By: Maria Sermersheim, Columnist
My friends often kindly accuse me of being too enthusiastic about ballroom dancing and the sky. Another friend once told me long drives are good for “singing too loud and thinking too deep,” and I began to contemplate where we developed this concept of something being “too much.” Certainly, Aristotle’s golden mean (the balance between two extremes) has influenced our culture and holds valuable truth, but today it seems we dilute the intensity of our God. We cannot live fully and be truly dedicated to God if we shy away from his invitation to dive into the deep end. And if we do not follow him into the deep end, we leave good undone and fail in our missions. Pope Benedict XVI said in his address, “The Truth That Sets Us on Fire,” in 2012, “The Christian must not be lukewarm. Revelations tells us that this is the greatest danger for a Christian: not that he says no, but a very tepid yes. This tepidness really discredits Christianity. Faith must become in us the flame of love, a flame that truly ignites my being, becomes the great passion of my being and so ignites my neighbor.”
When I was thinking about this concept, Mary came to mind. How many times must she have felt out of place because she was “too” kind, “too” forgiving or “too” loving compared to those around her? It can be difficult to find good friends who support truly seeking God. What about the saints—did they worry about being too much? They were surely tempted to settle for “just enough,” but to become saints they had to surpass that boundary and become everything God called them to be, despite its intensity relative to the mediocrity so many condescend to. If we want to live as we should, as saints…if we want to be truly joyful and cultivate fruitful relationships, we must pursue virtue beyond the socially acceptable measure. This is more difficult without support, and many saints had saintly friends that walked with them.
A prime example is the friendship between St. Margaret Mary Alacoque and St. Claude Colombiere. St. Margaret Mary received visions about the Sacred Heart of Jesus, but no one believed her. When she met St. Claude, he became her confessor and spiritual director. He continually encouraged her, devoted himself to the Sacred Heart and spread the devotion with passion. St. Margaret Mary could have easily considered her message too impossible, but St. Claude helped her see it was entirely true and necessary.
As Fr. Mike Schmitz describes in his talk, “Why Can’t We Be Friends,” virtuous friendship is not based on convenience or coincidence. Virtuous friendship is intentional because one sees in the other something he wishes to be. Instead of wondering about being too devout compared to those around us, virtuous friendship pushes us to be better and see the truth that we have a long way to go, but we also have authentic companions on the good and true journey. St. Paul wrote to his friend Timothy, “Do not neglect the gift you have…Be diligent in these matters, be absorbed in them, so that your progress may be evident to everyone…for by doing so you will save both yourself and those who listen to you” (1 Tim 4:14-16). Let us not be afraid of being “too much,” and with the encouragement of virtuous friends, jump into the deep end with God.