Be the Change #41: Do what the pope says

When I was young, I assumed that I would live a big, exciting life, full of great achievements.  Instead, at 62, I look back on a life of patient devotion to purpose:  to my 35-year marriage, to raising our children, to building a career and some financial security.  I didn’t always feel patient, devoted or purposeful, by any means.  I often felt confused, or wildly angry and resentful, or just plain tired.  The siren song of “living your dreams” frequently beckoned, except I didn’t really have another dream. 

I wanted the life I had, just easier. 

I wanted my devotion to be immediately and consistently rewarded.  Instead, I had to persist in the face of obstacles, problems and my own repeated small failures. 

I wanted ego rewards, and instead had to learn to submit my ego to the needs of my family and the demands of my life.   

I don’t think I’m alone in this.  I think this is pretty much the life story of almost every decent human being on the planet.   

And I’ve just discovered a lovely phrase for it, courtesy of Pope Francis.  Here is what the Pope has to say about those of us who are deeply flawed, struggle against both our own wayward nature and the disappointments of life, and yet show up every day and do our best for our families and communities.  In his New Year’s Eve homily, the Pope said that he feels “sympathy and gratitude for all those persons who, every day, contribute with small but precious gestures to the common good, who seek to do their duty as well as possible.”  He calls these people “artisans of the common good.”

The theme of this blog for the past year has been Be The Change.  But, it’s easy to forget, when the world’s need is so great, that we don’t have to solve every problem.  Sometimes it is enough to do the work before you to the best of your energy and ability – and occasionally beyond the limits of your energy and ability, if needed.  Sometimes it is enough, as Mother Theresa said, to “do small things with great love.”

This week, be an artisan of the common good.  Maintain your devotion to your family, your community and the work that you do.  Be courteous and kind to the people God puts in front of you. 

But be compassionate to yourself, too.  Know when you are doing enough.   


I wasn’t able to find the full text of the Pope’s homily but here’s a LINK to a nice synopsis.

Also of interest is this DAVID BROOKS COLUMN that quoted the Pope and got me curious about the homily.  Brooks uses courteous driving as an example of being an artisan of the common good.

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