Ordinariness in Xaverian Spirituality does
not imply being “plain” or, worse, being “mediocre.” Rather, it signifies being
“grounded.” True ordinariness is tangible holiness. It is something we can
particularly sense when we are with persons who have the courage to “simply be
themselves.” When we say that ordinary
persons are grounded, we mean that they embrace the totality of their
giftedness, which they acknowledge as coming from God.
Perhaps all of us have experienced being
in the presence of individuals who are “simply themselves.” These are people
who are so real, undefensive, accepting, and self-aware that when we are in
their presence, we don’t feel anxious because we could truly be ourselves.
Interestingly, a truly ordinary person has a way of awakening us to recognize
our own deep-seated pride and biases. Truly ordinary persons can cause this
because they don’t base their self-esteem on a distorted, narcissistic belief
in their own accomplishments or image. They’re not busy worrying about losing
what they don’t need. As a result, they can be less defensive and more
Due to our lack of complete trust in God’s
revelation that we are already made in His divine image and likeness, most of
us get caught up in trying to be “extra-ordinary.” We become insecure and are
tempted to rest our sense of self on something less than God’s love for us. As
a result, we waste our energy worrying about whether we are liked, respected,
effective, or as good as other people.
If I am truly ordinary, I find my rest on the
grace-filled ground where God located me from my birth. And as I am resting in that ground – which is God’s ground – I become truly happy
and completely satisfied with what God has fashioned me to be.
A reading from our Xaverian tradition
who has some experience of spiritual matters would desire that an angel come
from heaven in order to make known God’s will, when it is possible to know it
by following the ordinary way?… God does not have to give an account to
anybody of His actions. If His Majesty wants to use an ordinary, simple and
uneducated person – yea, a sinner; if God wants to make this person turn toward
Him in view of a special work; if God does not take the direction which people
think He usually follows – in all this His Majesty is completely free and
nobody is entitled to disapprove God’s actions, let alone oppose them. [From a letter of Theodore James Ryken to
G.N. Hermans, 14 November 1844]
A reading from the Middle Dutch Mystical tradition
The most ordinary persons are
those who are the most satisfied and most at peace with themselves. They are
most deeply immersed in God and good works. Likewise, the way they love is most
wide-ranging and their love flows out to all in common. The most ordinary persons are the least
hindered in love, and because of this they are most God-like. For God is ordinariness in His being,
charity in understanding, and an outflowing common love in His working. The
more God-like we are in these three, the more we are united with Him. As a
result, we shall remain in our ordinary ground and consider all things with
enlightened reason, and flow through everything with common love. [From the Mystical Espousals by Jan van
Ruusbroec (book b1767-76)]
Points of Reflection
- Have I been in the presence of persons who are “satisfied and most at peace
with themselves”? Why do I think that they were content to be “simply
themselves,” to be the individual whom God has made them to be?
- What prevents me from being content with being
“grounded in my being”? Am I more drawn to be ordinary or “extra-ordinary”?
- What does Ryken mean when he said that “it is
possible to know (the will of God) by following the ordinary way”?
Additional Questions for Personal Reflection
When can I remember experiencing the need
to portray myself as different from who I actually am?What was it in me that I experienced
the need to hide? What was it that
I lacked that I wanted people to think I possessed? What did I feel or think was inadequate
about the person I was at that moment?