GeE 11: Examples Are For Inspiration, Not To Copy

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11. “Each in his or her own way” the Council says. We should not grow discouraged before examples of holiness that appear unattainable. There are some testimonies that may prove helpful and inspiring, but that we are not meant to copy, for that could even lead us astray from the one specific path that the Lord has in mind for us. The important thing is that each believer discern his or her own path, that they bring out the very best of themselves, the most personal gifts that God has placed in their hearts (cf. 1 Cor 12:7), rather than hopelessly trying to imitate something not meant for them.

Good pastoral advice. Most all of us have heroes. It is natural to emulate them. Perhaps it is easier to mimic actions and pay less attention to the holy qualities that can be applied in many walks of life. A person might latch onto Saint Francis de Sales, for example, but one need not be ordained or become a bishop to adopt his fruitful approach to discipleship, leadership, and the devout life.

Likewise people we know in life: sons can emulate a holy mother without being female, workers a person of great talent in materials crafting or music or teaching without being a carpenter, a singer, or a professor.

One size does not fit all:

We are all called to be witnesses, but there are many actual ways of bearing witness. [Cf. Hans Urs von Balthasar, “Theology and Holiness”, in Communio 14/4 (1987), 345] Indeed, when the great mystic, Saint John of the Cross, wrote his Spiritual Canticle, he preferred to avoid hard and fast rules for all. He explained that his verses were composed so that everyone could benefit from them “in his or her own way”. [Spiritual Canticle, Red. B, Prologue, 2] For God’s life is communicated “to some in one way and to others in another” [Cf. ibid., 14-15, 2.]

An interesting assessment from the Spanish mystic. Thoughts?

You can check the full document Gaudete et Exsultate on the Vatican website.


About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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