Overcoming Perfectionism and Finding Peace

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In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

“He willed to create great souls comparable to lilies and roses, but He has created smaller ones and these must be content to be daisies or violets destined to give joy to God’s glances when He looks down at His feet.”

– St. Therese of Lisieux

Fear of striving towards holiness because of the past we have lived – being discouraged by the thoughts and judgment of others as we grow in holiness. These are feelings all too commonly expressed to me by other souls God has called to join His Church later in life. In fact, these are concerns your humble author struggles with daily in her perpetual striving to grow in holiness and develop a closer relationship with Our Lord.

In a fashion different than many previous letters I have written for this website I am going to speak rather plainly and frankly. God has not filled my soul with any poetics this week, and I believe this is because He wills for this message to be concise and straightforward. However, it is through simplicity of writing that a topic such as this ought to be addressed as it seeks to reach out to those perhaps unfamiliar with the flowery and poetic style all too common in spiritual writings. May God let my words reach those who are struggling the most in their efforts to grow closer to Him. Indeed, may He use me to reach out to those who are their own worst enemies pushing themselves away from Him and sabotaging their own way by brushing over the already narrow path which leads to us to His Kingdom in Heaven. Amen.

I have personally led an awful life. I still struggle often in my own life to remain upon the path God has called me to at this later stage of my life. Before I was invited to join His Holy Church I smoked, I drank excessively – indeed, I was a terrible alcoholic, I have taken many different drugs, I have covered myself in tattoos which would be considered offensive by even the least devout, I have had sex outside of marriage, I have been a member of the Communist Party, I have been a practicing Satanist – in short, I have, so to speak, fallen about as far away from God as a mortal creature is capable. Yet, somehow and for some reason, God still called me to join His Church.

Often, because of my appearance and my past, I struggle with becoming bashful in continuing my efforts to grow in holiness and striving after a closer relationship with our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. I sometimes become, for example, anxious to wear my veil at Mass even though I know it is the proper thing to do because I worry perhaps others will think I am ‘overcompensating’ – as some so often unfairly say of men who drive, for instance, huge trucks. However, I believe that feeling stems not from them – although, perhaps they are indeed judging me which is my penance which I readily accept as difficult as it may be – but from within myself. I believe it stems from my feelings of unworthiness to be a member of God’s Holy Church. However, while this most certainly is true – that I am but an unworthy, faithless, sinner – He still called me, invited me personally, to join myself to His Mystical Body. While I most certainly will never be as holy and perfect as those to whom I look up to as spiritual inspirations I must – as hard as it may be – remind myself that while I had to respond with my own ‘fiat’ most certainly it was God – not myself – who initiated this love affair when He invited me into His Church. He put out His hand and – unworthy as I may be – by His Infinite Mercy I dared to choose to cooperate with His Divine Grace and take it.

For some reason, my Lord wanted me for His own. Who am I to question His Perfect Wisdom?  While I may never be – indeed, most likely will never be – one of those Roses to which Saint Therese referred to in the opening quote of this letter I am still a member of His Holy Garden. I may not even be a wildflower. Perhaps I am but a humble blade of grass, yet it is the humble grass which binds fast the soil that is the foundation from which the beautiful Roses and Lilies blossom, from which the wildflowers which accent these come. I may be unseen and unknown, but I am happy merely to be within the fences of His Holy Garden – to be a member of His Mystical Body. That is enough for me, and if you are a little soul called to be nothing more than a support – unnoticed until you are called upon to fulfill your duty even if that is only last long enough to hold firm the soil which is the foundation of His Graden until you are invited to join yourself to that soil which you have clung to throughout your life – it ought to be enough for you as well. That is not to say we must not strive to become a beautiful flower – if God wills it anything is possible – but if we are not destined to such lofty heights it is well enough – just as great a blessing, indeed – to strive to be the best blade of grass you are capable of growing into; to fill the role which God has willed for you as best as you are able. God had a plan in mind for us the day He called us to His Church, and now the only thing left for you and I to do say “yes” to cooperating with His Grace whenever He presents us with an opportunity to do so. Indeed, in doing so we will become perfect in that we will be fulfilling as best as we are able His will for us, and what is a higher holiness than to become one who has willingly through the Great Grace of God joined our will to His – in truth, has offered – has sacrificed – our will to Him?

