Yesterday I read about a saint I’d never heard of before, and her advice made me realize just how far I am from a life pleasing to God.
St. Ita was a sixth-century Irish abbess who founded a convent in Killeedy, County Limerick. The nuns at the convent operated a school for boys; St. Brendan the Navigator was one of their pupils. That claim to fame aside, St. Ita was known for her wisdom and gentleness. She also was said to have the gift of prophecy. What caught my attention, however, was something she said: “Three things that please God most are a true faith in God with a pure heart, a simple life with a grateful spirit, and generosity inspired by charity. The three things that most displease God are a mouth that hates people, a heart harboring resentments, and confidence in wealth.”
Taking those things individually I fail at each one, so collectively they seem to indicate I’m on the path to perdition.
The problem is that it’s so difficult to be pure and simple and charitable, and so easy to be hateful and resentful. Take last night at the gym, for example. I was doing the 30-minute circuit in an area set aside specifically for that purpose. It’s designed so that you do one set of about 12 repetitions on a machine, followed by about a minute of aerobics, and then move on to the next machine. The sign says that the 10 machines in that area are reserved for people doing the circuit; there is an entire room filled with machines and free weights for those who want to do only reps. Inevitably, though, there is at least one person doing reps on the reserved machines, which means that those who are doing the circuit have to bypass that station, then double back when the machine is free. Last night the offender was doubly egregious: He started on one machine, doing three sets of reps with rests in between, then he moved on to a second machine. Meanwhile, the three of us doing the circuit had our routine interrupted by him.
Faced with this rudeness, I did what St. Ita says God hates the most: Under my breath I muttered curses against the guy, failed to show generosity or charity toward him, and even this morning harbor resentment. To compound my guilt is the fact that, despite having to work around the guy, I was able to complete the circuit a timely manner, so essentially I have no good grounds for my sin. In my defense, the two others doing the circuit did have to wait, but when I get to the Pearly Gates and St. Peter calls for a reckoning of the incident, I won’t be able to say truthfully that my indignation was on their account. No, I will have to admit that my own inconvenience was the sole cause of my wrath.
Obviously I’ve got a ways to go toward a grateful spirit and generous heart. Meanwhile, I’d like to claim that at least St. Ita’s proscription against confidence in wealth doesn’t apply to me, but even though I have no money I still have confidence in it. If I earned more I could buy a new car rather than continuously taking my 20-year-old vehicle in for repairs, I could pay off all my bills and donate to worthy causes, and every one of my worries would disappear because then I could afford to be generous, charitable and grateful.
Yes, I recognize the flaw in this reasoning, but I’ve not yet been able to relinquish the dream and acknowledge the truth that was so evident to St. Ita 15 centuries ago: that a simple life lived with gratitude, charity and true faith in God is the only path to true happiness.
Marie Mischel is editor of the Intermountain Catholic. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.