Company brands, or slogans, identify their purpose and are used in publicity. They become familiar to us. What fast-food restaurant’s is “I’m lovin’ it”? What insurance company assures us that we are in good hands? What drugstore is on the corner of happy and healthy? Unless you never watch television, you probably know the answers are McDonalds, Allstate, and Walgreens. On being consecrated, bishops choose a coat of arms and a motto. Pope Francis chose as his motto Miserando atque eligendo, which translated is “looking at him mercifully he chose him.” This is taken from a homily that St. Bede gave about Jesus choosing the tax collector Matthew to be his apostle. How typical of Pope Francis to take a motto that reflects his humility and his gratitude to God for his callings as Christian, Jesuit, priest, bishop, cardinal, and now pope.
We don’t have to be a bishop to have a personal motto to express our life or serve as a goal. I entered the convent before the reforms of Vatican Council II were implemented. My novitiate was as grueling as a marine boot camp. Just naturally I adopted as my motto a phrase from Job: “Even though he kill me, I will still love him.” After I made my vows, life was less stressful and I took on a new motto: “My joy lies in being close to God” (Psalm 73:28, Jerusalem Bible). In addition, a motto that drives my writing ministry is “All my words for the Word.” Recently I learned that the Dominicans have the practice of every member creating a personal motto.
Come to think of it, several saints had mottos. St. Ignatius lent his motto to his whole community: “For the greater glory of God.” St. Pius V’s motto was “To restore all things in Christ.” And the Franciscan St. Padre Pio is known for repeating, “Pray, hope, and don’t worry.”
As far as I know, Jesus did not have a motto. Some possibilities for him: “I come to do your will.” “That they might have life.” Can you think of others? And for Mary, how about, “I do always the things that please him”?
It’s good to have a motto as a lodestar guiding our lives. A personal motto keeps us focused and grounded. Creating one makes an interesting prayer activity, one that will probably not be subject to distractions!
Do you have a motto for your life? What is it? Why? Do you know any other saints who had mottos?