There are times in a family when the only form of communication one witnesses is in the form of an argument. Sometimes it starts with a simple request to your sibling, like, “Do you mind giving me the room for a while?” and the next thing you know it is a full blown scream fest with all the past mistakes brought to light in all its glory. Such encounters rob us of our joy and leave us agitated, Mulling over the ‘injustice’ we go to bed wondering “Will I be stuck in this ‘hell hole’ forever?”
One wonders if anything good can come out of these encounters.
The answer is an unexpected YES.
The beauty of being a Christian and more importantly a Catholic, is being bestowed with the true understanding of love. Particularly ‘agape’ love as testified by the saints. One particular saint that truly exemplifies sacrificial love is St. Therese of Lisieux. When I finished reading her autobiography ‘The story of a soul’, I knew life would never be the same again. A humble cloistered nun, she embraced her vocation of love and lived it in a radical manner. From her, I learnt how the word ‘love’, mostly associated with feelings, can be spelled out in everyday life. Venerable Fulton Sheen rightly said
“The way of St. Therese is very easy. It’s living the life that you are living now, only making it holy. You sacramentalize it.”
And I was given one such opportunity, to take a sour family argument and ‘make it holy’. It all started with the not so hypothetical situation mentioned earlier. When my brother showed no signs of heeding my request, I responded in way St. Therese taught me. Being silent and not responding in the way I really wanted to. However, something unexpected happened. No my brother did not have a change of heart, but my mom stepped in and led the argument which I chose not to have in the first place. Then began a ‘not so sweet’ exchange of words and it culminated with a plate of food being thrown away in the kitchen, leaving a visible stinky mess. While the two opponents retired to bed angry, I was still taking in this interesting situation and staring at the glob of food.
With no maids to clean up the mess, I had two options. I could lose my cool or alternatively continue to follow the little way of St. Therese. The little way that she proposes teaches that love needs to go beyond seeking justice for self and finds its expression in showing mercy to others. What followed next was purely grace and not something I am solely capable of. I decided to clean the mess.
And it was at this moment that I (as C.S. Lewis would put it) was ‘surprised by joy’. In this simple act I found peace and joy. I was visibly smiling while I was clearing a mess that was puke worthy. I cannot explain why I experienced what I experienced, but I felt heaven was by my side cheering me on, as I followed the ‘little way’. That day I learnt that true Christian love is liberating and it is the only thing in this world that brings order to chaos. Although it will call you to a life of humility it will fill you with profound joy whose source can only be traced to the divine.
Never ever miss an opportunity to love in a radical manner. As radio host and catholic apologist Patrick Coffin puts it, “Be a saint, what else is there?”