Only once have I really punched someone in anger.
It was a childish expression of frustration and the reprisal was one that kept that outburst of violence to a one-time event. In general, I am a fairly patient person, I believe, and while I might get annoyed or angry, I am often slow to act on those emotions.
Yet I’ve always wanted to be viewed as strong. I’m not tall and I probably don’t look very intimidating. Despite that, it is a desire of mine to be seen as fiery. The punch I threw in my youth didn’t end well, but I sought to prove my strength in other areas. In an elementary school gym class, we were challenged to do as many push-ups as possible. Due to my slight frame and sheer grit, I completed push-up after push-up until my arms quaked each time I neared the floor. When I finally stopped, only one other person was still going.
As kids, my dad would challenge us to completely unfair wrestling matches. Being six or seven and taking on a fully grown man did not present balanced odds. However, I clearly remember wrestling matches where my dad only needed to use one arm or a leg to pin me down as I relentlessly squirmed to get away. Finally, I would concede defeat, but only with flushed face and worn out limbs.
This desire to be strong was evident from my youth and yet it found expression in various ways as I got older. Physical prowess was never going to be my gift and so I exercised strength in witty replies and intellectual knowledge. But I still wanted to be viewed as strong and I had this indomitable longing to be a soldier. I have a fight in me that needs to be revealed in some way. It means that while I “hit like a girl,” I still punch my dad in the shoulder every time I see him. And while I’m not a fan of conflict, I enjoy a good argument or discussion when I’m in the mood.
At my nephews’ wrestling tournament the other day, I saw a woman in army fatigues. The strength that her outfit symbolized was something I desired for myself. Which, naturally, means I went home that night and casually perused the Army National Guard website. I imagined what it would be like to join the military and how that could impact my life. I don’t really want to fight someone, but I want to fight for something. Continue reading “There is a Strength in Faithfulness”
When I mention that my two older sisters are religious sisters, people often wonder what my parents did to make that happen. In a way, I understand, because it is mildly unusual in today’s world to hear about young women making vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. Yet I also want to fight against this mentality that holiness is primarily for priests, religious, and consecrated persons. Sanctity is for everyone and we need to continue to proclaim this good news.
If you are what you should be, you will set your whole world on fire.
~St. Catherine of Siena
Venerable Jan Tyranowski recently came into my life and he inspires me in the quest for a saintly laity. He was born at the turn of the twentieth century in Poland. For over three decades, he led a rather unremarkable life. But at Mass one day, he heard the priest say that it isn’t difficult to be a saint. From that day forward, he pursued virtue and holiness with an incredible ardor.
When Nazis invaded Poland, they deported several of the priests in parish, leaving behind only a couple elderly priests. Knowing of his deep faithfulness, the priests ask Jan to minister to the young of the parish. Despite his introverted nature and little formal education, Jan began this ministry even though he considered himself incapable. He formed prayer groups comprised of fifteen young men each. Each man was responsible for daily praying a decade of the rosary and striving to live out particular virtues. The groups were called “Living Rosaries” and Jan chose a leader for each group, investing time to spiritually form each leader.
Venerable Jan Tyranowski never married and never became a priest, yet his life of holiness impacts us today. The Second Vatican Council called for the laity to live more fully the mission of the Church. This call was anticipated in the life of Jan and he did this in the midst of a Nazi occupation. One of the young men who was in his prayer group and was spiritually formed by this simple tailor was Karol Wojtyla, better known as Pope St. John Paul II. Continue reading “A Laity of Saints: How God Uses the Little for Greatness”
I’ve always longed for greatness. Not in the sense that everyone knows me or that I’m famous. Rather, I have always desired a great mission or task in life. I want to contribute something to the world and I want it to impact people. This weekend I watched The Courageous Heart of Irena Sendler and I was re-filled with the desire to pursue greatness.
Irena Sendler was a young Polish woman who lived during the time of World War II. She was a social worker, but her work went far beyond her simple job title. During the time that the Jewish people were being relocated to the ghettos and then to “work camps,” Irena worked tirelessly to smuggle children to safety. Risking her life, she worked with a courageous group to secretly save children by tucking them into tool boxes, packing them into boxes, or hiding them in vehicles. Later caught, she endured torture and was nearly killed, all the while never giving up any secrets.
In total, it is said that Irena Sendler and companions helped to save 2,500 Jewish children in Poland. The children were placed with convents or families throughout Poland. She kept meticulous records of who their parents were and where they were placed in the hopes that families would be reunited after the war. This young woman quietly changed the world and, initially, received little recognition for it. She was awarded Righteous Among the Nations in 1965 and later named an honorary citizen of Israel in 1991. In 2007, she was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. However, for most of her life she lived with little acclaim or notoriety for her heroic actions and sacrifices.
While I do not hope for concentration camps or totalitarian regimes, this is the greatness for which I long. I look at her life and I see a greatness that goes beyond one person. Yet the greatness that I see and anyone can see who looks at her life was not recognized by Irena herself. She did not see herself as a hero or seem pleased with her accomplishments. Instead, she said that she could have done more to save more children. Continue reading “Longing for Greatness”