HACER EXTRAORDINARIO LO ORDINARIO
A very old principle of spirituality says that one has to be “in ordinariis non ordinarius”, which could be translated as ‘achieve one’s own activity with elegance’ which is to say, avoid ordinariness.
Perhaps at times we have thought that holiness means achieving great, ‘extra-ordinary things’. This is a big mistake. St. Paul has exhorted us to ‘carry out our work quietly’ (1 Thes 4:11); and St. Ignatius of Loyola, when St. Francis Xavier objected to him initiating a new project, gave him the answer that Jose Maria Peman beautifully put into verse: ‘Javier, / there is no more eminent virtue / than to do simply / what we have to do’ (from El Divino Impaciente)
In relation to this, it is worthwhile remembering a sympathetic anecdote of Claret in the Jesuit novitiate in Rome. When, each Thursday, the novices went to play in the park, he would have preferred to dedicate the time to study or prayer but the rector would not allow him but rather ‘he answered me roundly that I should play and play well. I applied myself so thoroughly to playing that I won all the games.’ (Aut 149).
Fr. Claret, who was always understanding with others, was not satisfied with things being half done. It is worth noting his complaints against those who managed the Libreria Religiousa, or who worked for them, when they didn’t choose the best paper or a good type or didn’t make a good binding. He always opted for things well made. But neither did he conform with the materiality of the job. What interested him was the why and the wherefore of it: the right intention; we know his repeated formula: to do everything so that God be known, loved and served.
Today much is said about ‘self-realization’: what we do should be fulfilling, humanly enriching, frustrations are not healthy. But neither is the anxious search for self-enlightenment or to come out on top of others. Are our motivations correct in our apostolic service? Is there some feeble emulation or motivation?