NOT SO MANY years ago I was a typical Catholic. I went to church on Sundays and Feast Days. Occasionally I remembered to say some prayers — more so if I was worried or upset.
In Lent I went to church more often, but would heave a sigh of relief as Easter approached and promptly forget my promises of weekday Masses throughout the year.
I kept the Commandments and was prepared to stand up and be counted when religion was under discussion and truly believed in God when 1 thought about Him, and on the whole I would have called myself a good Catholic.
I was perhaps a little untypical, among those I knew, in that I am very much against abortion and against birth control (artificial, that is). Hence five children in seven years.
Looking back, though, I seemed to have only that to my credit and for the rest I was going through the motions but my life was definitely lacking Christ.
I do not know quite when the change came about. Perhaps it started from the first time that I said "I do not want this (my fourth pregnancy) but if it what you want then Thy Will be done."
Slowly, in the years from then, I have come to know, love and, I hope, serve Jesus more. I have learnt to trust in him, to lean on him, to bring him my troubles and my joys, and yet I know that I have but started on my journey towards him.
With what I do I still felt that there was more that I could be doing, and with this in mind I prayed for some guidance. Part of the answer I received was to write a simple but heartfelt letter which you printed on March 2 asking others for their ways to Christ.
I have now received many letters containing many and various ways of interpreting the Gospels and Christ's teaching. I am really grateful to all the people who took the time and the trouble to answer my queries to offer help or advice.
Even those who criticised my question, either on the grounds of Women's Lib or on a more personal basis, gave me much food for thought. I must admit to not agreeing with, or understanding, some letters or parts of letters.
One in particular claims that my question was "a mind-blowing one, as multivalent as a poisonous sea-urchin". Honestly I did not intend it to be so — or did 1? Maybe if I knew quite what it meant I would know.
Another states that I have a "lamentable lack of confidence in my own ability to respond to Christ". I was a little perturbed that my letter conveyed this view as I feel it to be incorrect.
I was merely looking for ways that I may not have thought of for living a better, more meaningful life, and surely at some time in evryone's life they need to take stock, to seek advice, think a great deal and pray, and then move on hopefully renewed.
Not a few of the letters dealt with "The Rich Young Man" and told me, as did Tony Homer's letter (March 16) that this was not to be taken too literally and showed the difference between my state and his.
On the other hand some people felt that this was an ideal that could be achieved and that they were in fact doing it themselves, and though they felt it to be more difficult for a housewife with a family to adopt they suggested a number of ways of economising so that the surplus could be donated to the millions who are so in need of it.
Others who wrote felt as I did and hoped for answers to show them the way also. I had letters that told me I was doing enough, others that said to be a good mother was all that was required and that it was harder than it appeared. I agree.
One said that I should grow up. , spiritually, and learn to depend more on my own intelligence as 1 obviously did for my secular life. I have had suggestions of more prayers, more alms-giving, more charitable works, more love of
one's neighbour, less materialism, and less thinking of self.
People have been kind enough to send pamphlets about Mother Teresa, Lent, retreats, and living the Gospels. Some people feeling unable to advise me, have instead told me what they do and have offered encouragement in my search for what is right for me.
While no one letter was able to give a complete answer to my question, many of them had points that, taken together, made a feasible blue print on which to base one's Catholic life.
The outstanding suggestion, and the one with which I most agree, was to pray more and in prayer to ask Christ to show us his special personal way for us, and to be prepared, no matter what the answers, to follow it as well as we possibly can.
In other words not just to pray, but, to listen in prayer and to be ready to say "Thy will be done"; to see God's design in all that happens to us, to accept lovingly and gratefully whatever material advantages that have been given to us and to use them wisely and unselfishly, but to be prepared to give up all of them, without sorrow or bitterness, if it be God's Will.
Another suggestion was to offer up everything we do, either great or small, happy or sad, to God. Not to apportion our time, some to work, some to our family and what is left to prayer, but to build it all up into one great prayer, starting with the morning offering and throughout the day repeating the words: "I offer thee all my prayers, works, sufferings and Joys".
Nothing is too small or trivial to be offered up, not lack of appreciation from one's family, or the little sacrifices one makes every day but that go unnoticed. If you give your all to God, then He will give back all and more.
Combining these with a caring, generous giving of more than we give now to our children should help me a great deal in my journey towards my goal. Nothing earth-shattering, though. No new ways, no new revelations, but the way that made Therese of Lisieux a saint.