The one thing I can do

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It’s easy to be overcome by worries and cares, whether considering one’s own affairs or those of the wider world. This is especially the case, in my experience, when occupying one’s thoughts for any considerable amount of time on the present condition of the Church and of the wider culture in the West. Be it keeping up with blogs about the great spiritual and moral crisis we face today, or embroiling oneself in one of so many popular (and often quite heated) debates, it becomes easy to focus exceedingly on the wider, big-picture problems of today, often to the detriment of what God places immediately before us. Many of us will never engage with these culture-wide or international problems on a scale comparable to their own. Rather, for most of us our direct sphere of influence– at least as far as we’ll ever notice– will only ever extend to those whom we will meet face to face, those tasks which are given to us simply as duties to state. But once we remember that, each one of us must act on that knowledge: the decisions we make that will ultimately have the greatest range of consequences will often be those made closest to home.

That’s above all the case with how our actions affect us as images of God created to enjoy everlasting life. Each generation faces a different set of problems than the last, but the strong, loving hand of God guides each of them through its course. Throughout it all, what will never change is what I’m capable of: in the end, the only important thing I have any say in is what happens to my soul after I die. My actions may affect a great deal more, yes, but my actions must be framed by the knowledge that the best thing I can do with all my life is cooperate with God, who will provide all things for our salvation. Even if I spend my whole life in activism for all the right causes (all very good as far as they go, truly) but neglect to love the Lord with all my heart, all my soul, and all my strength– then at best everything I have done will have counted for nothing. But if I live in total self-giving to God, doing my best to seek Him and not myself, trust Him and not myself, love Him and not myself– then no matter of what little consequence my life will have appeared to be, if I have loved Him with all my heart, all my soul, and all my strength, I will have done the only thing worth doing; and, more likely than not, I will have given my neighbor the best kind of help there is.

There’s just no replacing personal sanctity. And, as the poet Charles Péguy once wrote:

“Life holds only one tragedy, ultimately: not to have been a saint.”

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