Virtuous Defeat

I read a quote today from St. Catherine of Sienna that essentially said we cannot defeat evil with evil but must defeat evil with virtue. I was struck by how profound that is especially in our modern world where so few strive for holiness and virtue. Where it can feel like the only way to beat evil is with evil. It can be so tempting for me to want to be cruel in return when I have been treated cruelly because it feels like justice and is gratifying only for the faintest moment. Because instead of offering up my sorrows I’ve dragged another down into that mire and it doesn’t change anything except me, and it’s a change for the worse.

To fight evil with virtue is what I want to do in my heart but I confess it’s tempting to see that as ineffective. In a world of self sufficiency and control it can be tempting to believe that if you don’t play by the world’s rules you won’t get what you want in the end, you won’t achieve your goals. With virtue and walking the virtuous path you may face persecution and obstacles but you learn the lesson I am still learning to totally trust in God and where He leads you. To trust that even if you don’t see the fruits of your virtue and if others remain the same He still sees you and will reward you. But I confess to you also that I don’t want to become mercenary about receiving a reward I would like to be virtuous simply because I ought to be. It’s the way God designed me to be and it’s the only way I’ll experience not only true love but true life. Please pray for me!

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A new hope

Today I was thinking about how the love of God is something truly special. We hear that phrase tossed around so many times that it’s easy to forget the power behind the words God loves you. But Gods love is unlike anything I’ve ever known because God is love and His love is so powerful it transforms all things into Itself. It doesn’t destroy my darkness it transforms it into light simply by being unquenchable light that no darkness in the world is powerful enough to extinguish. Justice could destroy but mercy makes new. It’s making me new. And all I have to do is step into the light and come home.

Wait for it?

So my brother and I fell into an interesting conversation this morning as we were commuting into the city of Pittsburgh. The song “Wait for It” from Hamilton came on his Itunes shuffle and my brother asked me, seeing as were both young adult professionals at the start of our respective careers, whether it’s better to be more like the relentlessly ambitious Alexander Hamilton who seizes every opportunity or more like the soloist of the song, the character Aaron Burr, who wonders “if there is a reason [he’s] still alive when so many have died” and is willing to wait to find out what that reason might be.

The answer to that question is tricky.

It’s tricky because it hinges on what you believe to be truth. As a Christian, I believe not only that God “formed my inmost being… [and] knit me in my mother’s womb.” (Psalm 139: 13-14) but also that when He made me He had a specific and eternal plan for my existence that He reveals to me little by little in time and will be revealed in full in Heaven.

It can be hard to cling to that truth in what Fr. Michael Gaitley aptly calls the “darkness of the ordinary” or those days that feel so average they seem insignificant as you go to and from work, interact with your family, run errands etc. Nevertheless, in spite of the easy temptations to doubt that spring up in the midst of ordinary living, I still believe in God’s plan for my life and for yours.    

So, with this truth in mind, I see no problem in waiting to discover what you were born for but it does beg the question what does that look like for the every day?

Our more worldly counterparts usually chime in that this view is the enemy to “progress” and that the only catalyst to change is ACTION, championing causes, writing the congressman, running 5ks, getting lots of followers on social media, etc. The might throw a lot of secular quotes in your face from successful (read: wealthy) people encouraging you to become more like them.

However, I have always had a problem with the “utopia now” set because even if they achieved every social and political cause they took upon themselves to champion, even if the world was overrun with the wealthy, science-minded, culturally-elite, atheistic, innovative collaborators public schools seem to be aimed at creating, even if poverty was eliminated, wars ended, and perfect knowledge achieved still everyone in this dreamy existence would cease to exist. Every single person in utopia would eventually die simply because no one lives forever.

So all these attempts at creating heaven on earth rather than pursuing eternal life in heaven to me seem short-sighted at best. The Hamiltonian idea that greatness consists only in great actions that result in an impressive earthly legacy is one which I reject. I’ve never thought that Alexander Hamilton or George Washington gain any eternal happiness by knowing that they are featured in many statues, town names, and American currency and (as much as I admittedly studied a lot of history and really like George Washington). I believe that as time passes even they will fade into obscurity like the Roman emperors of old who sat on the thrones of empires and were likened to Gods but who myself or the majority of people living today probably couldn’t name.

Living with an eternal perspective lends not only a patience and calm to thinks that might seem otherwise devastating but as a Christian my hope stems from not just a vague idea of paradise or idealistic reflections of justice, but a firm belief that a life of union with God will satisfy my every desire for justice, peace, happiness, love, and mercy. It takes the anxiety, the “now or never,” out of the equation because I do believe I will see this in my lifetime it’s just that I don’t confine that lifetime to include only my temporal life on earth. So until that day, I found my ultimate answer to my brother’s question is that I too am willing to wait for it.