Have you ever thrown your hands up in disgust and declared yourself a failure in some desired endeavor? We increasingly define failure as the inability to achieve or accomplish something that we want to obtain. How foolish must we seem in the eyes of Heaven, for the only failure in the universe is failing to leave all in the Hands of God.
We all complain from time to time when things do not go our way, when setbacks seem to become too commonplace, and when we fall on our face so often that cleaning it almost seems like a waste of time. Consider the cases of Louis and Zélie Martin , who each desperately wanted to enter religious life only to see their hopes dashed by academic issues in the first case and health issues in the second. While both of them moved on to start their own businesses, they shared in many others’ view that they had failed miserably in their most desired religious vocations. These two “losers” in the eyes of society were brought together in marriage by God’s providence yet, still desperate for lives of meditation and prayer, they agreed to live a state of virginal chastity. However, even that effort collapsed when their confessor asked them to give up their virginal agreement in order to rear children.
St. Bridget of Sweden is known for having composed a number of beautiful prayers in honor of Christ’s Passion, which was a passion of hers as well. She was married for about 25 years and bore eight children before becoming a widow. Often noted as an excellent example of balancing one’s domestic and spiritual life, Bridget had been devoted to practicing her faith and teaching that faith to her children throughout her marriage. After her husband’s death, Bridget founded a religious order, but was never able to completely organize it, watching others do that task. In fact, scholars cite that Bridget failed in all of the major things which she set out to do.
So pervasive was St. Bridget’s inability to accomplish the major things which she attempted that she is considered the Patroness of Failure. Despite this, we have those beautiful prayers and devotions to the Passion of Christ which she loved so much.
What do Our Lord’s Passion, St. Bridget, and the Martins have in common? All three are vivid representations that our earthly definition of failure is worthless in the eyes of God, Who alone has the blueprint for eternal salvation. We cannot fail as long as we place ourselves in the Hands of The Almighty, for our small stumbles and temporary disappointments are but stepping stones of God’s deeper plan for our lives and our purpose in this world. What of our duo of failures, Louis and Zélie Martin? One of their children became Saint Thérèse of Lisieux, proclaimed the youngest Doctor of the Church by Pope John Paul II. In fact, Louis and Zelie Martin were beatified by Pope Benedict XVI in 2008 and canonized by Pope Francis in 2015.
The Martins and Bridget remind us that God’s Majesty transcends earthly notions of defeat, as best demonstrated in Calvary. An ancient proverb attributed to a 16th Century Portuguese Bishop states that “God draws straight with crooked lines”. This saying reminds us that things do not always go as planned, for we are imperfect human beings with human failings. However, trust and faith in God means that there is an ultimate sense and purpose to adversity, stumbles, and changes in our path. There is no coincidence, bad luck, or Plan B with God. The only tools we need to overcome our falls are faith and trust in the One who is well versed in turning falls into glory.
2016, Gabriel Garnica