“You really did a terrific job with the conference today – you should feel great about yourself.” These kind words were shared with me by a friend who had attended one of the Boston Catholic Women’s Conferences, which I had helped to organize and lead for five years in the Archdiocese of Boston. While nice, this statement made me uncomfortable so I responded “Thanks so much but the conference success is the result of many folks working prayerfully together, not just one person. We are all ordinary people using our gifts to serve and fulfill a need in the Church – the real credit lies with God.” My friend didn’t seem to understand my response and insisted that I bask in the glory and greatness of this event which had attracted thousands of women attendees. Embarrassed and feeling a bit helpless I stammered “Without God’s grace I cannot do anything well. I give thanks to Him for choosing to work through me, thereby elevating my ordinariness into His extraordinariness, resulting in something great.” I think these words helped her to understand my heart!
This conversation happened a few years ago and I still think about it from time to time. In fact, it came back into my mind today as I took in the brisk, clean air of a Maine winter’s day. Strolling alone on the snow covered roads atop Saddleback mountain was a glorious gift as it afforded me time to be still with God amidst the beauty of His creation. In this awesome setting of breathtaking winter vistas, snow covered pine trees and majestic mountain ranges, I was caught up in a moment of awe at the greatness of God who fashioned all that surrounded me. Moments like this provide an opportunity for one to look deeply into her soul and ponder the great truth of this life – we were made for oneness with God.
“Ah, Lord GOD! It is you who have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and by your outstretched arm! Nothing is too hard for you.” – Jeremiah 32:17
Scripture advises that we have been created in the image of God. “God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” (Gen 1:26-27) Recognizing this truth is essential for human flourishing. Unfortunately, we don’t always perceive how special we are to God, thus we fail to realize our great potential as human beings. God yearns for our happiness and prospering in this life! Experience has shown me that alone, I can do nothing well, but with God, I can do more than I ever imagined possible. While I attempt to recall past failings and learn from them, I don’t always succeed. I keep trying, and with God’s grace, seek to align myself with His will at the dawn of each new day. When I do this, the result is always a day filled with greatness – much more than I could have accomplished on my own.
Introducing children to a life of limitless possibilities with God is something that I am passionate about thanks to the way my parents raised my siblings and me. My two girls have been competitive Irish step dancers for over 15 years. During the years when they competed nationally and internationally, we had a favorite scripture that we would pray together before every major competition – “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Phil 4:13) This little verse reminded the girls that their athletic gifts came from God and that He would accompany them in their quest for sporting greatness. The girls later told me how comforting it was knowing that God was in it with them. “It took the pressure off. We had to do the hard work in practice, but we knew that God was always beside us. Whatever the result, it was okay because we had invited Him in and given our best.” one of them shared.
“It is Jesus who stirs in you the desire to do something great with your lives, the will to follow an ideal, the refusal to allow yourselves to be ground down by mediocrity, the courage to commit yourselves humbly and patiently to improving yourselves and society, making the world more human and more fraternal.” – Saint Pope John Paul II
Sometimes our greatness doesn’t seem so grand because we measure it on a human scale. A great accomplishment in the eyes of God could be something quite simple like making a hot meal for our busy family or putting in a full day’s work during a time of struggle. If we perform our daily duties with great love, which comes from a conscience union with God, the result will be something beautiful and great. God invites us to achieve greatness within the context of our individual lives. I’ve been privileged to see greatness lived out in many ways: a teenage boy shoveling the driveway of an elderly neighbor without being asked, a mom bringing flowers to a grieving friend who just lost her mother, a co-worker picking up lunch for her busy boss, a tired mom making homemade Valentines for her small children, a loving grandparent babysitting her young grandchildren, a widowed husband serving the needy in his community, a college student working weekly at a local homeless shelter, an adult daughter driving home often to visit her parents, a busy husband cooking dinner for his family, a tired mom driving her children to all their activities and an adult child accompanying her elderly parent to the doctor. Perhaps we may feel ordinary on most days, but it only takes one small act of love infused with the grace of God to elevate a life to greatness.
As I end my time in Maine, I give thanks for an opportunity to be still with God in the beauty of His creation. Being in the mountains with my brother’s family (Joe, Tania and the kids), watching my son ski down the snow covered mountain with his cousin Joe, gazing at my niece Tasha as she skillfully descended the mountain in the Maine state ski race, sitting together by the evening fire – these are treasured moments in life which God blesses abundantly and which fill our hearts with His love. It took the efforts of many to make this a great family vacation. We can all elevate our lives from ordinary to great when we unite our will with God’s will. Give it a try. I anticipate that you will experience a change that will both delight and excite you on this beautiful journey of life.