16 November, Wednesday — The Fear of Failure

Nov 16 – Memorial for St. Margaret of Scotland; Memorial for St. Gertrude, virgin

St. Margaret (1045–1093)was the granddaughter of King Edmund Ironside of England, and the great-niece of St. Stephen of Hungary. She was born in Hungary, while her family was in exile due to the Danish invasion of England. Even so, she still spent much of her youth in the British Isles.

While fleeing the invading army of William the Conqueror in 1066, her family’s ship wrecked on the Scottish coast. They were assisted by King Malcolm III Canmore of Scotland, whom Margaret married in 1070, and became Queen of Scotland. They had eight children, one of whom was St. Maud, wife of Henry I. Margaret founded abbeys and used her position to work for justice and improved conditions for the poor.

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St. Gertrude (1256–1302) may have been an orphan. She was raised in the Benedictine abbey of St. Mary of Helfta, Eiselben, Saxony from the age of five. She was an extremely bright and dedicated student, and she excelled in literature and philosophy. When she was old enough, she became a Benedictine nun.

At age 26, when she had become too enamoured of philosophy, she received a vision of Christ, who reproached her. From then on, she studied the Bible and the works of the Church Fathers. Gertrude received other visions and mystical instruction, which formed the basis of her writings. She helped spread devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Her writings have been greatly praised by St. Teresa and St. Francis de Sales, and continue in print today.

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Apo 4:1-11
Luke 19: 11-28

“I put it away safely … for I was afraid of you, for you are an exacting man…”

As I write this, we are 2 weeks away from Thanksgiving. Having never grown up in America, my experience of Thanksgiving has been a contentious one. I’ve been ‘game planning’ for it this year since Labour Day. Right now, my freezer and pantry are filled with the building blocks that will become this year’s dinner – stocks made from scratch, flaky pastry for the pumpkin pie, dry brine and glaze for the turkey. The family I married into is as American as baseball and apple pie, but I… I am as Asian as dim sum. I won’t sugar-coat it. The cultural dissonance has been challenging. But Thanksgiving is first and foremost, a family reunion dinner, and on that, both our cultures seem to have found some common ground.

The first few Thanksgiving dinners I cooked did not go well at all. I was new to the country and new to the family. I am strong-minded and so, I had my own ideas about what the meal should look like. I’d say my first efforts were a resounding failure if you believe the family’s criticisms. It got to a point where I stopped making family dinner altogether, because family are your harshest critics and they can be unkind with their delivery of it. This is even more so if like me, you’re a foreigner and aren’t familiar with all the traditions and cultural nuances you married into. I felt there was little upside in trying, because they didn’t seem interested in me succeeding. So that’s what I did. I stopped trying.

But the fact is… I love to cook. It is one of my gifts, one of the few things that brings me and others joy. I like to cook so much that when it came to picking my confirmation saint, I chose St Martha, the strong-minded sister of Mary, the woman who took it upon herself to feed the apostles. It’s one thing to go on strike because you’re afraid of failure and tired of the criticism. It’s a whole other level of pain when you deny yourself the thing that is you, the thing that brings you joy.

So this year, I have decided to rewrite the narrative. I have decided to take on Thanksgiving again but this time, I am doing it because God gave this gift to me. To ME. If He thinks I am worthy of it, then I shouldn’t hide it away because I’m afraid of criticism. This year, I will embrace the joy of the preparation, the stress of the execution and the exhilaration of putting together a wonderful family reunion dinner. This year, I will not let anyone steal my joy. This year, I will not be afraid.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Sharon Soo)

Prayer: We pray for all families, that as they come together for the holidays, they will remember to be kind to each other. The small stuff is not worth sweating over.  

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for our gifts. May we use them as God intended for us to do.

2 thoughts on “16 November, Wednesday — The Fear of Failure

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  1. Sharon. What a great reflection – and I love your simple universal prayer. Praying for your Thanksgiving meal — what a gift. You can come to my house and cook ANYTIME! And whatever you want!!!! Thank you for embracing your gift and feeding the hungry. We are all hungry for so much more than physical nourishment. God bless.

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