Perfection was set before me; I understood that to become a saint one has to suffer much, seek out always the most perfect thing to do, and forget self. I understood, too, there were many degrees of perfection and each soul was free to respond to the advances of Our Lord, to do little or much for Him, in a word, to choose among the sacrifices He was asking. Then, as in the days of my childhood, I cried out, “My God ‘I choose all!’ I don’t want to be a saint by halves, I’m not afraid to suffer for You, I fear only one thing: to keep my own will; so take it, for ‘I choose all’ that You will!”
-St. Therese of Lisieux (Story of a Soul)
This past week I sent out a message to my mission support group on Facebook letting them know that I had decided to delete my Facebook page. It was about 7am in the morning, we had just gotten out of our morning Holy Hour, and I wasn’t prepared to go into full details as to why I had made this decision, but I knew it had to be done. I promised a blog would soon follow explaining the reasons why I had come to this decision, and here it is.
We’ve been reading Story of a Soul by St. Therese lately and I’ve been absolutely floored by this lady’s holiness. From an incredibly young age she knew her Father’s love for her. She understood her call to sainthood and the sacrifices that would be involved, and she knew that the graces of the Lord provided for all of those sacrifices and more. She understood, too, that in order to be a saint, she could not be a saint by halves but would have to lead a life without compromise.
As I’ve read her story I’ve found myself constantly asking how this girl grew up with such a great understanding of the Father’s love and grace in her life. Everything from this question has led me back to her earthly father, Louis Martin.
It’s funny: there are no passages I remember where Therese talks about her father sitting her down to teach her about prayer, sacrifice, or theology. When Therese does talk about her father, she talks about two things. First is the ways that he showers her with love. She has no doubt that her father delights in her. Her memories of him sharing in her delights and loving her are so vivid and she speaks of them with an incredible warmth. This is a child who knew that she was loved.
The second way Therese talks about her father is in the way he prays. There’s one passage in particular in which she recounts sitting next to him at Mass in her childhood. As she shares this memory with us, this future saint doesn’t speak of the ways she is enamored with the celebration of the Mass or her love for the Eucharist. She tells us that her attention was on neither of these things, instead she was simply staring at her father. She describes the fervency of his prayer: the ways in which he was enamored with this celebration and the example that this was for her.
Reflecting on these things, I see how Therese’s father has led her towards sainthood. First, his fatherly love, which she speaks of so passionately, taught her of her Heavenly Father’s love. She knew that she had a Father above who loved her even more perfectly and she lived in that faith.
Second, the very example of his life inspired her towards holiness. Before she understood prayer, she saw it witnessed by her father. Before she desired sainthood, she saw her father striving for it. His life revealed to her a way of living according to God’s love and grace.
So what does any of this have to do with my decision to delete my Facebook?
First is Therese’s example of a life without compromise. From her witness, the Lord has invited me to recognize the ways that I choose sainthood by halves, the ways that I let Him into the areas of my life I’m comfortable for Him to be in, and the places where I compromise. I know the Lord is bigger than just my prayer schedule and planned times of mission. He has something to say about each area of my life, including my use of Facebook.
Facebook has been incredible for me. Working in youth ministry for the past couple of years, it enabled me to connect with teens and spread the word about events and happenings at the parish. Even now, having moved across the country, it’s been a great way for me to keep in touch with friends and family back home. Yet the ways I’ve twisted my use for Facebook have been affecting me in very real ways.
I, too, can claim a level of Facebook addiction, spending far too much time on the site or constantly checking for that little red flag notifying me that there has been a new development in my electronic social realm. This is a large reason for my decision. As it says in 1 Cor. 10: “Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God.”
The amount of time I spent on my Facebook was beyond the scope of simply keeping in touch with friends or family, and frankly it kept me from an awareness that Lord is always present in my life, not just in my times of prayer or mission. It kept me from an awareness that the Lord had a plan for me to rest that would bring glory to Him.
Another part of the issue was, in all honestly, vanity. As I said, the ways I used Facebook went beyond the healthy realm of a means to keep in touch. I’m embarrassed to admit that I would find myself browsing my own pictures looking for my next profile pic. I would spend an hour on the internet browsing pages and checking emails, refreshing my Facebook tab every 5 or 10 minutes to check for any new notifications. I would get excited when friends put up pictures of me in albums and irritated with the friends who would wait 6 months to post pictures of us on a night out.
Seriously. What is that if not vanity?
What is that if not self love?
That’s not the man I want to be, and I know that’s not the man the Lord has made me to be. Sure, I could justify keeping my Facebook by saying I’d tone down my use, limiting how many times I’d log on in a week and, yes, that might work for a little while. But I know that when I have made those attempts before, I have fallen back into old habits.
If your hand or foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter into life maimed or crippled than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter into life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into fiery Gehenna. (Matt. 18: 8-9)
My desire for holiness far outweighs my desire for social networking. That sounds so obvious, but for quite some time, my life did not reflect that truth. And that fact brings me to my next point.
For the past 4 years I have been discerning my vocation in life. I spent a short amount of time in the seminary, and even after the experience I have been asking the Lord if the priesthood is written on my heart. In His love, the Lord has spoken very clearly to me in multiple ways that my vocation is to the married life. Specifically, the Lord has spoken clearly to me the words “Holy, Missionary Family.” He has revealed this piece of my heart to me and I rejoice in that blessing. Yet this knowledge brings also the fact that, in this time being single, I must allow the Lord to form my heart to become a holy husband, to be a holy father.
How appropriate that He has given me the example of Therese’s father, Louis Martin. What an example he is in the way that his love reflected the love of the Father to Therese. The way his desire for holiness, his very life, inspired his daughter to the same. And now, not only is she a saint and a doctor of our Church, but both he and his wife are in the process of being canonized themselves.
If I am to be a husband and father, I want my life to be a witness of a life lived striving for holiness. I want to lead my wife and children to holiness. And that begins now by choosing sainthood in all things, by allowing the Lord to prune me of even the smallest ways that are keeping me from holiness.
I don’t want to be a saint by halves. And I think I’ll be okay with out a Facebook.