by Father Mark Goldasich
Ne plus ultra.
If you’re feeling stressed, burdened, in a rut or incredibly weary, then bow your head, beat your breast and mumble these three magic words over and over again: Ne plus ultra.
If Latin isn’t your thing, then head to the Book of Ecclesiastes, sigh deeply and read aloud: “All things are wearisome; more than one can express; the eye is not satisfied with seeing, or the ear filled with hearing. What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done; there is nothing new under the sun” (1: 8-9).
I’m not sure if the “late” Easter is to blame or if it’s something else, but folks from priests to teachers to parents have all been saying: “You know, I think May is even worse than December anymore.” With first Communions, May crownings, graduations, Mother’s Day, weddings, receptions, and the last days of school — to name but a few — we’re all feeling way too busy; we’re meeting ourselves coming and going.
And we’re starting to ask ourselves (when we actually have the energy to do so): Is this really living?
Maybe we can draw some inspiration and insight from those three Latin words: Ne plus ultra. Apparently, back in the time of Christopher Columbus, these words comprised the Spanish royal motto. They mean: “There is no more beyond here.”
When Columbus was ready to set sail from Spain into the great unknown, people thought the world ended not far beyond Gibraltar. Venturing farther than that meant certain doom; you’d literally fall off the end of the earth. Obviously, that didn’t deter Columbus.
Returning later from the New World, he opened up whole new horizons. This made that royal motto totally meaningless. To her credit, Queen Isabella recognized this and came up with a quick fix: She simply eliminated the first word. Thus, the motto became “Plus ultra,” or “There is plenty more beyond.” (Adapted from “The Sower’s Seeds,” by Brian Cavanaugh, TOR.)
So, which of the Spanish royal mottos reflects your life? In his resurrection, Jesus proved that death was not our final destiny, the end of the world. Therefore, as Christians, we are constantly called to believe and live in a way that witnesses to “the plenty more beyond.”
That’s easier said than done, though, right? Not necessarily. It’s actually not as complicated or time-consuming as we may think to bring some newness, some freshness, into our lives each day. The problem is that we get so used to doing the “same old, same old,” that we plod through our days on automatic pilot. It doesn’t have to be this way. In fact, it shouldn’t be this way. Two simple things may be all that’s needed to shake things up for the better in your life.
The first is to do a little list-making. During this coming week, take out a piece of paper and divide it into several categories: Books to read; DVDs to rent; CDs to buy (or download); movies to see; restaurants to try; people to visit; and places to explore.
Next, start filling in the spaces under each category. If you’re drawing a blank in any of these areas, call up a friend and ask for suggestions. Then, beginning with Memorial Day weekend — and then at least once a week after that — do something on your list.
If you plead that you’re too busy to do this, take a deep breath and start even smaller. Work on your list, and lots of other things, for 10 minutes at a time. This is the second simple strategy.
I don’t know about you, but sometimes I’m reluctant to start something because I look at it as a whole and realize I don’t have a huge block of time to devote to it. What I fail to see are the little pockets of time that I waste. If you start using some of the “10-minute gaps” you have in your day, you’ll be amazed at what you get to.
On her Web site — giveme10.info — Laura Brady Saade proposes how to, for example, get through a 300-page book in a month: Read just 10 pages a day. You could probably do that in 10 minutes, right? But we rarely think in those terms.
What other things might be accomplished in 10 minutes? I would imagine you could answer an e-mail or two, scribble out a handwritten note or card, work on a crossword puzzle, call a friend, say a prayer, or research items to add to your book/music/restaurant list above. Once you start to think in these 10-minute increments, it’s as if a whole new world of possibilities open up.
Someone once said that the real tragedy of life is that so many people come to die without ever having lived. Make sure that’s not said about you.
Jesus showed us that there is indeed “plus ultra” — plenty more beyond. Let’s start living that way, even if it’s just 10 minutes at a time.