The problem with always wanting to do better and be better is that we never come to appreciate where we actually are.
Every now and then I get an email from a reader that strikes a certain kinship. Recently I received one such email from a mother who was struggling with feelings of inadequacy, specifically in regards to the way she lives and practices her faith. She described her life as one of just trying to survive day to day and that her time was being lost in the tedium of daily chores and everyday life. Her frustration stemmed from longing to be a better Catholic and not being able to do more with her faith. She asked, how does one cope with feeling like a very ordinary and unexceptional Catholic?
I believe most of us go through periods of spiritual longing where we feel our efforts are inadequate. There’s always more we could be doing, one thinks. These thoughts could propel us into fruitful action, inspiring us to be more giving or prayerful, but usually they can cripple us with fears of unworthiness and cause doubt. The problem with always wanting to do better and be better is that we never come to appreciate where we actually are. This longing creates a dissatisfied and unsettled heart.
Being a parent and having very ordinary responsibilities can feel repetitive and make even the best of us feel underappreciated. But being an ordinary Catholic doesn’t make us unexceptional Catholics by default.
There’s nothing wrong with being absolutely ordinary. One of everyone’s favorite saints is Martin de Porres. He wanted to be a fully professed Dominican brother but certain circumstances kept him from achieving his dreams for most of his adult life. He found holiness and peace while simply sweeping floors and doing the most menial tasks at the monastery he longed to join.
It’s not the lofty and grand things we do what makes us extraordinary, but rather the extraordinary attitudes we have while doing the most ordinary things that makes us exceptional and grow in holiness, as evident in the lives of St. Martin and Therese De Lisieux.
As much as one can (and should) long for certain “perfection,” one should also know that being a good and virtuous Catholic takes heroic virtue. Faithfully practicing and living the Catholic faith is an extraordinary thing in and of itself. We all can’t be missionaries or religious brothers and sisters, but that doesn’t mean we can’t be living or own exceptionally Catholic lives.