active apostolate Catherine wrote, “Of course your stay in the village is fruitful. There is no need to give me any results or reasons.

“The things that really matter in the apostolate show no results and have no other reason than love. There are results of your stay, but it is not given to you to see them, and that too is part of your vocation.

“Often for years never seeing any results; always remembering that we are the tillers of the soil, the ones who plow it, make it ready for the Sower. He and He alone, through us alone, will sow it, and He alone will harvest it.

“A grain of wheat must die before it bears fruit” (from a letter to the staff #168, 1964).

Excerpted from Journey to the Heart of Christ, (2002), pp.56-59 and 62), available from MH Publications