While I may not be – while my past most certainly is not – pretty when viewed from the outside I can still – I ought to still – strive continually to become a better servant to my Master. In fact, that is the only task worth striving for in this short gift of life. Indeed, that is why life is such a blessing as it is our opportunity to show our love for our Lord in lovingly and trustingly giving the gift right back to Him to hold for us until He calls us to that more perfect and blessed eternal life with Him in Heaven. May we all be invited to such perfection and come to rest in the embrace of our Heavenly Father who desires nothing more than to be bound in an intimate union with each of His faithful possessions. Amen.

Therefore, my brothers and sisters, life is a continual stream of choices presented to us in order to allow us to choose the good as often as we are able and to pray for the Grace to improve when we can not. In these times of weakness – when we experience these apparent setbacks upon our path towards holiness, when we choose not the good – we must persevere in our efforts praying for the Grace to improve when we fall; trusting in – and seeking out – Gods Infinite Mercy – and seeking out His forgiveness through the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

As imperfect as we may know ourselves to be we Little Souls must not let our shame in our imperfection keep us from seeking to grow more pleasing for our Bridegroom – a desire we all ought to hold in the deepest chambers of our soul – stop us from working towards that perfection. Even though we will most likely – because of our human weakness – ‘miss the mark’ so to speak, we must never ignore out of fear or anxiety a call from God to grow in holiness. Trust in His Wisdom and Grace for He knows what is best for you better than you could ever hope to know for yourself. Who are we to challenge His Infinite Wisdom? Who are we to ignore His advances upon our soul? Who are we to turn away the Bridegroom from His rightful possession? Who are we to say we are unworthy when it is He alone who is capable of making such a judgment?

It is true that we can never hope to become holy by our own power, but we are not left to struggle alone for He is with us always. Through God, all things are indeed possible. I must remind myself of this consistently, and I am confident you will benefit from doing so as well. We must not judge ourselves unworthy of the call to grow in holiness, and – equally – we must not let the judgments of others keep us from setting out upon that narrow path. Many a pilgrim who set out looking fresh reach their destination ragged and spent. Let us pray we reach the destination no matter how hard the track ravages our body or soul for we have the greatest of Guides along the path if only we would trust in Him the Holy Cartographer. Conversely, just as we must not judge ourselves unworthy to grow in holiness – but may only strive to recognize the times when we have chosen to not cooperate with God’s Grace and seek forgiveness – we must be sure not to judge others in their current state of holiness or discourage their efforts to grow closer to Our Lord.

Some of us are called to be beautiful roses and lilies, some of us are called to be wildflowers created to support the beauty of the select spiritual giants in the Gardener’s Holy Garden, while yet some of us still – your humble author included – are merely the grass struggling earnestly to hold firmly to the foundation. We must all strive to unite ourselves with the unique role to which God has called each of us individually. We ought to seek to fulfill that role – indeed, to unceasingly seek to improve in fulfilling that role – which God has deemed right and proper for us. Certainly, there may very well indeed be weeds in the Garden while here on earth; yet it is the exclusive right of the Holy Gardener to remove these weeds from His harvest. We ought to be satisfied with continuing to play our part as best we are able. Trust in the Gardener of Heaven alone to ‘weed out’ the weeds. We have not the eye He has – we do not know if some plant now appearing as a weed may be destined to later bloom into the most beautiful flower; such are the miracles worked by the Gardener of Souls. In short, we can not see into the soul and know the heart nor the intentions of another as can God the Father and therefore ought to be content with our own striving towards holiness helping only to encourage – never to discourage – those we come upon in their efforts to grow in holiness.

When you feel compelled to dash aside another – to say a harsh word or give an admonishment – you must remind yourself of Saint Augustine and consider what would have happened to this Holy man had his mother Saint Monica cast him aside as a weed and perhaps unwittingly discouraged him from responding to God calling him to holiness. How much harm could have been caused to all of God’s people if Saint Monica had not trusted lovingly in God’s Mercy and Grace to call her son to Him instead putting him off from seeking after God entirely by admonishing him harshly? Indeed, if you notice someone struggling speak to your spiritual director or parish priest for advice on how to proceed if you feel the need – never trust your judgement alone in these matters as we who are so weak are prone to fall victim to our own emotions and therefore ought never to believe our own opinions in such essential matters as guiding God’s flock. It is not the place of the sheep but the place of the Shepherd to direct the flock. At least when it comes to your weak and faithless author, little souls are so full of our shortcomings  – so often God, in His Mercy, finds ways to make this little soul so ever more terribly aware of the number of her own shortfallings – that those seeking to walk along the Way of Perfection ought to be so most assuredly busy enough correcting ourselves – as we do, indeed, need much correction – that there is not nearly enough time remaining in the day to even consider amending another as our souls are so often in such perilous danger of falling out of Grace with our Lord that they require our constant rebuking and vigilant watch to subdue.

