Little Things



“What we need through all our lives long is a daily addition of grace. This means not so much doing more than we are doing, but doing what we are doing better than we do it. It does not mean more prayers, but prayers said better. It means that I begin my prayers with a great effort, putting myself deliberately in the presence of God… I should try, during the most solemn parts of the Mass, to rivet my attention on what is happening; thus, that the priest is holding at the altar something for me to adore. We go regularly to our Sunday Mass and yet, what very little fruit we obtain from it… There is a danger of just settling down to life, taking ordinary, everyday views, losing our perception of the supernatural in life. It is a danger of which we are all aware. What alone can keep us free of it is this daily, almost hourly, infusion of the grace of God. This grace of God that has been lavished on us so freely, we gain in proportion to the way in which we use the small opportunities of life. If you ask someone who has come to the Church from outside, why he has become a Catholic, nearly always he will tell you that it was something small and trivial that finally brought him to the faith. The sight of someone’s obvious belief in Catholicism, some chance faithfulness, some surrender, that had this extraordinary reward, and brought him, at last, to his home. Always, it is true that in proportion to my use of what has been given me shall fuller use and fuller gifts be made. He that is faithful over little shall be given greater things to rule.


“A man may say: ‘I am not going to trouble over little things.’ That will not do. It will be followed shortly by this confession: ‘I am losing my power of observation. I am losing my familiarity with divine things.’ Half a gardener’s work is done upon his knees. The work of the cultivation of our soul is done humbly, in prayer and service, in quiet moments, and through the use of what we have. You and I are not fit to have the greater graces. We must be content with a very little. All the more, therefore, so that we may use the little things that come our way, must we value them, must we try to secure from them all that they have to give. Prayers, ordinary, everyday prayers must be used faithfully. We shall not be treated even to little things, if we lay these aside. We shall be even less responsive to graces than now we are. What is asked of us, then, is a steady faithfulness to divine grace, realizing the greatness of our need and realizing that this need is daily, hourly urgent and realizing that grace comes to us through apparently insignificant ways. Thus God’s revelation, apart from His revelation through Our Lord, is a daily revelation to us as to what is His will. This will, we have said, comes not in a thundering fashion. We shall not be struck off horses on our road to Damascus. That is right for a great character like St. Paul, not for us whose dramatic value is so much less. We must go much more quietly, and use the things we have not dreamt of, only because they are the things that are actually at our door. We have no cause to imagine that our call is to serve others in some wide way, but be perfectly content with home; not dreaming of a vast work which we shall one day be called upon to administer, not taking things merely in quantity, but in quality. Every little thing can be made great, great because of the power we put into it, because of our faithfulness, carefulness in the use of what we have. Our Lord, Himself, dealt so patently with the little things of life that to many He seemed no great saint; He showed no great life lived patently to the world. The chroniclers of the world in His day are silent of Him. An apparently small life His! Yet it was charged with an affluence of divine greatness. His human body seemed so ordinary in spite of its radiance. That tiny child! To kneel in front of that! You know what a child is like? — so pitiful, so small. Must I kneel in front of that and say: ‘This is the God who made me. This wee child is the Creator of the world. This He who set star by star in its place.’ Is it possible to believe that this child is God? Faith gives that vision to us. In the little things of life we shall then learn how to find the infinite greatness of God. To despise nothing, to use everything, to realize how near, all our life, we are to the infinite power of God. We have only to take our life as it is, the people we meet, our work, our prayers, and use these to the full. If only we used all these precious things that He has set in our way! To pay no regard to them is to lose our due sense of perception. To shut our eyes to them is to lose the nearest we shall get to the beauty of God. Carefully, deliberately, with a sense of responsibility, not torturing but inspiring us, shall we try to live a life closer to this infinite friendship of God.


“Yet, we must realize the solemn warnings of the apostle. To watch Our Lord dealing with people is to realize that there must come an ultimate moment, a last divine grace, though the mercy of God is in itself without end. He is infinite, endless. It is we, we who have an end. God’s mercy shall go on for ever, but we, at last, close down. There must be a last grace. What shall we do with it when it comes? As we have lived, so shall we deal with it. In the life of grace you never stand still. You go forward or backward. You move the whole time. You are a pilgrim, you are being hunted, driven by God across the face of the earth, but you can halt and go back: He that looks back is not fit for the kingdom. He cannot reach it if he is turning his back on it, going the wrong way. As long as we realize what is asked of us, as long as we try, out of our store of small things, to gather the good things given, we must trust to the infinite mercy of God that all shall go well with us.


“Our need is then to use daily the grace of God. Grace is given often; all we need is to awaken to the fact. Use His grace, trusting to His mercy, that we shall be led where He would have us go.” (Fr. Bede Jarrett, O.P., No Abiding City, ch. 11)


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