26 March 2011

Not a Dollar Bill

I've always been attracted to those who speak frankly in pursuit of Truth, who don't give a damn what others think, or go to pieces because another takes offense at their words. One of the reasons Hilaire Belloc and St. John of the Cross rank at the top of my list is precisely because they don't mince words. (Of course, eloquence and erudition are part of the package; no one wants a bigmouth who has nothing to say, or who says it appallingly.) From them one is going to hear Truth, and sometimes it'll sting--but the pain of that sting is a good one, the sort that spurs one on toward the Good and the Beautiful.

At adoration today, I happened to pick up a stray copy of The Way sitting amidst a pile of books in the pew. I know next to nothing about Opus Dei, and even less about its founder, but opening up his book and reading the first few notes hit me like a ton of bricks.
1. Don't let your life be sterile. Be useful. Blaze a trail. Shine forth with the light of your faith and of your love. With your apostolic life wipe out the slimy and filthy mark left by the impure sowers of hatred. And light up all the ways of the earth with the fire of Christ that you carry in your heart.
The first note. It woke me up. And then:
3. Maturity. Stop making faces and acting up like a child! Your bearing ought to reflect the peace and order in your soul.

4. Don't say, "That's the way I am--it's my character." It's your lack of character. Esto vir!--Be a man!

5. Get used to saying No.
...
7. Don't fly like a barnyard hen when you can soar like an eagle.
...
9. What you have just said, say it in another tone, without anger, and what you say will have more force... and above all, you won't offend God.
Yes. I like this. Quite a lot. I was now beginning to realize St. Josemaria Escriva would be just the man to whip me into spiritual shape this Lent.
14. Don't waste your energy and your time--which belong to God--throwing stones at the dogs that bark at you on the way. Ignore them.
...
20. You clash with the character of one person or another.... It has to be that way--you are not a dollar bill to be liked by everyone.

Besides, without those clashes which arise in dealing with your neighbors, how could you ever lose the sharp corners, the edges--imperfections and defects of your character--and acquire the order, the smoothness, and the firm mildness of charity, of perfection?

If your character and that of those around you were soft and sweet like marshmallows, you would never become a saint.
That was enough. I discreetly "borrowed" the book and took it home. The nuggets of wisdom continue on page after page, and I look forward to mining them in the coming weeks.
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