For my spring break this past week, I road tripped it down south to stay con mi younger seeeester. Teagan goes to a small Catholic college in North Carolina. The community bathroom, cafeteria food, air mattress life was such a luxury. But I’m not kidding…I absolutely loved every last moment of it!
I did not know a single person on this campus except for her so meeting new people at every turn and hearing, “Wow, you guys look alike” was a delight. But one of the introductions stuck with me more than any of the others.
When Teagan’s roommate walked through the door and saw me she said, “Oh my goodness, I am so excited that you are here! I am going to be so holy by the time you leave!” I just started laughing as my initial reaction never fails to be. Although quite honored that she would think this about me, I then became confused on why she assumed I am a holy person. I am certainly striving for holiness but stumbling is my forte.
As the days passed, I reflected on my encounters with her and asked myself, ‘have I even said or done anything that would lead her to holiness?’ I, like all my brothers and sisters, am called to be holy “in every aspect of [my] conduct” (1 Peter 1:16). But I didn’t think I was living up to this vocation set before me.
Let’s make one thing clear: holiness was the name of the game. I did and do and will continue to feel like a fool for addressing this virtue with practically zero humility. Attempting to please her and myself was standing in between me and actual holiness; it was standing in between me and God. I was smacked in the face (the soccer balls are an understatement) with this realization with a lovely little quote I stashed away by a Spanish priest turned saint.
A couple months ago, I found myself reading an article on The Catholic Gentleman (ladies, your femininity does not exclude you from this publication!). It shared 15 leadership lessons from St. Josemaria Escriva and setting leadership aside, number 13 singled me out as a doddering old man. Doddering means shaky or trembling. Yep, can’t say I have ever been called that but thank you dearly, Josemaria.
He doesn’t just stress that we should place God first. He says that others’ opinions should sometimes not be in the picture whatsoever. “Very much in second place and sometimes not at all.” Zip. Zero. Sayonara. See ya later.
God doesn’t just sit on the throne of first place. He is first place. He is “one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all” – Ephesians 4:6. Out of complete mercy, He sent His son so that we may come to devote our lives to this. “So that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.” – 2 Corinthians 5:15.
If God is number one, I stand very much in last place. All else aligns when we acknowledge our Father in His righteous place. Those opinions being thrown my way don’t matter. Even those compliments being given to me don’t mean a thing if I am placing that value before the incomparable dignity I have as a daughter of God.
So no. I don’t think my sister’s roommate was holier when I left because of my doings. But this is the face that I would now give myself if I wanted to achieve that:
The Holiest One of all is the only one who can make us holy. However, once we accept our vocation and put ourselves in very much last place, we’ll be the light that others may need. Holiness is a gift of sanctifying grace. And for that, I am in awe.