A Catholic Convert in Ottawa

Life Stories

Posted on: June 19, 2014

My library picks tend to be mysteries. Lately, though, I’ve found myself reading autobiographies such as Michael Ignatieff’s Fire and Ashes: Success and Failure in Politics and Olivia Chow’s My Journey, soon to be followed by Silken Laumann’s Unsinkable: My Untold Story.

Why would I read the stories of other people’s lives? Maybe in part because they’re public figures, but mostly because I’m curious about how people moved from there to here. How they’ve come to terms with the way they were raised or drawn on those experiences. How they’ve overcome obstacles in their personal or professional lives. How their faith has influenced their choices and relationships.

And I find common threads in these life stories: admiration for the courage of immigrant ancestors in starting new lives, the influence of family members on their personalities and career choices, meetings with people that affected the course of their lives. But also struggles with illness, the death of family members, the failure to achieve some goals and the need to set new targets.

In short, these public figures are people like us.

So if we envy the fame or success athletes, performers, politicians or business people enjoy, we need to keep in mind that, however happy or successful or powerful or wealthy they might seem, they have their own troubles:

If every man’s internal care

Were written on his brow,

How many would our pity share

Who raise our envy now?

~ Pietro Metastasio, quoted in the The Book of Positive Quotations, 2nd Edition

Even in the Bible we can read about public figures who struggled: King David, who outlived several of his children (see 2 Samuel 12, 13, 18) and faced challenges to his rule (see 2 Samuel 15-18, 2 Samuel 20, 1 Kings 1); King Solomon, who began to worship other gods (see 1 Kings 11); and Saul (later known as the apostle Paul), who was educated in the law but persecuted Christians before his conversion (see Acts 22). To name just a few.

In the 24/7 media age, where their triumphs and tragedies are instant news items, public figures need our compassion and our prayers for wisdom, courage, strength and faith.

Created in the image of the one God and equally endowed with rational souls, all men have the same nature and the same origin. Redeemed by the sacrifice of Christ, all are called to participate in the same divine beatitude; all therefore enjoy an equal dignity.

~ s. 1934 of the Catechism

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Food for Thought

(Y)ou do not know about tomorrow. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and we shall do this or that.” ~ James 4:14-15

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