Mission of Saint Thorlak, Objective #1: To make people aware of their humanity: their human need to be known and loved.
Last week’s thought might be summarized with one word: WORTH. We wondered when it is worth our effort to act with the care, concern and attention that we ordinarily save for the best occasions, the best people. We agreed that fine crystal is worth more than disposable plastic. And we concluded that the worth of what we have, whether plastic or crystal, can be elevated as simply as elevating the care and attention we give it.
This week, we attempt to translate this into our Mission. Arguably, the most unsolvable problem of the human condition is the way we are assigned different levels of importance, both by our own esteem and by the opinion of others. Though we are all born with equal worth, our day to day value varies by each eye of each beholder. Helpful people are of temporarily greater value to us than people who hinder us. Then, too, what we call our own best may not be what the people around us want. The portfolio of our value could rival any stock market report, with ups and downs as dramatic as the judgments we receive from others. Yet, on the most fundamental level, we know this is all an illusion. We know we all have equal worth.
How can anyone make a difference when the day to day economy of relationships makes it nearly impossible to remain objective? If only we could keep situational value separate from inborn worth, philosophically. We need a formula that cuts through complexities and allows for imperfections – dare we say, allows for failure. Otherwise, we may as well hang it up right here. Life does not conform to ideals and maxims no matter how good they sound or how firm our intentions.
Our objectives, therefore, attempt to whittle things down to the common denominator of our humanity. No matter how differently, how well or how poorly we accomplish our daily doings, we can all agree that each person in front of us is human, exactly like we are.
Thus, Objective #1: To make people aware of their humanity: their human need to be known and loved.
Breaking this down, we have:
Humanity: Care and dignity of the person (for a longer discussion, see our thought from March, 2017).
Known: Understood. Recognized. Familiar.
Loved: Cared for. Cherished. Appreciated. Delighted in.
Need: To require because it is essential.
We included that last one to emphasize that being understood, recognized and familiar… being cared for, cherished, appreciated and delighted in… are all things that are required because they are essential – crucial to the very nature of our being human.
Why stop here? Each one of these elements can be examined even more closely.
Being understood: When others perceive the intended meaning of our words and actions
Recognized: Recalled, remembered from before; acknowledged as a valid person
Familiar: Comfortable; belonging there
Cared for: Attended to; interested in; concerned with
Cherished: Protected; valued highly
Appreciated: Recognized by our full worth
Delighted in: Pleased with; enjoyed; considered satisfying
We can all agree that these are the ideal conditions we would wish for each person born into our world, starting with ourselves. But wait: Did we not just say that our Mission will fail if we insist on conforming life to ideals?
Which brings us to a critical point: We do not ask our Missionaries to fix anything.
The working of this Mission depends on needs.
We ask our Missionaries to remember that we all have the same need for our intentions to be recognized… the same need to be supported and accepted where we are… the same need to feel at ease in public… the same need for others to find us interesting, even enjoyable.
Our Mission works because it is a Mission of awareness – starting with our own needs, and then recognizing that we share these needs with everyone else. Anyone, anywhere, can achieve this. Can we fix hearts, minds, attitudes? Probably not. But we can be aware of the needs which unite all of humanity. And we firmly believe that awareness of our common humanity, if properly cultivated, will elevate our sense of worth… and all else will naturally follow.
Objective #1 does not hinge on how well people behave, how kindly they act toward us, or if we agree with what they have to say.
Objective #1 hinges on WORTH. Objective #1 is to remind people that humanity is WORTH more than things that are disposable. Humanity is WORTH time and attention, to understand and appreciate… and we are willing to step up and start now.
It runs the risk of looking differently: Looking at ourselves differently… looking at others differently… and, most especially, looking differently from others. Leading with our most human needs. Are we willing to do this?
For Missionaries of Saint Thorlak, it is all our life’s worth.
Pray: Heavenly Father, show me how to notice… how to see… how to feel… and to embrace my own need to be known and loved. Show me where I act against this need, and show me where I go to fill it. Show me, so that I may be aware. Help me see and understand before I do anything else.
Contemplate: How aware am I of the basic human need to be known and loved? Consider this week’s thought over and over. Are these thoughts familiar, or something new? As fundamental as these concepts are to our lives, we do not often spend time thinking about them specifically.
Relate: This week is all about awareness. When I go about my week, may I be aware of my attitude toward each person I encounter, including my opinion of their worth, and my awareness of their needs.
May the power of Divine Love shine in and through my weakness, so that He might be glorified in and through me, and that in my weakness, His power may reach perfection. Through Christ Our Lord, AMEN.
Fr. Mark P. Nolette - Spiritual Director for the Mission of Saint Thorlak