Sinners & Saints
By Crystal Neill
We all have a fight within us between the sinner and the saint. Sounds kind of weird, I know. Many of us have had the word, “sinner” used against us a weapon of shame. That’s not what I am doing here. We need, in my opinion, to figure out who our inner saint is, so we can take steps to no longer betray (sin against) him/her.
To figure out our inner saint, we can look at three things that have left a lasting impression on us and see if we see a common thread between the three. My friend, Christine Wood, taught us this exercise a few years ago.
Many times, the thing we feel the most called to is birthed from some of our first, most memorable pain. While not something I enjoy tapping into, it is important to recognize and give credit to this pain for giving us an unexpected purpose.
For a moment, think of the first pain you experienced in your life. It doesn’t mean it was the worst pain, but the first pain you remember. Use all of your senses in remembering that moment. The colors, smells, who was involved, how did you feel? Write it down, if you can.
Next, think about your favorite quote. It can be a lyric, movie quote, bible verse…whatever comes to your mind first. Don’t over think it. Write that down, as well.
Last, I’d like you to think of the ONE thing…the one thing you would change about this world if you could. It could be anything. Maybe it’s that people would laugh more. Maybe it’s curing cancer. Whatever it is, write that down.
My first memory of pain = Punching a kid in the face in the 5th grade, standing up for my brother. I felt the crunch of his nose and my knuckles. I felt embarrassed that I’d done that. I was horrified that we were the unwanted kids at school. I also felt powerful when his nose started to bleed. I also was scared of getting into trouble.
My quote = Life is a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death! (Auntie Mame)
What I would Change = Everyone would know they are loved and function through that lens
Do you see a connection between your three topics? For me, being unwanted was miserable. We were new kids, once again, we were poor…my brother was this scrawny kid with a learning difference and glasses that had duct tape holding them together on the side. We were targets. HE was a target. My life quote has to do with people knowing there is a fantastic life to be lived, for everyone, we just need to give each person access to the table. And, my life “a-ha” moment was when I realized I was loved.
My life vocation is that each person I am with would know they are loved and wanted. Nothing ground breaking. Nothing that’s going to move mountains. Small. Simple.
See if you can find the connection in your three and write your life vocation down.
What I find interesting for myself is I am really good at living my life vocation and I’m also really good at doing the exact opposite if I am not living as my true self. I can strong arm someone like nobody’s business, especially when I feel like they don’t deserve it. The exact OPPOSITE of what I want.
What are the things that keep us from living out our vocation?
How do you betray yourself?
Where have you allowed anger to stop you from loving?
Where have you allowed finances to stop you from loving?
Where have you allowed laziness to stop you from loving?
Where have you allowed your self-centeredness to stop you from loving?
Where have you allowed your use of others to stop you from loving?
Where have you allowed your jealousy of others to stop you from loving?
Where have you allowed your over-consumption to stop you from loving?
The Message (MSG)
13 You can’t whitewash your sins and get by with it;
you find mercy by admitting and leaving them.
The word, “sin”, as well as many others, have been used as weapons to force others into submission. It has been used to shame people to take marching orders for the Lord. That’s not my intent here, at all. The idea is to become aware of the ways we betray our life vocation, keeping us from loving God, loving ourselves and loving others.
There is a Native American prayer that moves us into forgiveness of ourselves and others. My friend, Tiffany taught this to me.
Oh, Great Spirit, we honor and give thanks to you.
Protect us from harm in this Sacred Space.
In Peace and Togetherness, let us begin our renewal.
“We need a great healing,
and we need a Great Forgiving.
But healing cannot begin without forgiveness.
We must forgive each other,
Forgive our loved ones,
Forgive our friends,
Forgive our enemies,
We need to pray even for a person who has done wrong!
In our Tiyospaye – our family, when two people fight they are made brothers or sisters.
Forgiveness itself is a powerful medicine.
We need forgiveness to create PEACE!
Mitakuye Oyasin! (all our relations) in the Great Circle of Life,
where there is no beginning and no end.”
My friend, Jesse, taught us, “Mira que ta mire”, from St. Teresa of Avila. A contemplative meditation where you notice Jesus standing in front of you. He (Jesus, not Jesse) is looking at you lovingly and humbly. Notice him looking at you, lovingly and receive that loving gaze. Notice him looking at you humbly. Receive that humility from him.
“Mira que te mire.” Notice that he looking at you. Take particular care to feel both attitudes in Christ as he looks at you lovingly and humbly.
Jesus asked his disciples, “Who are people saying the Son of Man is?” Peter ends up declaring Jesus as the Messiah and Jesus explains to Peter who Peter really is on this earth. In his time on earth, Jesus taught us how to truly be human. The true person. We all have the ability to become who God has meant us to be…the Saint.
However, when I look at the list of Saints in the Catholic Church, or read stories about them, I think, “Well, shit. Why even try? This is completely unattainable.” But if you look at the lives of the Saints, they were actually normal people who just happened to figure out their life vocation and made the decision to live it out.
Did you know Mother Teresa was a history and geography school teacher? It was during her time teaching when she realized she was pulled more toward helping the poor than to her regular job. She had no funding or substantial finances when she started a school for the poor in Calcutta. She was a girl, who had lost her dad at a young age. She was a young teacher who saw a need and felt the tug and followed it. She was truly human.
St. Francis of Assisi was a soldier and was caught and captured while fighting. He spent a year as a prisoner of war. He was serving in the military when he realized his calling. He returned home to Assisi to live out his vocation where his own father sued him for giving cloth from his dad’s shop to assist a priest. He ended up denouncing his father’s patrimony over him and ended up living as a beggar after that. He was truly human.
I’m no Mother Teresa and I am not St. Francis, but when I found myself completely heartbroken, financially broke and spiritually devastated at the age of 27. I was living in my sister’s house, because I was also homeless when I realized I was loved. Most of you know this story, so I won’t go into details. That was my moment. My life-altering moment where I knew I was loved and needed to start living life as someone who is loved and looking at others through that lens. I haven’t declared a life of poverty for myself like St. Francis nor have I done all of the things Mother Teresa has done. But I have taken steps toward discovering what it means to be truly human. My Life Vocation is to ensure each person I come in contact with knows they are wanted and loved. That’s something I can live out every day, when I am not practicing the betrayal of my true self. Regardless of where I work, regardless of how many non-profits I don’t start, I can live out a truly human life where people around me feel wanted and loved.
15-17This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike “What’s next, Papa?” God’s Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are.
Who are we, really? We all have the patron saint inside us leading us to a better calling than what we give ourselves, and each other, when we make the decision to no longer betray our truly human self.
How do we live a truly human life? How do we live out our Sainthood? How do we have a life that is adventurously expectant?
We look at our vocation and find ways to live that out. We find ways to take care of what betrays who we truly are and live the adventurously expectant life we are called to live. Our spirits have been touched by God’s Spirit. We have been confirmed in the Sainthood…we have been empowered to no longer betray ourselves and live out our Sainthood. We have to choose the adventurously expectant life. We have to choose to stop betraying our true self.
Looking at your Life Vocation, what are you the patron saint of? For me, I am Crystal Neill, the Patron Saint of the Unwanted.
What about you?