Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire. St. Catherine of Siena
I am contemplative. I pray to discern. I linger longer at the heart of Love to hear His call, His longing for me. A life of listening prayerfulness is about listening to God more than listening to myself. I listen to hear His heart for my heart. I listen to hear His heart for another. I listen for family’s hearts and for friends’ hearts and for my spiritual directees’ hearts. I am contemplative.
But sometimes I want to stay only contemplative and that is, on occasion, a choice made of fear. I want to be sure. I want to be clear. I don’t want to be stretched or rearranged into the unknown. A comfort zone is comfortable, isn’t it? But, God doesn’t really call me to be comfortable. He calls me to step into love’s action.
Contemplation in action is requesting more of me.
Thinking on the seemingly disparate differences between contemplation and action led me again to St. Catherine of Siena. She wasn’t a familiar name until I visited Siena in 2004, while my daughter, an art major, was studying abroad in Florence, Italy. Being a good mother, I flew over to check in on her. Oh, and by the way, while I’m here…let’s see a bit of Italy.
One gold-lit afternoon as we meandered medieval lanes in Siena, we came across references to St. Catherine. Born in the 1300s to a merchant family who were somewhat prosperous, she chose a spiritual commitment to Christ over a social commitment to marriage and affluence, having experienced some holy encounters with Christ. Upon entering an order of laywomen, she spent three years in solitary contemplation. Such silence of prayer set a foundation of strength and stability at a heart level with God. Yet, God called her forth from her life of contemplation into a life of action. For St. Catherine, the blend of contemplation and action were not opposed to one another, but were rather complements that took her singleness of heart to a service of others. She encouraged, mediated, taught, comforted and served others through her contemplation gathered from her prayerful heart, her presence offered by her serving heart, and her gift of writing, both letters and a book, grown from an obedient heart.
I watch St. Catherine and find myself challenged: will I sit only in contemplation and never act? Or will I move forward into a life that blends the power of silence and the power of service?
I’m at a change point. It’s time to step into or step up to action. My novel has languished on the shelf, literally, while I’ve gone about my life of being a spiritual director. My prose and poetry have shriveled in a dried out corner while my energy has focused on a nonfiction book on the physical body and our life with Christ and the Body of other Christ-followers, due out in January of 2013.
It’s time now to believe, to act, to move past thinking about to being within, to doing the work, to creating the wonder with another part of my writer’s heart.
The pivot points are here:
- Discernment: I am a writer. I have a story worth telling. This is God’s gifting to me. I am to celebrate His Presence in me by writing words to others.
- Delight: Like Eric Liddell’s famous line in Chariots of Fire, I feel God’s pleasure when I run by writing in His giftings of my heart, both in nonfiction and fiction, in poetry and prose.
- Discipline: Thinking about writing won’t write the story, won’t create the poem. Investing in discipline will. I will arise before the day takes off and in the quiet of dawn, I will act as a writer does: I will write.
St. Catherine spurs me on with her prayers: I have naught to give save what Thou hast given me.
She reminds me that effort is involved: Nothing great is ever achieved without much enduring.
She challenges me: Proclaim the truth and do not be silent through fear.
She encourages me: I treasure your knowing how to give the world a kick.
St. Catherine sets the bar high: Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.
I’m moving forward, blending my contemplative heart and my writing art into an action that will set the world on fire…or at least start a small blaze glowing. Who knows what can happen from here?
What about you? How will you set the world on fire by being whom God meant you to be?