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Bible Reflections View Comments

One Size Fits All?
By Kathleen M. Carroll
Source: Bringing Home the Word
Published: Sunday, July 22, 2012
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A large shoe-manufacturing company, hoping to expand its market even further, sent a scout to tour the developing world. She returned enthusiastic about one mountaintop village. “There are no roads in the town. The paths are steep and rough and they
walk everywhere. They wear shoes made of tree bark and they all complain bitterly about them, but I don’t think they’ve ever so much as seen a sneaker. We can’t miss!”

Trusting this report, the company spent thousands on advertising in the town. There were full-color ads featuring their celebrity basketball player/spokesman in the tiny town newspaper; billboards were erected with their slogan, “Jump Higher!”They even arranged a town square show with a giant-screen television running a loop of the basketball playoffs in which their shoes had made such a decisive difference. All for nought: After a month, they hadn’t sold a single pair.

As the company packed up its resources in defeat, the newly unemployed market scout met with the village elders. “I don’t understand,” she said. “Why didn’t anyone want to buy
our shoes?” Apologetically, the elders answered, “Your shoe is for playing basketball; we need one for fetching water.”

In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus, hoping to serve the needs of his closest disciples, leaves a huge crowd and its demands and needs on one shore, only to find them again on the other. He realizes that the crowd’s need is as great as that of his disciples, perhaps moreso.

A similar event has doubtless happened to us all. At our best moments, we try to fulfill our Christian vocation by imitating the saints: We resolve to help feed the hungry in some remote town, or perhaps we fill our schedule with volunteering at a soup kitchen, a crisis hotline, a parish bake sale. We leave the mundane concerns of our lives for more “glamorous” opportunities, only to find they await us again on that distant shore—we come
home to neglected family members, some unfinished household chores, a dog that needs to be walked.

Just as not every shoe fits every purpose, sanctity is unique in each human life. “Feeding the hungry” is one of the corporal works of mercy, but it has a different appearance in the work of a feeding center director, a cafeteria “lunch lady,” or an animal shelter volunteer.
Barring neighborhood pirates, it is still possible to “ransom the captive” by referring a friend to a substance abuse program, or a debt-counseling service. “Clothing the naked” can mean running a clothing drive, but it can also mean doing the laundry.

The Gospel is one-size-fits-all, but we must tailor its message to the circumstances of our lives and to those in our lives who need to hear it. It may be that we cannot convert a nation to Christ, but it may also be that only we can speak a word of encouragement to a lonely neighbor, a troubled teen, a family member with whom we’ve argued.

We have had the great fortune to find Christ in the middle of this ordinary life. Let’s find a way to share him with those he can touch in no other way.


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Monica: The circumstances of St. Monica’s life could have made her a nagging wife, a bitter daughter-in-law and a despairing parent, yet she did not give way to any of these temptations. Although she was a Christian, her parents gave her in marriage to a pagan, Patricius, who lived in her hometown of Tagaste in North Africa. Patricius had some redeeming features, but he had a violent temper and was licentious. Monica also had to bear with a cantankerous mother-in-law who lived in her home. Patricius criticized his wife because of her charity and piety, but always respected her. Monica’s prayers and example finally won her husband and mother-in-law to Christianity. Her husband died in 371, one year after his baptism. 
<p>Monica had at least three children who survived infancy. The oldest, Augustine (August 28) , is the most famous. At the time of his father’s death, Augustine was 17 and a rhetoric student in Carthage. Monica was distressed to learn that her son had accepted the Manichean heresy (all flesh is evil)  and was living an immoral life. For a while, she refused to let him eat or sleep in her house. Then one night she had a vision that assured her Augustine would return to the faith. From that time on, she stayed close to her son, praying and fasting for him. In fact, she often stayed much closer than Augustine wanted. </p><p>When he was 29, Augustine decided to go to Rome to teach rhetoric. Monica was determined to go along. One night he told his mother that he was going to the dock to say goodbye to a friend. Instead, he set sail for Rome. Monica was heartbroken when she learned of Augustine’s trick, but she still followed him. She arrived in Rome only to find that he had left for Milan. Although travel was difficult, Monica pursued him to Milan. </p><p>In Milan, Augustine came under the influence of the bishop, St. Ambrose, who also became Monica’s spiritual director. She accepted his advice in everything and had the humility to give up some practices that had become second nature to her (see Quote, below). Monica became a leader of the devout women in Milan as she had been in Tagaste. </p><p>She continued her prayers for Augustine during his years of instruction. At Easter, 387, St. Ambrose baptized Augustine and several of his friends. Soon after, his party left for Africa. Although no one else was aware of it, Monica knew her life was near the end. She told Augustine, “Son, nothing in this world now affords me delight. I do not know what there is now left for me to do or why I am still here, all my hopes in this world being now fulfilled.” She became ill shortly after and suffered severely for nine days before her death. </p><p>Almost all we know about St. Monica is in the writings of St. Augustine, especially his <i>Confessions</i>.</p> American Catholic Blog The Church really is my mother, too. She isn’t a vague maternal force for a generic collection of anonymous people. This Mother truly nurtures us—each one of us. And for those of us who are baptized Christians, the Church has actually given birth to us on a spiritual level.

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