The following is a transcript from the Raised Catholic podcast. To listen to the podcast, click here.
Today is episode 14: What’s Your Story?
In our next few episodes, we’ll continue re-building our faith with topics like sin, grace, and ecumenism, just to name a few, and these episodes will bring us straight through the Easter season, but before we reach the three Holy Days of the Triduum and look more deeply into the story of Jesus’s death and resurrection, I thought it would be a good idea to examine our own stories and what we will bring to those Holy Days. My mother used to say that you can find yourself reflected in at least one of the characters of that epic story that you hear proclaimed each year at mass, and if you’re like me, that character probably changes from year to year. For sure, knowing own story can help us to more fully enter His.
If you were born and raised Catholic, you might find the summation of a person’s life story in their obituary, or in the eulogy or homily that is proclaimed at their funeral mass. I am a music minister who sings funeral masses, so I have been privileged to hear many eulogies over the years, and I’m never not moved by them. It’s an impossible task to wrap up the story of a dear one’s life in just a few minutes, especially when overwhelmed by emotion, but frequently you’ll hear family members telling that story through the lens of what that person loved. She loved her grandchildren. He loved the Cape. She loved the Red Sox. He loved motorcycles. It’s a good window into the experience of a life, but it can’t come close to telling a person’s story when so often, we don’t even know the story we’re living in as we’re living it. Our stories are so much bigger, more colorful, and more connected than we can even imagine.
Your story started before you were born, as it says in Psalm 139, verse 13, but if you take into account the many generations who came before you, the crazy combination of specific people in various places and times who overcame unknown trials to produce you in your unique wonderfulness – well, it seems clear that your story matters. As it says in the Book of Esther, you were made for such a time as this. The grace of God plus your particular gifts, your challenges, and your circumstances, these are all coming together to tell important parts of your story.
There are the parts you already know – your history, plus the parts you’ve chosen, and all of these might become part of your eulogy one day, like your job and relationships, hobbies, the things that you love. But what is underlying all of that in the story of your particular beautiful soul? It’s a good thing to think about. St. Therese of Lisieux is a good example of an underlying story. She wasn’t anyone remarkable in the view of the world, a French nun who died of tuberculosis at age 24 – it would really have been a pretty simple obituary to write, but her interior and contemplative life was so filled with drama and unique insight that it would lead her one day to be considered a Doctor of the Catholic Church, that is someone who’s made a significant contribution to theology or doctrine through the course of their own study. Therese was a kid, really. She was pretty sensitive. She was physically sick most of her life. Some might say she was theatrical, but all along God was creating something beautiful in the story of her soul, something that years later, millions of people would read – in 35 languages no less.
I think back to the funeral masses that I have been a part of, how I often wanted to know more about the stories of those who had passed, and I suppose I will, one day when we all meet up again. But sometimes in the midst of a funeral, the heart of their stories rise to the surface, somewhere between the words of the eulogy, the mass, and the expressions on the faces of their loved ones, and these stories are so holy that I’ve held on to them ever since.
Here are just a few of those stories.
She was fearful her whole life and she only wanted to meet Jesus.
He used the pain of his own addiction to help other people find freedom.
She was determined to be joyful even in the midst of great suffering.
He made people feel seen when he talked with them.
She was quiet, but much stronger and more determined than anyone could have guessed.
He surrendered control and the profound pain of his story, and God turned it into peace and joy.
She did hard things and showed others that they could, too.
He was a bright light.
She never saw herself as a leader, she just saw a human need and filled it, over and over again.
He abandoned himself totally in trust to God.
She forgave, even when that seemed impossible.
All of this has me thinking about my own story, what chapter I’m on (as if we ever get to know that), and what exactly God is cultivating in the place where it’s just me and Him. What could be said about your soul’s story today, if you stripped away the roles and the hobbies, and all the things that you love? And what about those early chapters, what do those mean and where did they lead you? What is God writing in your precious singular life today? Well, these are great questions on which to meditate or journal and I’ll include some links in today’s show notes that might help you to do just that.
For some of us – especially for some of us women – the most important part will be to see ourselves in the lead role of our own stories, and not simply as supporting players. We might need an edit or two and thank God that’s always available to us. We may need to learn to tell our own stories through a narrative of grace instead of self-criticism. I am working on that myself. Maybe we need to look deeper into our Once Upon a Times in order to get to our Happily Ever Afters. Whatever it is, it’s your story and in partnership with your friend Jesus, it’s making a real impact in every single one of the stories around you. Oh friend, it’s all so much bigger and more colorful than we can yet imagine, and not until all the stories are completed will we begin to know just how big it all is. By the grace of God, it’s not the end until it is, so let’s write well.
My friend, thank you so much for joining me today. If you liked this podcast, would you please consider sharing it with a friend or leaving a review wherever you listen to podcasts? I would really appreciate that, but before we end today, let’s pray together.
In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, amen.
Dear God, help us to know that there is no such thing as an ordinary story. If anyone really knew the deepest parts of us, it would be a book that they could never put down, a movie that we’d never want to end. Help us to know our own stories and to work with you to write well. And we pray for our dear ones’ stories, too. In Jesus’s name we pray, amen.
Okay friend, I’ll see you next time.