The past two years of my life have been turbulent, to say the very least. In that time, I have rediscovered my Catholic faith in a way that I could never have seen coming. The circumstances which surround the people I have met and the things I have experienced have led me to often wonder at the extent to which God has orchestrated my journey back to His Church. Has every step of mine on this life-changing journey been guided by Him? Each and every time, I cannot help but conclude that this must be the case. This kind of experience could not have come about through my own agency alone, and it seems to me that the events which have guided it are certainly more than coincidence.
Since I made the decision to find a way back to the bosom of Holy Mother Church, God has frequently granted me new opportunities to learn about and practice the faith which has become absolutely central to my life. Over and over again, He presents to me the chance to live as a witness to Christ in the sight of others, and I have found fruit aplenty in seizing these opportunities through cooperation with His Grace.
But as wonderful as that is, I anguish terribly to think of all the times that I have rejected these same opportunities. How many times have I abused the wonderful, God-given gift of free will to deny Him of His wishes for me – or His wishes for others, to be fulfilled through me? Out of slothfulness, arrogance, or even cowardice, how many times have I refused Him? How many times have I failed to trust absolutely in Him as I should, and foolishly believed that I may know better than Him as to what is best for me?
"… I am scared to death of dying and having the Lord say to me: 'Angelica, this is what you might have done had you only trusted more'."
– Mother Mary Angelica
To refuse to cooperate with the Will of God – to fail to trust in Him, and to instead despair – is pride, the chief of all sins. Each and every time we sin, we can be sure that it has come about due to pride. To be prideful is to fail to put God before ourselves; to substitute His Will for our own. How, then, is it possible for a prideful man to be justified in the eyes of the Lord? It isn't; the annihilation of pride is necessary to attaining sainthood (James 4:6; 2 Cor. 10:18).
To this end, my confessor reminds me often that in order to combat sin, it is necessary for us to put into practice the opposing virtues in our lives. Where regards pride, the inverse is humility – to be humble is to place the Will of God before ourselves in every respect, and if we do this, how can the devil possibly advance against us?
"There never can have been, and never can be, and there never shall be any sin without pride."
– Saint Augustine
We see in Sacred Scripture that God's entire plan for the salvation of mankind hinged upon the willing cooperation of one exceedingly humble woman. Every time we pray the devotion of the Angelus, we recall Our Lady's denial of herself, and her boundless submission to the Will of God:
"… Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it done unto me according to Thy Word." - Luke 1:38
Reflecting upon these words, and knowing the fruits that have come of them, we as Christians should resolve to deny ourselves; to gladly accept hardship – even celebrate it. This is especially true in the season of Lent, when we call to mind our sins, and remind ourselves of the sacrifice that Christ has made for our undeserving sake – the same sacrifice thatHe makes for us every single day in the miracle upon the altar.
In the face of adversity, we must first and foremost call upon ourselves to trust absolutely in Our Lord, whose wisdom is limitless, and His love for us unending. Further, we must also call upon each other to have trust through faith; to encourage and support one another as fellow soldiers of Christ in His Church Militant (Phill. 2:25; 1 Tim. 6:12; 2 Tim. 2:3), so as to see His Will done on earth, as it is in heaven. Knowing that God desires that all men be saved in His Son (1 Timothy 2:4), we can be assured of our wellbeing if we should strive to abide by His Will in all things; to take up our cross, and follow Him (Matthew 16:24).
On a final note, the motto of one of my saintly patrons, Bl. Aloysius Stepinac, comes to mind:
"In Te, Domine, speravi" - In You, Lord, I place my trust.
Thomas is a Catholic revert, and a student of international relations and history at UQ. He enjoys studying apologetics in his spare time, and will rarely hesitate to fry up a good English breakfast.