I was born into an age when radical Feminism was already in full swing. Having achieved suffrage and the right to work, gained easy access to birth control, divorce, and abortion, made sexual promiscuity, lesbianism, and rejection of matrimony commonplace, and have in virtually every other respect estranged women from their biological and spiritual motherhood and put her on level playing field with men, you'd think that the debate around gender equality would have cooled down a bit. Yet, here we are, 20 years into the 21st century, and terms like "Feminism" and "toxic masculinity" are still used with increasing frequency and urgency.
We live in an age of globalization, a time when anyone with an internet connection can garner thousands, if not millions, of followers. What power that is! And so we face two temptations: the first being that we might implement world-wide change without God's help—if only our voices are loud enough. The second is that I cannot make the change that I want to if I do not first gain recognition on a broad scale.
I was a fairly ordinary child, in that I didn't particularly enjoy doing chores. My family had a slogan for when one of us kids dared whine or complain. "What is the duty of the moment?" my parents would ask, and give a meaningful look. (Us older kids also happily applied it to the younger children.)
"For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God— not the result of works, so that no one may boast."
— Ephesians 2:8-9
Around the same time I began painting St Francis Xavier, an innocent comment on a Baptist friend's Facebook post sparked a friendly debate about the nature of justification and sanctification. I was about four messages in when I realised I needed to do more reading before I could adequately articulate my understanding of the mechanics of salvation. I soon found myself on an unexpected journey of intense reading, praying, and writing as I dug into a question I have often taken for granted: What does it mean to be saved?
I thought it a bit odd when I discovered that St. Cecilia—the patron saint of musicians—didn't actually sing or play an instrument. She was one of those saints whom I was familiar with since childhood; I remember seeing illustrations of her in books, her eyes raised wistfully to heaven, her fingers resting on harp strings or ivory keys. You would think that she had written a famous hymn or... something.
When Thérese was a child, her older sister Leonie decided that she had outgrown some of her playthings. Before giving them away, she offered them to her younger sisters. Celine politely chose a single toy. When it came to Thérese’s turn, she grabbed the entire basket and proclaimed, “I choose all!”
This story illustrates well how this future saint approached the spiritual life. She understood that there are many degrees of holiness and she wanted the very highest degree. “My God,” she cried, “I choose all! … ‘I choose all’ that You will!”
It was Holy Thursday, nearing midnight—that's when all the best conversations happen. A friend and I were discussing a book we had both read recently, 33 Days to Merciful Love, and how in the time of St. Thérese of Lisieux, the Jansenism heresy was shaking the Church in its teeth.
"But if you look at the Church's history," she said, "it was in the times of greatest heresy and upheaval that God raised up the greatest saints."
These words landed on my heart like a kick to the chest and I suddenly found myself blinking back tears. I fought to regain my composure as I felt Jesus say, "I want you to be that saint."
"For me to love You as You love me, I would have to borrow Your own love."
—St. Thérese of Lisieux
What love could a soul offer that would compare to Infinite Love itself? It is impossible.
. . . But like a mother who gives her child some money so that he can pay for the bouquet of flowers he wants to give her, our God gives us his own divine love so that we can love him in a way that we are utterly incapable of otherwise.
The inspiration for this image first came to me a few months ago during mass...
The gospel reading was the parable of the brides waiting for the bridegroom. I pictured the warm glow of light from their lamps, the cool blue of the sleeping town below, their faces turned outward in anticipation for the return of their beloved. But that image, like so many that flit into my imagination at random moments, was lost in the the busyness of life. I did not think of it again until the feast of the Epiphany.