11 Feb Taking the First Step
Over this past weekend I had the pleasure of attending the Pure Life Summit in London, Ontario which was put on by the Family Foundations Institute. The keynote speaker at the event was Ken Yasinski, a Catholic speaker and apologist from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. I really enjoyed listening to Ken share his story of how God brought him from the depths of despair to the joy of faith. Ken was very inspiring.
I would like to share and expand upon a few things that stood out for me in Ken’s talks that I think are great lessons for all of us.
One of the key points that Ken made during his presentation is that the choices we make determine the course of our lives. He said “I don’t believe in life-changing experiences. I believe in life-changing decisions.” The point Ken was making here is that two people can have very similar experiences and yet have very different lives, so what determines the course of our lives is not the experiences we have, but rather, the decisions we make based on those experiences. Think, for example, of Pope St. John Paul II whose mother, father, brother and sister all died before he was twenty. He also lived through the Nazi and Soviet occupation of Poland and in the midst of these events witnessed the deaths of many friends. He was constantly surrounded by death, destruction and loss growing up, and yet he did not give in to despair like so many people living in Poland at the time, but rather he opened his heart up to the love of God and entrusted himself to Mary as his mother. His devotion to Our Lady shaped the course of his life and enabled him to have absolute trust in the goodness of God despite the challenges he had throughout his life. Many of us would have given up on God in the midst of so many trials, but he chose to make his faith the foundation of his life and it enabled him to become one of the most influential men in the history of the Church.
Each choice we make has an impact of where we will go in life. As Ken said over last weekend “you cannot be a saint without decisions.” Think of the lives of those people you look up to. What choices did they make that enabled them to live the life you admire?
The Church canonizes saints so that we have examples of men and women who lived virtuous lives in the midst in virtually any circumstance. These men and women are role models for us to emulate. They inspire us to pursue a life of holiness so that we can also enjoy eternal happiness with God. The path to Heaven is never easy, a point which becomes very clear reading through the lives of the saints, but God gives an abundance of blessings to those who chose to live a life of holiness.
My own life has been guided by the examples of various saints. John Paul II is of course the primary example of a saint I admire, but another example of a man who I would like to emulate and who made tough decisions that shaped his life is Blessed Alvaro Del Portillo. He was an excellent student who gained all the credentials necessary to become an engineer. He had a great job and seemed to have it made but then he gave it all up in order to devote all of his time to helping St. Josemaria Escriva build Opus Dei. His choice to leave behind the engineering career he studied for shaped the course of his life and enabled him to work side-by-side with a saint to shape the future of the Catholic Church.
One last example of a great saint is Saint Francis of Assisi who came from a wealthy family and was a great soldier. He had a promising career ahead of him and the prestige of being a leader of men but he chose to leave everything behind, even surrendering the clothes off his back, in order to build up the Church. He went on to found the Franciscan order who to this day are preaching the Gospel everywhere.
There are so many canonized saints that Church holds up as examples to us of how to live a life of holiness. I encourage you to read the lives of the saints and find one or two that you can relate to and ask for their intercession that you may live a holy life like they did.
All of the saints have one thing in common: despite the experiences they had and the circumstances of their lives, they made choices which enabled them to live the life God was calling them to. Their lives can inspire us to make the decisions we need to in order to live the life that God is calling us to and that we so great desire.
As Ken Yasinski said over the weekend if we want to be saints then “we must decide to surrender to God, that is step one.” The first step is always the hardest but once we make that commitment and surrender to God we must chose every day to follow His plan for our lives. This can be difficult because does not usually God show us the whole plan for our lives He simply shows us the next step we need to take and then He asks us to walk by faith and put our trust in Him. If we do this God can accomplish great things through us, but everyday we must chose to surrender our will to God and trust him.
God does not ask us become saints overnight, it is a process. All that God is asking us to do is to take that first step and let go of all our plans. Once we do that He can work in our lives and give us the graces we need to make the tough decisions we need to make everyday that will lead us ever closer to Him.
Let us pray for one another that we will have the courage to step out in faith each day and surrender our lives to God.