ISSUES OF FAITH: Growing into who God always knew you to be

THE OLDER I get, the more I realize childhood never ends.

We outgrow stuff, sure. We move on from things, OK.

But there seems to be a part of us that is forever attached to our childhood days, and unless your memory is completely gone, it’s hard to escape that youthful you.

When I read stories about the saints, some relatively modern and others that go way back, you get a glimpse of the years they were being formed, or a glimpse of their rebelliousness, what made them embrace heroic virtue and at times the struggle to follow the path that God had set for them.

These are never boring stories because they deal with people like you and me, flesh and blood, and relating is actually easier than you think.

With maybe a couple of exceptions.

The obvious first is that they had an unwavering commitment to seeking and finding God’s will in their lives.

This is the key to everything.

Each morning I say this prayer and sometimes during the day. “God, help me to do your holy will.”

God gives us free will naturally; He will not force us to do what we choose not to; but if you say this little prayer, with sincerity now, God may prompt you and nudge you and whisper to you more than if you dismiss him.

Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane uttered this prayer. “God, not my will but your will be done.”

God’s will is not always the most pleasant experience, but that is completely beside the point.

Your life will be more fruitful and your peace will be greater listening to the God who created you.

Logically, that makes perfect sense and all saints embrace this wholeheartedly.

Heroic virtue

Virtue by definition is a good, strong habit we have formed.

Courage, piety, patience, charity and generosity are but a few of the virtues that many saints possess on a heroic level.

Better than good and great, heroic implies a complete trust and surrender to God, and the will of God.

When I think of heroic virtue the name that always seems to come for me is Maximilian Kolbe.

A Catholic priest, he was a prisoner in Auschwitz concentration camp in 1941.

As a routine, if anyone escaped from Auschwitz 10 prisoners were randomly executed.

A prisoner, a man with a family, was set to be killed along with nine others.

After pleading for his life Maximilian Kolbe offered to take the man’s place. The guards, surprised at first, gave the OK.

Ten men, including Kolbe were sent to a basement to starve.

Nearly two weeks later, with Kolbe being the last one alive, the guards injected him with carbolic acid and killed him.

Not all saints are called to be martyrs but this is an example of what heroic entails.

God calls all of us to be saints. This is no lie, nor a joke.

To be anything less than a saint simply and literally means that we did not follow the path that God created for us and had been known for all eternity.

We strive to be good people.

Some of us even aspire to greatness.

Heroic is a step that we can’t take because we don’t recognize that this is God speaking.

It’s tough, it’s difficult and we don’t want to hear.

Maximilian Kolbe could have turned away from the pleas of Franciszek Gajowniczek, but instead Kolbe took his place, perishing in Block 11.

Gajowniczek miraculously survived Auschwitz and raised a large family.

I stood in Auschwitz on a trip to Poland a few years ago.

My mom asked me why in the world would I go there.

Yes, the place is pure evil, but it is not computer-generated. It’s real, and if we don’t embrace things that are real we will never learn.

Cicero, the great Roman orator, said, “Not to know what happened before you were born is to be a child forever.”

So many things to say and time is running out here.

If you follow the Catholic Church at all, and this is primarily what I do, many things are in turmoil.

Many things are beyond beautiful as well, with many signs of hope — like the spring when you see flowers and all the colors announce themselves.

This is not hyperbole, but truth.

Father Joseph Ratzinger, later Pope Benedict XVI, said in 1969: “It seems certain to me that the Church is facing very hard times. The real crisis has scarcely begun; we will have to count on terrific upheavals. But I am equally certain about what will remain at the end: The Church of Faith.”

Whatever God made you to be, rest assured he has not given up.

Nicodemus sought Jesus out because he wanted answers. He wanted holiness.

Be thankful that you are here today.

Try transforming that heart that beats within your chest, the heart you were born with, the heart that God gave you and sustains you.

We can look at our childhood and park our memory there but most of us carry enough with us, and without realizing it, that is sufficient.

Recognize, that God wants more, and truly he expects more.

It’s not a burden.

It’s the way to peace.

So peace to you as you seek the will of God in your truly unique life.

_________

Issues of Faith is a rotating column by five religious leaders on the North Olympic Peninsula. Mike Acheson is director of religious education at Queen of Angels Roman Catholic Church in Port Angeles and St. Joseph Parish in Sequim. His email is mikea@olypen.com.

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