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Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Embracing Duty and Honor to Make "Something Beautiful for God"

Thank you, St. Joseph, for
showing fathers how to be
dutiful dads!
Snippets of two poems are running through my head today. The first one is:

I could not love thee, dear, so much
Loved I not honor more.

Those lines come from Richard Lovelace's poem, To Lucasta, Going to the Warres (1649) Here's the whole thing, a lovely poem worth the trouble to memorize.

Tell me not, sweet, I am unkind,
That from the nunnery
Of thy chaste breast and quiet mind
To war and arms I fly.

True, a new mistress now I chase,
The first foe in the field;
And with a stronger faith embrace,
A sword, a horse, a shield.

Yet this inconstancy is such
As thou too shalt adore;
I could not love thee, dear, so much,
Loved I not honor more.

The second snippet is from a 19th century New England transcendalist, Ellen Sturgis Hooper, titled I Slept and Dreamed that Life was Beauty:

I slept, and dreamed that life was Beauty;
I woke, and found that life was Duty.

That poem is even shorter than Lucasta:

I slept, and dreamed that life was Beauty;
I woke, and found that life was Duty.
Was thy dream then a shadowy lie?
Toil on, sad heart, courageously,
And thou shalt find thy dream to be
A noonday light and truth to thee.
The Dial (July 1840)

Duty and honor go together and, if Hooper is right, doing one's duty represents a key truth that does, in fact, create, in the words of Mother Teresa, "Something beautiful for God." The call to do one's duty is a significant part of the Fatima message. Our Lady called for sacrifice when she appeared to the shepherd children in 1917; and in 1946, Our Lord appeared to Sr. Lucy and told here what pleased Him most.  "The sacrifice that each one can make is to do his duty and obey my law. That is the form of penance I now demand." 

The Church emphasizes our obligation to faithfully perform the duties of our state in life, and St. Joseph is a perfect model for us. He embraced his role as foster father of Christ.

What is my duty? As a child of God, a wife, mother, and grandmother, my duties are different from those of a cloistered nun. I please God in a way uniquely linked to my family duties: to love and support my children and grandchildren, pass on the faith, give good example, etc. I honor God the more I faithfully perform my duties. And one duty we all share is the duty of suffering. We are, I think, most like Jesus and Mary when we suffer. And what an honor to share in the passion of Christ. But how hard it is to say yes to that pain and say (sometimes through gritted teeth), "Thy will, not mine, be done."

Sometimes I think about what epitaph would be appropriate on my tombstone. (My kids joke about how long it takes for me to bring up my demise at family functions, but really, shouldn't we all reflect frequently on the four last things? Death, Judgment, Heaven, or Hell?) Anyway, I think an appropriate epitaph would be, "She tried to do her duty." Sometimes I don't do it very well, but I get up every day with the intention to try my best and give my all -- whether it's a thimbleful or a cupful. I wish it could always be an ocean full.

What's on your list of duties to fulfill this morning?

1 comment:

Leo D. Lion said...

I remember along time ago, I was in my office, contemplating courses of legal action, to discover the truth. What were the words and statements and the origin. What evidence developed neither misconceptions or exagerations? I mandated more for the the exact 100 % TRUTH, or at least I'm confident in a 90 % + settlement. All of a sudden in my soul's office space (much different from the physical office) ,,, in my pursuits of the truth and duty I meandered away from God...
All the alarms went off and my soul became quiet. Then the spark of Baptisim occurred. That indelible, unextinguishable light.
Thank You Triune God.