Today is the last day of Christmas. We are back to, as my priest calls it, “extraordinary ordinary time”.
Over the last few months, I’ve been reading the works of Fr. James Martin, SJ. He has nearly revolutionized how I view my faith. For starters, the work of Jesuits is so glamorously unglamorous. From serving communion to inmates in prison to immersing themselves in American inner city gang life to studying with African Catholics in remote villages, Jesuits are often known as the “liberal Catholics”. They devote their life to poverty to help the poor – and ironically there’s something enticing and alluring about that. Even though I am female (although there are women organizations still devoted to the work of St. Ignatius) but more importantly about to get married, something I feel very called to, I can’t help but admire this work and think “But I wanna be a Jesuit….”
While very knowledgeable about Catholic theology, philosophy, and teaching – Martin doesn’t seem to ponder too much about it. As if to say “Stop pondering about your faith and go live it.” Sometimes, I need to hear this. Yes, this is Truth. Now go and do good. GK Chesterton said it himself “Merely having an open mind is nothing. The object of opening the mind, as of opening the mouth, is to shut it again on something solid.” In other words, you can have an open mind while still standing strong in your convictions. Martin’s writing helps me with this because he is such a strong Catholic but devotes his time to serving people, period. Catholic or not. In case you were wondering, (and didn’t already know) yes, Pope Francis is a Jesuit. The first Jesuit pope, in fact, um – ever.
As much as I like the idea of dropping my life here in America and going on some pilgrimage across the world to help impoverished women learn about their fertility (and who knows – maybe one day that will happen) I also know that we don’t have to all be text book saints to live our faith. Saints suffer, yes, that is a requirement in fact to become a saint. But we need not search for suffering. It will undoubtedly find us.
I had a small identity crisis the other night because I was using the electric toothbrush my mother got me for Christmas. I wailed to Kyle that “Women in third world countries don’t have access to menstrual products and I’m using a $60 toothbrush!” Luckily, my fiance is acclimated to my crises and he assured me that I was allowed to use a gift that my mother so nicely bestowed to me. He also reminded me that by not using the toothbrush, I wouldn’t really be helping people either. The toothbrush was an unremarkably morally neutral object.
As I come to a close on My Life With the Saints, I feel urged to help people and make a difference. I’ve been reading about wild stories across the world from the lives of saints through the centuries to the life of a modern day Jesuit. Sometimes I feel completely characterless. “What am I doing with my life?” I think to myself. James Martin is in the line of fire in gang fights stopping people from dying and I’m just trying to get through film school. But I also know that helping people comes in all shapes and sizes. It’s nice to think about helping third world countries, but being a good friend, mother, or spouse can be a huge feat in living out faith. Following our callings can (and should) help people.
If you ain’t suffering – don’t go looking for it. You don’t have to be a Jesuit to live your faith.
So you really can use an electric toothbrush and help people and be living out the Catholic faith.