Monday, June 13, 2011

The School of the Holy Spirit

picture source:

For God, each person is absolutely unique. Holiness is not the realization of a given model of perfection that is identical for everyone. It is the emergence of an absolutely unique reality that God alone knows, and that he alone brings to fruition. No individual knows what his own holiness consists of. Holiness is only revealed to us by degrees, as we journey on, and it is often something very different from what we imagine, so much so that the greatest obstacle on the path to holiness may be to cling too closely to the image we have of our own perfection.
— In the School of the Holy Spirit, p.18 Fr.Jacques Philippe

This is kind of a relief to hear. It is difficult not to always look upon our life in the light of comparison. To other people, the saints, Jesus Himself (WWJD?), and even our own ideas of ourselves and how holiness should look on us. I wonder how many times I have totally missed the helping hand God offered, because I was toiling away at something I thought I needed to do, sweat on my brow and trembling with effort. If I just was listening for Him, for all I know He was right there, saying, hey! Here I am! I want to give you some grace! Yoo hoo! But because I had my head down, singularly focused on my own efforts, I missed Him.

Moreover, one small act of obedience to God can sometimes cause us to make more progress spiritually than years of effort according to our own plans. Fidelity to small graces draws down bigger ones.
—In the School of the Holy Spirit, p.59

When I read this, I think of something that happened to me about 26 years ago. It is something I can look back on and practically see the big ole hand of God coming down, Monty Python-like, in a certain moment of my life.

I was living in a very sparse apartment in Manayunk (a section of Philadelphia), next to a pizza shop. (*note-If you like rodents busting into your house whenever they feel like it, some the size of cats, live next to a pizza shop in the city). Anyway, it was just me and my four year old daughter. We were really quite poor. In lieu of a table, I put up an ironing board to set things on. We ate a lot of beans and bread. Before you feel too sorry, know that I brought much of it on by my own foolishness. But there we were. I had been singing at night, mostly at hotel lounges, but was starting to suspect it wasn't something God wanted of me. So, I quit. I also suspected that becoming a welfare mom was not something God wanted of me. (No offense to anyone receiving welfare, I have gotten plenty of help over the years). But it did beg the question; now what? I realized I had not actually asked Him that exact question. I thought perhaps now would be a good time to do so. Here is how it went.

Me: God, why do I keep getting involved in these bad situations with men that are not good for me?

God: Because you don't ask for My help, input or even My opinion.

Me: (after recovering from the mild heart attack at having my question answered)
So, um, now what? I'm kind of in a bind here. No job, no money, not much food. How do we get on the road to something better?

God: silence

Me. Uh oh, I knew I was pushing my luck with that multiple question, question. Oh well. I guess I'll put on the radio.

On comes a show I liked on Christian radio, called "Curious about Christ", it was a minister and his wife, and they spoke about all things Christian, but in a warm and friendly way. During the show, a commercial played for Merry Maids, and gave a number to call for employment---a little light bulb came on-and I thought, mayyybe I should I did. Who answered the phone, but the same minister from the radio show. Whoa.

Now this was the beginning of a string of things that happened in the space of about two weeks. One things was that 1. I did get the job; 2. there was a daycare right around the corner from it that was a Montessouri school, and who had a sliding payment scale based on your salary; 3. There was going to be a period of about two weeks before it all got started, (I forget why now) and was wondering how we were going to eat. One day, I was out somewhere, and got home to find a couple of bags in the entryway, full of food, and even a Candyland game for Meghann and I to play while we waited for our Better Life to start. Turns out a friend from a church I attended just felt that she should do this. hmmm.

You know of course I took many many wrong turns in life even after that, but I always remembered that exact moment when I chose to let God in, so He could straighten up the mess I was making.

Father Corapi has a way of saying this that I always appreciate. Loosely quoted, it went something like, If you need something, ask for it! Say you are afraid to go to confession; ask for the grace to not be afraid. Say you have a certain sin with which you struggle. Ask for the grace to stop. And if necessary, ask for the grace to WANT to stop. Just keep backing up until you get to the point where you are. That's where God can be found, anyway. Right at that place.

I was overwhelmed in a situation that I couldn't see my way out of. God reached in and led me through in steps. If I had know just how many steps lay ahead, and how difficult some of them would be, I may have faltered. He is faithful, though, if we just keep asking.


  1. Wow, I was glued to this blog. You have an incredible story.

    Not sure if you're going to go back to my blog to see my response to your comment. If you want to see what the church looks like, here’s their website:

    I was going to post it with the blog, but to be honest i don’t think the video does it justice. It is much more beautiful than it shows.

    And you're right; we hurt our family more than others. I've said that myself many times.

  2. The link didn't work, so I found the church's website and there were gorgeous slide shows. The pictures of the outside (I love the one of the Blessed Mother) are beautiful, but deceptively unassuming! My goodness, the inside is chock full of incredible art, mosaics and that domed ceiling! (I couldn't tell, but there seemed to be more than one). Wow, and you say that was your parish growing up?

  3. You were overwhelmed, yet somehow you knew, and still did the best you could for yourself and your child. And now look where you are. Awesome!

  4. No, that was a parish a little further than mine. It was in the neighborhood but not my closest parish. But yes it is gorgeous! What makes it even more special is that the art doesn't clash with itself. It all seems to harmonize together well. The church I went to as a kid is Our Lady of Gadualupe, a pretty church too, but not anything like Regina Pacis.

  5. Great post Kelly! I am grapling with some mistakes from the past and I DO forget to ask God...the obvious One to go to but always forgotten. ~Theresa

  6. So true. But what we do now is today we look to Him and strive to do better! Blessings!

  7. I forgot to mention I just picked up that same book by Jacques Philippe and I am looking forward to reading it.