I was honored to interview Rwardan genocide survivor and bestselling author Immaculée Ilibagiza for this week’s “Inside EWTN.” Immaculée’s entire family was slaughtered during the 1994 genocide, and Immaculée famously found the secret to forgiving their murderers. I was going to say I will be sharing her wisdom in a series of short articles, but I invite you to think about what follows as a meditation rather than an article. Today, you are invited to take to prayer what Immaculée says about finding your purpose. (Note: If you like what you read, don’t miss EWTN’s newest series, “I Forgive With Immaculée Ilibagiza,” which airs 11:30 p.m. ET, Sundays, beginning Oct. 1, 2024 with encores at 6:30 p.m. ET, Tuesdays.)
“We find our purpose just by being,” says Immaculée, “by not holding on to yesterday, but in the moment to love, to use your strength. Love is doing the job you are called to do with strength, with love, with willingness.
“If you are a student, be the best student today. You don’t know what tomorrow [will bring.] My brother had JUST finished his master’s and was recruited to be a professor in a seminary, and then his life came to an end! His purpose was to [be a good student]. God will judge your intentions and the love you have that day. First love, love every day. Be honest. Practice your faith. Pray. Do your best to care for another person around you.”
Immaculée says she recently happened to watch a video on how the food you eat can strengthen or weaken your immune system. The next day she encountered someone who was sick and suffering. She was glad to be able to share what she had learned the previous day.
“I discover my purpose daily,” she said. “Because I watched the video yesterday, I was able to give good advice the next day. Who knows what will happen [in this case]? I have to follow up. Our purpose is to love, to be awake. Tell young people: ‘Don’t take drugs! Don’t let you brain be in a place [where] you are not aware of your surroundings. Be aware of where God is calling you. When you are taking drugs, you are sleeping, you are not there. In the time [you spent taking drugs] you could have made a decision that changes your whole life or another person’s life. Be present in the present moment, but make sure you are with God.’”
Immaculée said one day she watched about five minutes of a television show until she quickly realized those were five minutes she could never have back! How would she have used that time and how does she suggest we use the time we might be tempted to waste scrolling mindlessly through social media?
“Reading a book that inspires me; calling a friend who needs me; caring for others; saying an Act of Contrition,” she said. “We can spend hours watching nothing and laughing. We say, ‘Oh, I am just relaxing.’ But you can relax with things that are holy. The things of God are very relaxing!”
Immaculée said when she reads books about saints, like Saint Augustine, she feels like she can carry the whole world on her shoulders. She compares spending the time we might spend watching people who are fighting or doing things we know are wrong with eating bad food. She says it may be tasty in the moment, but afterwards a diet of this kind of entertainment gives you a headache and then you crash.
To help her stay “awake” to her surroundings, Immaculée says she goes to confession every two weeks. She said it helps us to be aware of our actions; i.e., when we say an unkind thing or when we pass by someone who needs our help because we are rushing.
Being awake and loving helps us see God’s purpose for our lives not only in that moment, but in that day, and eventually in our entire life.
“INSIDE EWTN” PRAYER: Dear God, help me to find your purpose for my life today just by being awake and aware of the people and events you place in my life. Help me to be aware of the needs of others in my life. Help me to look upon them with love – your love. Help me to do whatever task is in front of me to the best of my ability and with love in my heart. Help me to examine my intentions – the reason I am doing what I am doing or about to do – and to keep them pure. Help me to be honest, to be generous in sharing what you have given me materially and spiritually, and to be wise in using the time you have given me today. Amen.