Are You Really Successful?

Anabelle Hazard - Success


A politician once asked me flat out for bribery money when I clerked for a law firm in the Philippines. I played dumb, quit my job and left a disgustingly corrupt legal system and government disillusioned. When I practiced law in the US, I didn’t experience such blatant corruption, but I faced several choices that would either further my ambitions or jeopardize my soul.

I could run, but I couldn’t hide.

At some pivotal point in our careers, we are all confronted with the same choice: success in this world or success in the next.

The concept of my funeral has been at the forefront of my decision-making process. During my impressionable years, it was paramount to leave a legacy of what I’d accomplished.

“Oh, your mom was the youngest woman to ever become Supreme Court Justice,” Guest 1 would console my daughters at my eulogy. “After she bought her own publishing company, she won the Pulitzer Prize, the Nobel Peace and Best Oscar Producer all on the same year! My fondest memory is of her flying us on her own private jet to vacation six months of the year in the Keys…”

After I studied the science of saints and focused on motherhood, the platitudes I longed to hear changed:

“Oh bless your mother’s heart, she never did find a Monique Llulhier dress at thrift shops (not that she had an occasion to wear it), but her love for her family and relentless use of the confessional shows that her soul always tried to be appropriately dressed for Jesus second coming,” the priest would say.

The world measures success in practical terms: power, money, fame, brilliant education, and luxury. But the Church and the saints have always taught us differently. Here’s a short list of saints that have raised my bar:

1. St. James and John, both humble fishermen by trade, yet chosen by Jesus to be the inner circle of twelve apostles. Jesus clearly put their ambitious mother in her place when he redefined success: “Can you drink of the cup {of suffering} that I am going to drink?”

2. St. Therese of Liseux, Carmelite nun, who lived a hidden life of sacrifice and simplicity for only 24 years. Over the next century, her autobiography “The Story of a Soul” lived on posthumously as a classic in practicable spirituality. She was hailed by St. Pope Pius X as the “greatest saint of modern times and declared by Bl. Pope John Paul II as the 33rd doctor of the Church. A popular quote from St. Therese is: “What matters in life is not great deeds but great love.”

3. St. Thomas More, Oxford graduate of law, was appointed by King Henry VIII as Lord Chancellor. He resigned the prestigious position because the king’s divorce went against the Catholic Church teachings that marriage is a sacrament between one man and one woman. For his refusal to pledge allegiance to the King as the Head of the Church of England, St. Thomas was imprisoned and tried for treason, plunging his once landed family into poverty. St. Thomas’ family and friends attempted to convince him to pacify the King but he refused and was eventually beheaded. But not before he announced to the spectators that he was a “King’s servant but God’s first.”

Simplicity, anonymity, acceptance of suffering, sacrifice, and virtue are antithesis to the world’s warped values. Heaven’s prized spots are not exclusively reserved for the highly educated, rich, powerful, sophisticated, multi-awarded or famous souls. The political leaders, Popes, knights, queens and big shots who made the cut were men and women who doggedly chose the kingdom of God, the pearl of great price, when dilemma loomed before them.

To measure your success by Christ’s standards, ask yourself: Who and what are you working for in your life? Are you walking (even stumbling) on the path to sainthood or is the world’s version of success a stumbling block in your way? What’s God going to say at your funeral? Finally, consider… “what would it profit a man if he gains the whole world but forfeits his soul?”

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4 thoughts on “Are You Really Successful?”

  1. Hi! Any advice for a Filipina law student trying to live out her faith? Most people in Admu Law are pro-RH. Even in various Human Rights NGOs. Am an intern in two of them… Wanted to do a thesis to amend RH but my prof shot it down. Heard enough corruption from law firms so am avoiding them too! Are there places, or ways a law student/lawyer can practice law and serve her people while living accord with her faith? How can we use legal means to achieve this? Thank you!

  2. Pingback: The Perils of a Prophetic Pope -

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