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Greater Things
Kathleen McCarty

Greater Things

By Kathleen McCarty

"The Church, therefore, earnestly desires that Christ’s faithful, when present at this mystery of faith, should not be there as strangers or silent spectators . . . by offering the Immaculate Victim, not only through the hands of the priest, but also with him, they should learn also to offer themselves; through Christ the Mediator, they should be drawn day by day into ever more perfect union with God and with each other, so that finally God may be all in all.” (Sacrosanctum Concilium, 48)

A few years ago, I fell in love with the story of Sister Clare Crockett. After stumbling across the documentary “All or Nothing” (which you can find at https://www.sisterclare.com/en/), I found the life and example of this young Irish nun unforgettable.   

In 2015, she wrote the following to her superiors: “I read a sentence that helps me every day when I get up. It said, ‘Ad majora natus sum,’ which literally translates to ‘I was born for greater things.’ It’s a sentence that the ancients used to say when they wanted to reject magnanimously what they thought was mediocre, vulgar or evil. I was born for greater things! Why has it helped me so much? Because in prayer I understood that I have to turn everything I do, especially getting up at five o’clock in the morning, into a ‘sacrifice of praise.’ I have to elevate that action that is so hard for me into something great.”

Ad majora natus sum” — “I was born for greater things.”

This motto is certainly a call to excellence and to keep heaven always in mind, especially when confronted with any choices that might lead away from this. But as Sr. Clare implies, it is also a call to exercise our baptismal priesthood. Through our baptism, we “share in the priesthood of Christ, in his prophetic and royal mission” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 1268). This grace enables us to make an offering — a sacrifice — of ourselves and our lives to God. 

This is not to downplay the necessity of the ministerial priesthood and its essential difference from the baptismal priesthood. The Sacrament of Holy Orders allows the priest to act in the person of Christ and to offer the Eucharistic sacrifice on behalf of the people. It is the “means by which Christ unceasingly builds up and leads his Church” (CCC, No. 1547).  The baptismal priesthood, however, “is exercised by the unfolding of baptismal grace — a life of faith, hope, and charity, a life according to the Spirit” (CCC, No. 1547). Though different from the ministerial priesthood, our baptismal priesthood allows us to participate in Christ’s priesthood, in his priestly prayer and offering to the Father, in a very real way.

Practically speaking, we have a significant opportunity to exercise our baptismal priesthood at Mass during the Offertory. The Offertory marks the beginning of the Liturgy of the Eucharist and is the time where the priest accepts the “fruit of the earth and work of human hands” to become the Body and Blood of Christ. In that same prayer, the priest also invites us into the Eucharistic sacrifice with the words, “Pray, brethren, that my sacrifice and yours may be acceptable to God, the almighty Father.” Christ calls us at every Mass not only to unite ourselves with him in Holy Communion, but also to unite our intentions with the Sacrifice happening on the altar. 

Our full and active participation in the Offertory helps make our lives fruitful. By offering ourselves to God, he will return that offering in mysterious and beautiful ways as we participate with him in the work of redemption. This offering allows us a “sharing in [Christ’s] priestly function of offering spiritual worship for the glory of God and the salvation of men,” as beautifully stated in paragraph 34 of the Vatican II document “Lumen Gentium.” The document goes on to describe how this takes place:

“For all their works, prayers and apostolic endeavors, their ordinary married and family life, their daily occupations, their physical and mental relaxation, if carried out in the Spirit, and even the hardships of life, if patiently borne—all these become ‘spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ’. Together with the offering of the Lord’s body, they are most fittingly offered in the celebration of the Eucharist. Thus, as those everywhere who adore in holy activity, the laity consecrate the world itself to God.”

Just as the bread and wine becomes the Body and Blood of Christ, the intentions we bring forward at the Offertory are also transformed. At the Offertory, we are given the ability to offer our very selves on the altar — every intention, person, circumstance, anticipation, joy, dream, regret, sin, struggle, difficulty, and sorrow. No aspect of our lives is off limits. When we make an offering of our lives in this way, our intentions are incorporated into the Sacrifice of the Mass and offered by Jesus to the Father through the priest. Our imperfect sacrifice becomes perfected in Christ.

This means that we should never come to Mass empty-handed!

Because the Offertory is so important, it’s crucial to be thoughtful and intentional about our offering.  Here are five ways we can make our offertory intentions more fruitful:

  1. Consider praying the Examen daily, or least weekly. The Examen is a beautiful practice of calling to mind areas of sin and struggle in our lives, as well as good things and the places where God is present. Within the Examen, we also offer thanks and ask God for what we need. This prayer is good preparation to offer the fullness of our lives to the Lord at Mass. “The Examen Prayer: Ignatian Wisdom for Our Lives Today” by Father Timothy Gallagher is a helpful resource for learning how to pray the Examen.
  2. Take some time before Mass starts to write down and pray over your specific intentions or offerings. The act of writing has a way of concretizing the thoughts in our mind and drawing out the intentions in our hearts.
  3. Engage your imagination. Visualize putting your intentions in the chalice or on the paten, or ask your guardian angel to bring your intentions forward and present them on your behalf before the Lord. 
  4. Keep in mind that there is truly nothing, no matter how big or trivial, that you cannot bring to the Lord. Don’t minimize any of your intentions. In the Eucharist, the Lord breaks open his heart to us. He wants us to break open our hearts to him.
  5. Christ will bring to perfection whatever we bring to him. Make an act of trust that he can and will do so. 

Finally, it is important to remember the greatness of our call to holiness and how our baptism makes it possible for us to respond to that calling. As the quote from “Sacrosanctum Concilium” at the beginning of this article attests, our offering of ourselves is for the purpose of greater union with God and others. In Holy Communion, we are called to become what we receive. We are called to a life more beautiful than we could ever imagine. We were born for greater things. 

(Kathleen McCarty is executive assistant to the Chief of Staff for the Diocese of Colorado Springs.)
 

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