Refusing To Be Discouraged 

by Mark Votava

IMG_7606As I have lived at Guadalupe House for the past six years, I am learning not to be discouraged in our work. When I allow myself to embrace the spirit of criticism or discouragement, I lose my sense of humility, vulnerability, and compassion. And that is the worst hell I can possibly create for myself as I live out my life as a Catholic Worker. It is a betrayal of my true self because the deepest ground of my being is love.

  • Learning through mistakes 

“We should not be discouraged at our own lapses… but continue.” Dorothy Day writes, “If we are discouraged, it shows vanity and pride. Trusting too much to ourselves. It takes a lifetime of endurance of patience, of learning through mistakes. We are all on the way.”

  • Embrace my own vulnerability 

Learning through my mistakes is difficult, but it helps me to embrace my own vulnerability and learn what it means to love.

  • Love is a mystery 

The word love is a mystery to me. Do I understand what it means? Do I even care to ask the question of this profound mystery?

  • Why am I so afraid of love?

Am I truly afraid to embody it? Why am I so afraid of love? Honestly, I don’t know.

  • We are afraid of the word love 

“We are afraid of the word love and yet love is stronger than death, stronger than hatred. If we do not emphasize the law of love, we betray our trust, our vocation. We must stand opposed to the use of force,” states Dorothy Day.

  • Live into the mystery of the unknown 

3d-abstract_other_the-mystery_61883It is hard to live up to these words of Dorothy Day, but my longing is to try the best I can. Maybe the fear of love will be too much, but maybe I might be surprised what happens if I continue to live into the mystery of the unknown.

  • Workers, guests, friends, and strangers 

I am always seeing God’s love through the people I encounter at the Catholic Worker in everyday life. It is truly a mystery that is hard to explain. Workers, guests, friends, and strangers all have something to give.

  • So much hospitality 

It all is amazing and never ending. I am so grateful to be a part of a community with so much hospitality. It makes me happy when I think about it. This gives me hope and meaning in my life.

  • God at work in people who don’t have the slightest interest in religion 

“The longer I live,” says Dorothy Day, “the more I see God at work in people who don’t have the slightest interest in religion…”

  • The most authentic expressions of God

Sometimes, the people who have the least interest in religion are the most authentic expressions of God to us. I was never taught this, but my life experience at age forty two is showing me how true this is in life. How weird! How backwards!

  • Refusing to be discouraged 

So I am refusing to be discouraged in this season of my life. Even though others may think my life is strange or unconventional, I am really grateful for what my life has become as a Catholic Worker. I am learning to see the sacredness of all of life and am finding God in all my relationships and experiences. And I am learning that I do not have to shy away from love as I do my best to embody it in our community in everyday life together.

Why is it so hard to refuse to be discouraged?

My new book The Mystical Imagination: Seeing the Sacredness of All of Life (2015) is finally done! It is available on kindle and paperback!

“Our crowded, overly-consumed, hyper-active, digitally-addicted lifestyle is draining the life out of us. We are desperate to transcend the chaos and find a better way to live. We need a mystical imagination. Get ready to be transported into the depths of meaning as Votava breaks open the contemplative path and shows you how to live your life to the fullest.” Phileena Heuertz, author of Pilgrimage of a Soul: Contemplative Spirituality for the Active Life and founding partner, Gravity, a Center for Contemplative Activism

My first book The Communal Imagination: Finding a Way to Share Life Together (2014) is available on kindle and paperback also!

“Inside everyone there is a longing for community, to love and be loved. We are made in the image of a communal God. But in our hyper-mobile, individualistic, cluttered world… community is an endangered thing. And community is like working out – it takes work, sweat, discipline…  without that our muscles atrophy. Everybody wants to be fit, but not too many people want to do the work to get there. Mark’s book is sort of a workout manual, helping you rediscover your communal muscles and start building them up slowly. It is an invitation to live deep in a shallow world.”  Shane Claiborne, author and activist