I feel it is important to mention if you must rebuke another, and have been giving proper guidance and a recommendation to do so, then, indeed, it is appropriate to the virtue of obedience to do so even if it causes you anxiety. If you are acting out of perfect obedience then you have nothing to fear in your carrying out such a rebuking as it is not you who is doing the correcting but God through you – and God rebukes only, even if sometimes harshly, from a position of Profound and Divine Love. Therefore, if you are full of Love of God His Love will find expression in you. Remember always in giving correction – if you have been told to do so – bringing a soul towards more deeply falling in Love with God must always be the intention. As in all things of advice do not trust me outrightly. Go to your spiritual director or parish priest. Defer to them in all matters of this nature as instructed by Saint Teresa of Avila. Following the advice of this Holy Saint has always served me well.

In summary, then, my dearest brothers and most cherished sisters in Christ, let us first work to content ourselves with being precisely who God has willed for us to be. Let us offer Him our wills as a loving sacrifice. Let us die to self so we may truly live in Him. Let us work to perfect ourselves by choosing to cooperate with every opportunity of Grace God sends to us, and let us busy ourselves meditating upon our weakness and inability to work any good ourselves alone so that we may be made more aware of our absolute dependence upon the Lord for anything good in our lives. In this way we may see the profound Love and Mercy He has shown to us by calling us to His Church and most importantly by His Suffering – indeed, He even now continues to suffer for our sins – on our behalf. He has chosen us as His own, and therefore by His Grace are we saved and raised from sinfulness. Without Him, we could do nothing to reach His Holy Kingdom, but by His death, we were given the opportunity to say “fiat” and choose to cooperate with His Grace. “By whose stripes you were healed.” (1 Peter 2:24).

What a shame it is, my God, when we, in our weakness, refuse You our Bridegroom. Let us never again, my Lord I pray You to give all your faithful servants the strength to do so, reject Your hand when You reach down to offer us an opportunity to raise our hearts to You by cooperating with Your Grace. May we never find ourselves so low as to choose to turn Your Love away; but if we should allow ourselves to fall so far, my Lord I beg You, call each of us back quickly to Your Holy Church. And, My Beloved Lord, if we should be so Blessed to be in Your Grace may You use us as You see fit our humble lives to call gain more faithful for Your flock.

My Lord, I consecrate myself to Your Holy Spirit this day. May You Guide me in my life and take my will as a sacrifice of Love so that You may join it to Yours and use to gain for You many souls. But if You find me lacking, my Lord I beg You as You will most assuredly find Your servant lacking, grant me the Grace of an opportunity – as You are Infinitely Merciful to those who sincerely seek Your Profound Forgiveness – to offer You again my soul and the strength to cooperate again with Your Will. Be it better yet, my Lord if You so Will it, that my soul never comes back to me at all and instead remains in the safekeeping of Your Mother, the Blessed Virgin in Heaven, Spouse of the Holy Spirit, who will help me never fall away from You again. Through Love of Her, my spirit shall be joined to her Holy Spouse to whom I consecrate myself this day. And, in Union with the Holy Ghost, I am united to You My Beloved Jesus. Amen.

Trust in the Lord. Fear not to grow in Holiness. The rewards are most assuredly great in Heaven for the Little Soul who accepts lovingly and patiently the role God Wills for them to play in His Garden no matter how insignificant the task may seem. Know that God Himself has deemed you proper for it and has called you by name to Him. Therefore, my brothers and sisters, seek always to strive to be entirely who God Wills for you to be. May we, by the Grace and Mercy of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, be successful in our little endeavors to grow in holiness. Amen.

Never let your anxieties keep you from persisting in becoming more pleasing to your Lord. Never let your fear of the judgment of others cause you to stray from the path or give up something which God has called you to do so that you may grow ever closer to Him. Be faithful, my brothers and sisters, and be so boldly.

Let us close this letter, as we so often do, with a prayer from the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary:

Forgive, O Lord, we beseech thee, the offenses of they servants; that we, who are unable to please thee by our own acts, may be saved by the intercession of the Mother of thy Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, thy Son, our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, world without end. Amen.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.Amen.

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