To Know As We Are Known
I am always impressed when I run across a quote that some one said many years ago and which still holds true and helpful today. St. Teresa of Avila had many such quotes. The beautiful part of this is the fact that many of her sayings came from her own experience of God.
Recently, I have been reflecting on one such saying of hers, namely that there is no growth in prayer without self knowledge. Along this line, I have come up with my own related thesis that goes something like this: Even though who we are and what we do in life are not exactly the same, the two are intimately related. This also means that who we are finds expression in what we do. A corollary of this would be the belief that how we respond to what happens to us tells us more and more about who we are, and of how God is choosing to work within us.
Carmelite Edith Stein, Sister Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, felt that who we are is veiled in God’s secret, a secret story which we will only know fully when we meet God face to face. For her, recalling this aspect of God’s secret gave her courage and strength when life was difficult.
While I was putting these few thoughts together, I came across a children’s story having to do with a conversation between two leaves on a tree. (This is my own retelling.) Daniel, the larger leaf, was regarded as the wise one among all the leaves. Freddie, the smaller leaf, loved being a leaf. He especially liked his branch high in the sky. He liked the wind and the sun, and the moon that covered him with soft shadows in the night. Being summertime, many people, the old and the young, came to the park and sat under Freddie’s tree. Daniel told Freddie that providing shade was part of Freddie’s purpose. “What’s a purpose?” Freddie asked. “It’s a reason for being,” came the answer. Daniel went on to point out that leaves were there to make things pleasant for others. Freddie’s purpose for being was to provide coolness for the people who came to the park with their checkered tablecloths, searching for just the right place to have a picnic. Later on, Freddie would contribute to people’s joy by turning different colors in the autumn. *
In the face of all this, it would appear that who we are, and what we do, is very much related to our mission in life. Little by little, and often in secret, this purpose unfolds. If and when we look back, we might find that we were fulfilling our purpose without knowing it. All along, there was Someone guiding us.
*Leo F. Buscaglia, Inc . The Fall of Freddie, the Leaf , 1982.
Sister Mary Jo Loebig, O.C.D