Do you ever wonder if you are good enough? Good enough to get a promotion? Good enough for your children? Good enough for God?
Fear over not being enough is something most of us have felt at least once. We need to prove ourselves to others in every aspect of our life. To sell ourselves. To brand ourselves. To convince others we are good enough for this award, this promotion, this opportunity.
The advertising industry makes us worry our bodies aren’t beautiful enough, healthy enough, powerful enough. Sometimes people who represent the Church, or friends, can make us feel we aren’t holy enough, our prayer isn’t profound enough, our virtue not strong enough.
We feel we need to project an image that will impress other people. Play a role that will make us feel we have the strength for what needs to get done. Hoodwink ourselves into believing we are different from who we are, so we don’t discover that what we most fear about ourselves is true.
Are you enough? Nowhere in the Bible, not in one conversation with a saint, does God ask that question of a human being. Only God’s creatures torment themselves asking it.
Both Saint Thérèse of Lisieux and Blessed James Alberione knew they were not enough. Instead of striving to be enough, they admitted they weren’t. In fact, they did more than that. They created an entire spirituality around the fact that they weren’t enough, and were totally dependent on God to be their sufficiency.
When St Thérèse was beginning her religious life, she set out to take heaven by storm. As she looked around at her fellow religious, she felt she was very weak and unable to do the penances and the practices they carried out. The elevator had just been invented, and she seized upon this image as foundation for her Little Way. I wish to find an elevator which would raise me to Jesus, for I am too small to climb the rough stairway of perfection.” Thérèse searched scripture for the elevator.
In two biblical passages she found what she was seeking: “Whoever is a little one, let him come to me!” (Pr.9:4), and “As a mother caresses her babe, so I will comfort you. I will hold you at my breasts, and will rock you on my knees” (Is.66:12-13).
So instead of “climbing the stairs,” like everyone else, St Thérèse believed that Jesus would lift her up to holiness. “The elevator which must raise me to heaven is your arms, O Jesus!” But there was one condition. Rather than growing up, she was to remain little. She was to accept her powerlessness, and have boundless trust in the divine mercy. Thérèse eventually concluded there was a place in heaven for little souls as well as the great ones.
One hundred years ago this month, Blessed James Alberione used the idea of a bicycle to explain to his first young followers in the Society of St. Paul and the Daughters of St Paul how they were to become holy. He was called by God to found religious congregations of men and women who would follow in the footsteps of St Paul, proposing to the world the Gospel and the Kingdom as the means of its healing and transformation. And in front of him were little boys and young women. What were they before this great task of holiness and mission that God was calling them to?
On January 25, 1919, Fr. Alberione explained to them all what God was calling them to in the Pauline vocation; the difficulty in following it if one were to rely only on human resources; and the need to have great faith if one were to count on the promise of Jesus. He told them how to multiply the fruits of all their efforts. “Along the way of sanctity,” he said, “one can go forward by ones or fives or tens, just as on a bicycle, with a single turn of the sprocket wheel, one can go from three to thirty feet.” (In the light of St. Thérèse’s image of the elevator, I often think Alberione should have compared how slow you progress pedaling a bicycle with how fast you move when riding a motorcycle!)
So what was Blessed James Alberione’s secret?
He made a pact with the Lord based on the invitation of Jesus—to seek first the kingdom of God and his way of holiness—and the promise: all else will be given you besides (Mt 6:33). In this pact, the young founder had his sons and daughters glorify the goodness of God for our special vocation, confess our inadequacy in all things, and promise to seek only and always God’s glory and the peace of all people. God has already committed himself beforehand to give us whatever is necessary.
In the earliest versions of this pact (now often called the Secret of Success), Alberione stipulated that we would pray for one hour, but God would give us the fruit of ten hours of prayer. We would study for one hour and learn what others learn in four hours of study. And so forth. The pact is the prayer of the accountant whose accounting does not match that of everyday reality.
It is a prayer of faith. Of miracles. The covenant of one who does his or her utmost and then believes that the Lord has already bound himself beforehand to give us everything we need.
This pact was first prayed by Blessed Alberione on January 7, 1919. This January we are celebrating the centenary celebration of the Founder making this pact with the Lord. We invite you to share with us in this spirituality.
Through this pact with our Lord, Blessed Alberione offers us a way of humility (confessing our insufficiency in every way with regard to all that God asks of us); and faith (we depend on the Lord for everything).
Below is an adapted version of the pact which you can pray. When you feel you are not enough, when you worry if you will be able to carry out God’s will in your life, when it seems that all you do fails or everything is against you, this is your prayer. Pray it with great faith!
Our Pact or Secret of Success
Jesus, Divine Teacher,
you call us to follow you
and to spread the Good News of your Gospel to the ends of the earth.
To undertake such a task, we must be holy as our Father is holy.
Yet we are weak, unaware, incapable, and inadequate in so many ways.
You instead are the Way and the Truth and the Life, the Resurrection,
our one and supreme good.
We trust in your promise: “I am with you always” (Mt 28:20).
We have faith in you alone who assure us,
“Whatever you ask the Father in my name, you will receive” (see Jn 14:13).
For our part, we promise to seek only and always your Kingdom,
your glory, and peace to all people.
We trust that you will give us all we need: grace, discernment,
and the means to do good in the world.
Multiply our spiritual and apostolic efforts, Lord.
We do not doubt you, but we fear our inconstancy and weakness.
Therefore, good Master, through the intercession of Mary, Queen of the Apostles,
extend to us the mercy you used with the Apostle Saint Paul,
so that faithfully imitating you here on earth,
we may be companions of the saints in heavenly glory.
Based on the prayer Secret of Success by Blessed James Alberione
by Sr Kathryn J. Hermes, FSP