The context of our lives

I just finished re-reading The Context of Holiness, Psychological and Spiritual Reflections on the Life of St. Thérèse of Lisieux by Marc Foley, OCD.  His main point is that God works within the context of each our lives, within the physical, psychological, social and emotional dimensions of our lives.   Here is an excerpt from the last chapter:

Each of us fights a “war within,” the cost of which no one knows but God alone.  Not as man sees does God see, because man sees the appearance but the Lord looks into the heart (1 Sam 16.7).  Judged by the standards of this world, our lives look like a “world without event,” but known to God alone “the heroic breast.”  All of us can say with Thérèse “Ah! what a surprise we shall have at the end of the world when we read the story of souls!  There will be those who will be surprised when they see the way through which my soul was guided” (S. 149)!

Our real life is that which is known to God alone and not that which is judged by the standards of this world.  In act IV of King Lear, there appears upon the stage a character who is so insignificant that Shakespeare doesn’t even give him a name; he is simply referred to as the First Servant.  As he witnessed Gloucester being blinded, the First Servant draws his sword to defend his master but is mortally stabbed in the back by Goneral.  His whole part consists of only eight lines, none of which are quote worthy.

No one remembers the First Servant.  But if King Lear were not a play but real life, then his part would have been the best to have played.  For it is not important that we are lauded or remembered by this passing world, for all that the world affords is fleeting. . . .

The only glory that survives the grave is a life well lived.  In a hundred years it will not have made any difference how much money we have in the bank, how many cars we have in the garage, how much power we wielded in our jobs, how many books we have written or how esteemed we were by colleagues and friends.  The only thing that ultimately matters is whether or not we have done the will of God.

In this book, I have tried to show through the life of one woman that the trials and tragedies of life, the fears and conflicts of the human heart are not obstacles to growth in holiness but the stage upon which the drama of holiness unfolds.  The same is true for us.  The gray mundaneness of daily life, our wounded psyches with all their fears and neurotic conflicts, our families, friends, and peers who never live up to our expectations and who often disappoint us, the impersonal and insecure world that we live in, is the context in which we choose to do God’s will.  (pp. 140-41, emphasis added)

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