By Brother Luke Henkel SVD
I am a brother in temporary vows in the Missionary Society of the Divine Word. I’m an SVD. I am a newly-professed brother. I aspire to boldly foster justice, but as much as I would hope to be another Mother Teresa, Dorothy Day, Gandhi or Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., I am not.
I know that might sound obvious. It is so glaringly obvious to me that the thought takes my breath away. It’s like being on a roller coaster when it starts the drop. Trying to emulate the lives of St. Teresa of Calcutta or Mahatma Gandhi can be overwhelming.
All my life I’ve heard that no one person can save the world. I try to remember what St. Therese of Lisieux said, that we’re not called to do great things, only small things with great love.
We can’t all be heroes; we can only be ourselves, and somehow that’s the truest heroism. All God asks of us is that we are our truest selves—the loveliest gift we can give back to God is our lives, lived authentically.
And yet some part of me rails against that idea. I say, “Sure, sure, yes,” but it’s not enough. I say, we’re all called to greatness, and we all have to be great, so let’s get to work!
We have to do our part and then some. We have to be tireless because there’s so much work to be done. We have to keep striving, going and working because the world is hurting and look at Mother Teresa. She only got four hours of sleep a night. I say, me too.
God despises the complacent and spits the lukewarm out of his mouth, right? So, the real danger isn’t in failing; it’s in never trying or in not trying hard enough. It lies in being complacent, lazy or sub-par. The danger is in not being our BEST selves.
And then I hear that inner voice. I hear the stillness. I hear silence—I suddenly feel silence—and that silence urges me to join it.
Be quiet. Be still.
Suddenly, amid all the clamoring to do something about this broken world, amid all my rushing around to try to save everyone—someone, something—I am motionless.
I notice my breath, and I focus on it.
Breathe in, I am calm. Breathe out, I smile.
Suddenly, amid all the chaos of this broken world, I see how broken I am. I am trying to fix the world—to fix everyone else— and yet here I am so very broken.
Here I am trying to fix the world for others, to try and make the world a perfect place—to be with the homeless, stop global warming, pray for the sick and dying, prevent gun violence from getting worse and to find out how to be a religious brother. I struggle to find out what it means to properly represent the Divine Word Missionaries as a brother, and in all of that motion, I have forgotten to breathe.
Or perhaps I have forgotten to be-reathe.
Now I return to my breath. I return to be-reathing. Breathe in, I am here. Breathe out this is the present moment.
In, I acknowledge my brokenness. Out, I smile to my brokenness.
In, I am imperfect and weak. Out, that is okay.
Weak, imperfect, letting go.
Gradually like a slow fade, I see that this brokenness isn’t something to judge. It isn’t something to be upset about, to label as good or bad, or to hide from. It’s not something to try to fix. It just is.
I am not Mother Teresa. I am not Dorothy Day. I am not a perfect brother. That’s a fact.
My breathing slows. I’m not as aware of my breath as I am of the stillness. I don’t know what you’d call it. Peace? A deep silence? A profound stillness?
At times, words are inadequate. For now, I am just breathing. I am not doing anything else.
Breathe in, breathe out.
Editor’s note: If you’d like to read more about Brother Luke and his journey to the brotherhood, click here.