Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of September 22, 2003
Acknowledge your own complexity
By FR. RON ROLHEISER, omi
Peace is not just the absence of war or conflict, but is harmony and wholeness.
"And, as I get older, I feel more like the baroness, long more for Catherine, but think that maybe the little girl daydreaming on a hillside in Finland might be who I really am."
These words come from a spiritual giant, someone who attained both wholeness and sanctity after a long search and difficult struggle, not someone who's still grappling with initial conversion. What her words highlight are two things, how complex we are and how difficult is it to find wholeness.
Like Catherine Doherty, all of us have a number of different persons inside us. Inside each of us there's someone who knows the truth of the Gospel call, is drawn to the religious, strives towards self-renunciation, and that knows there are more important things than worldly achievement and comfort. But, inside each of us too, there's also a hedonist, a sensualist, a person who wants to drink in fully the wine and the pleasures of this life. Moreover, inside each of us there's also a little girl or little boy, daydreaming still on a hillside somewhere.
Soren Kierkegaard defined a saint as someone who "wills the one thing." But, with all these different persons inside us, what do we really will? What's really our deepest desire?
Given that grace is meant to build upon nature and not annihilate it, it's too simple to think that sanctity is merely a question of the "spiritual person" inside us triumphing over the person inside of us who loves this world or over the child in us who is still given over to daydreaming. Wholeness means somehow making a whole, a harmony, out of all these different persons. To ignore, deny, annihilate or bypass one part for another is precisely never to attain wholeness.
Sanctity consists in wholeness and a whole person, like Christ, is someone who is both a drinker of wine and an ascetic, a lover of this life and of the next, a dreamer and a realist, among many other things, all at the same time. What must be rejected in the spiritual quest is not our nature, with its endless paradoxes and seeming contradictory attractions, but any recipe for holiness that would have us believe sanctity can be obtained easily, without tension, confusion and great patience.
Sanctity too consists in coming to peace. Peace is not just the absence of war or conflict, but is harmony and wholeness. We come to peace when we make harmony out of discord - with all the pieces accounted for and each given its proper place. To cut off parts of ourselves in the quest for wholeness is tantamount to a pianist sawing off part of his or her keyboard. It makes things a lot simpler, but it also makes it impossible to play most pieces of music.
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