I long to accomplish a great and noble task, but it is my chief duty to accomplish small tasks, as if they were great and noble.
Who do you think said that? St. Therese, the little flower of Jesus? St. Teresa of Calcutta? St. Teresa of Avila? No! The correct answer is Helen Keller. Helen Keller, a blind and deaf woman who could barely talk not only is known for this quote, but also lived it! Helen Keller spoke volumes even though she could barely utter a word. Anne Sullivan taught her how to have eyes to see, a voice to speak out and ears to hear even though she lacked all of these sense. Her lack did not stop her but her determination and hard work helped her to persevere to the finish line. She paved the way for others to follow her example.
Three Saints, using similar words, set the bar high for us to imitate. Their lives left a profound impact on this world:
“Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.” St. Teresa of Calcutta
“Accustom yourself continually to make many acts of love, for they enkindle and melt the soul.” St. Teresa of Avila
“Without love, deeds, even the most brilliant, count as nothing.” St. Therese of Lisieux
After I contemplated these wise words, God seemed to nudge me to write this article. It is a New Year! How many of you readers are praying about what New Year’s resolutions to make for 2017? What will yours be? For many years I have discerned my New Year’s resolutions by writing them out in my journal and praying about them. Then in January I began to implement them, giving it my “old college try” to follow through. What were the results? Since I aimed so high, I failed so quickly! My reasoning helped me to discern: less is more. This year the Holy Spirit confirmed my hypothesis.
As I thought about past failures, high hopes, and way too much to change, I felt God’s fatherly nudge to walk in the footsteps of these three saints. This will be my 2017 New Year’s challenge! Who would like to join me? The impact these three saints had on our world by "doing small things with great love" is worth noting. They all were different but they all had one thing in common; their hearts were set on Jesus and they all put their trust in Him alone. Oh what God can do with one yielded vessel!
Saint Mother Teresa went to the streets of Calcutta to help the lepers. She cared and focused on one person at a time. Her great love changed lives in India. With a heart set solely on Him, she drew others to Christ by her example. St. Therese, the Little Flower, entered the convent as a contemplative nun. In her short twenty four years of life, her silent way impacted the lives she encountered. Her prayerful devotion produced Holy Spirit led writings. She is remembered as the youngest Doctor of the Church. St. Teresa of Avila, also a nun, influenced others in their faith through the written word. The writing of both Saints has effected generation after generation of Catholics. Why do you think their lives and writings were able to touch so many souls? It is because what was written down came from the heart of God while they spent time in prayer. In a variety of ways and in various places, these Saints used the little gifts and talents they had to make a big difference. God multiplied their efforts and the world was changed forever. Their walk began by taking a first step in the right direction, "small things done with great love!"In this great, big, hurting world, there are millions of ways to make a difference by following in the footsteps of these three Saints. "Small things done with great love" will become my 2017 focus. I will write them in my journal, pray about them and begin to implement them in my life, and give it my old college try. I am looking forward to 2017 being an adventure with Jesus. No one can do everything, but everyone can do something to make this a better world for Christ’s sake.
Who will join me? Doing "small things with great love" may not win you a prize, but it will draw souls to Jesus. Your "small things" will be written down in the history books of the people's lives you have touched and will remain in their hearts forever. In the end it is the deeds we have done for Christ’s sake that will remain.
Let's take a prayerful pause now, and contemplate for a moment: “Who are the people who have touched your life by doing a small thing with great love?” I can almost see a smile come upon your face when you recall an unforgettable moment of Christ’s love extended to you through another. If you think about it, you will realize that it is not the big things in life that touch our hearts. It is rather the random acts of kindness that are unexpectedly bestowed upon us, that may change our lives forever. They bring a tear to our eyes and a smile upon our face.
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We may remember the bouquet of flowers that we received from our husband when it is not our anniversary or birthday. We will not forget finding a handwritten note, complete with pictures, that our preschooler left signed, “To Mom with Love.” Our hearts leap when a faraway friend calls. We are filled with joy when a knock on the door brings a visitor on a day you needed them most. We can agree that these are the presents we like to find "under the tree" all year long. These touches of Christ’s love cannot be bought at a store, nor do they come with a price tag. They never wear out, nor go out of style, and we are not tempted to give them back. Hopefully we follow the example to "re-gift them," and bless another. These heartfelt extensions of love are priceless and treasured. They remain in our heart forever as a gift from God. It is when others share their love that our faith is ignited. It only takes a spark and the fire of God’s love spreads to all.
Some examples of "small things done with great love" are recorded in scripture:
The boy who shared his barley loaves and two fishes, that Jesus used to feed the multitudes. His name was not mentioned but his kind heart has been an example for generation after generation of those who read the Bible.
The woman who brought her tears to wash and her hair to dry the feet of Jesus. The sweet perfume of the alabaster jar filled the room, along with the sweet fragrance of her love.
The woman who brought a small handkerchief and a heart full of compassion to wipe the face of Jesus, is remembered tenderly. Her name is St. Veronica; her deed unforgettable.
A woman, newly pregnant with child, brought her helping hand to serve her cousin great with child. Her name: our Mother Mary; her deeds are why we are called to imitate her. She was full of grace!
How can God add your name to the list? What will you bring to this world to make a difference? This 2017 New Year begin again to have a heart set on Jesus, doing "small things with great love." How will God multiply your donation? Whom will He feed? Whose life will He change forever through your words and your deeds done with His grace? If you keep on doing what is right you are sure to reap a harvest. Let us make this a practice in our lives and teach our children to do the same.
After reading this article you may say, that is not what God is calling me to do at all. All must prayerfully discern New Year’s resolutions. To be honest, some years I do not make any resolutions. Some years it is enough to just make it through the day. So pause, pray and then do whatever Jesus tells you, as his mother told us. Pray for me and I will pray for you! Let’s make a difference in 2017--for Christ’s sake.
Give it all you've got! Helen Keller said,
“When we do the best we can, we never know what miracle is wrought, in our lives or in the life of another.”
Copyright 2016 Ellen Mongan
About the Author
Ellen Mongan, a Catholic writer and speaker, has been married more than 40 years to Deacon Pat Mongan. They have 7 children and 12 grandchildren. Ellen is a host of WOW Radio Podcasts, a religious columnist for the Augusta Chronicle, and has spoken on both radio and television. She is the founder of Sisters in Christ, Little Pink Dress Ministry, and Women-Fests.