Prayer Service No. 2: Living Ordinariness

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     To be nobody-but-yourself
in a world which is doing its
best night and day
to make you everybody else
means to fight the hardest
battle which any human being can fight,
and never stop fighting.

(E.E. Cummings, “A Poet’s Advice”)

Version française

In the previous reflection, we underlined that ordinariness in Xaverian Spirituality signifies being “grounded” or “simply being yourself.” Living such ordinariness goes counter to everything that present society promotes. In today’s competitive world, the emphasis is not on "simply being yourself" but in becoming "successful," "important," “extraordinary,” “better than others.” Most want to be in the limelight, the center of attention. Only a few persons are graced with the freedom to recognize the waste and illusion of trying to be someone other than who they are called to be.

Those who lead a life of ordinariness find their contentment in resting on God’s ground. In that place, they find the gifts with which God has already graced them. They rest in the knowledge that they don’t have to be anyone else but themselves. They come to understand that God delights in what they already have and the persons-fully-alive which they could become through the gifts He has given them. Because of this realization, they don’t feel they have to pander to the world in order to be noticed, appreciated, or admired. Ordinary persons know that God notices, appreciates, and admires them – and that gives them true joy.

However, this is easier said than done. Even when we think we are practicing ordinariness, we often miss the mark. There may be times when I feel slighted because I do not get the attention I believe I “deserve.”  I become upset when my inflated ego seems to be under attack. In such situations, I might find myself blurting out, “Don’t you know who I am?” The more I feel self-important, the further away I am from my ordinary ground.

A reading from our Xaverian tradition

A great name, lofty titles, loud worldly noise, human acclamation – all this is valued by God as much as the smoke that flies through the skies. It is very difficult to live in high places without becoming dizzy because of vainglory; it is difficult to live in the middle of acclamations without being affected by them and losing humility.  When this is lost, what then is the use of all those signs of honor? One could argue that a priest is provided with more powerful means for the conversion of souls than a layman. In a certain sense, this is true. However, what can either the priest or the layman do to stir hearts when God is not moving these hearts. What else can they do but make a little noise with words?

(From the Plan written by Theodore
James Ryken, ca. 1837-38


A reading from the Middle Dutch Mystical tradition

Today there are still monks and nuns who strictly observe the discipline of their Rules, who are pious and ardent, and who behave in an exemplary manner in every way. These religious are
really well-intentioned, ordinary, and holy… But there are religious who consider themselves elevated high above the others. They don’t think of holiness, but devote themselves exclusively to the running of their earthly affairs and the exercise of their authority. Whoever approaches them has to bend and bow, because these religious feel they have the right to the first places of honor.  Such religious do not lead ordinary lives.

[From “On the Spiritual Tabernacle” by Jan van Ruusbroec]

Points of Reflection

  1. What messages do I receive in today’s society that make me want to be “anything-but-myself”? What are the values in my culture that evoke in me a feeling of inadequacy and self-depreciation?
  2. In what situations and with what persons do I find myself most apt to act inauthentically and to affect being other than I am? ”? 
  3. Had there been a circumstance in my life when I confronted someone who bruised my ego? What made me react in such a way? When can I recall feeling embarrassed or ashamed? What did I think was revealed about me that evoked these feeling?


Click here to download a PDF version of Prayer Service No. 2

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