In a month-by-month planner from over a year ago, I found the following quote scrawled in the open boxes at the bottom of a page.
The future will be what we make it; let us reflect on this thought so that it may motivate us to act. Especially, let us realize that all collective reform must first be individual reform. Let us work at transforming ourselves and our lives. Let us influence those around us, not by useless preaching, but by the irresistible power of our spirituality and the example of our lives.Elisabeth Leseur: Selected Writings, pg. 135
Re-finding this quote was a great gift in that moment. I was looking through stacks of papers, discarding what I didn’t need so that I wouldn’t move unnecessary papers to a new home. The old planner brought back some nostalgia as I saw different meetings I had, random notes I had made, and, most importantly, saint quotes I had added to the large monthly planner to motivate me onward.
Servant of God Elisabeth Leseur spoke of personal reform and how only by growing individually can we hope to influence the world. She knew what she was talking about. Through her gentle, persistent witness (and an inspiring journal), her husband was transformed from an atheist to being ordained a priest after her death. It wasn’t because of her intellectual arguments, but rather her living testimony that brought a change into her husband’s heart.
What I have been led to consider frequently is this question: how would it impact my students if I embraced my faith with the radical zeal of a saint? (Replace “students” with “children” or “husband/wife” or “friends” or “siblings” or “co-workers” or whatever makes sense in your life.) Too often I think I can fake it or that my lack of discipline or fervor will go unnoticed by others. Perhaps it sometimes does. Maybe I do fake it and others are unaware. But the most important changes and transformations might be untraceable to me yet rely on my own personal holiness.
While difficult to pinpoint, there might be this necessary step between living as I ought by all appearances and truly embracing a life of virtue. Maybe by being mediocre and refraining from completely sacrificing everything I am unable to provide the most authentic witness to those around me. It might be the step between ‘yes, they are a Christian’ and ‘I want to live my life like that person.’ The step between the person next to me at daily Mass and the impressive surrender of my spiritual director.
I’m not saying I think you can simply ‘feel’ the holiness of the other person, but I believe there is a ‘something other’ that resides in the souls of those who have given every inch of their lives to Christ without reservation. What is more, they will this total surrender every day, not seeking to take it back when it seems as though they could do better managing their own lives. The greatest thing I can do for my family and students might be very simple: just fall deeply in love with God and stay rooted in that love, willing it to be the source of everything. In the reverse, the greatest disservice I do my family and students is not entering fully into the love of God, but always withholding some part of my heart or life from His good hands.
Servant of God Elisabeth Leseur, grant me the grace to pursue the Lord wholeheartedly. By plunging into the heart of God, may this transform me and thus, by God’s grace, transform all I encounter.
Photo by Austin Neill on Unsplash