At the outset I must admit the long delay in posting this is because I have had to reject several drafts as I fell into the trap of, as I was writing, thinking of countless situations and seeking to apply the principle of subsidiarity to each in detail.
Frankly I have neither the grace nor the wisdom to do so!
What broke that cycle for me was observing yesterday at a science centre in the city the activities, more specifically the maternal love [some men where there too showing paternal love] and dedication of homeschool mothers.
Even though the winds were chilling everyone to the bone and snow was falling quite heavily, these parents kept the monthly rendezvous for special classes hosted by the science centre specifically for homeschoolers.
Subsidiarity in action!
The Church teaches that the prime teachers of children, by an intrinsic, inalienable and non-transferable right, are the parents.
National, regional, local governments, school boards and more egregiously teachers unions trample all over this truth and right incessantly, sucking more and more power and control away from parents and imposing ever more destructive ideologies, moral turpitude upon the children.
Be they Christian or believers of another faith or outright secularists it is not simply because of the paucity of real education in literacy, science, math, for example to be found in public education, that increasingly parents opt for private or charter schools or homeschooling, but it is also because the government run education system is morally bankrupt.
Observing those homeschooling families, including my own, what I found striking was the radiant parental beauty of the men and women, the shining joy on the faces of their children, the obvious enjoyment of both parents and children in the learning process.
Subsidiarity at its best enhances the sheer joy of being alive!
In his recent book THE FUTURE OF CATHOLICISM, Michael Coren cites the example of Catholic adoption agencies, some of whom have cared for children in need for more than a century, being forced to close their doors because governments by direct law, or under pressure for rights groups suing the agencies, have forced, or at least attempted to force such agencies to place children in need with homosexual ‘couples’.
Quoting Ellen B. Lynch, lawyer for the Rockford diocese on its decision to cease all state funded foster care and adoption programs [op. cit. pp: 24/25]: “Legally, albeit emotionally painful, we determined this was the right decision to make for the moral and financial future of the Diocese of Rockford. The law of our land has always guaranteed its people freedom of religion. Denying this exception to faith-based agencies leads one to believe that our lawmakers prefer laws that guarantee freedom from religion. We simply cannot compromise the spirit that motivates us to deliver quality, professional services to families by letting our state define our religious teachings.”
Well said and all of that but to be rather blunt about it the moment the Church began to accept government money for hospitals, nursing homes, schools, etc., etc., the Church Herself stopped not merely living out Her principle of subsidiarity but She – well at least institutions/religious orders within Her – began to show a lack of trust in Christ’s fidelity to His assurances we need never worry such as found in Luke 11: 1-13; 12: 22-31; Matthew 6:25-34.
The old saying is whoever pays the piper calls the tune.
Yes we might end up with fewer schools, hospitals, etc., BUT applying the principles of trust in God, and frankly in each other’s generosity through the principle of subsidiarity we would control our schools, teachers, hospitals, etc., and thereby assure their caring and moral excellence.
The secular understanding of subsidiarity focuses on the exercise of power, particularly political power by the most decentralized part of government, as close to the local – in a sense the classic ‘people-power’ - base as possible.
Currently as I write this there is violent unrest in the Ukraine because the one with power in that country has tried to force upon the people a choice they refuse to accept.
In countries with a longer history of democratic government, at least in principle if not always fully exercised in reality as the Rockford experience denotes, most politicians given their desire to remain in power, to get re-elected, have mastered the classic Roman “bread and circuses” technique so, while President John Kennedy, for example, in his inaugural address in 1961 famously said: “..ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country”….and he and other western leaders in that era appeared to have sensed the mood of the people, at least of the youth of the day, that very generation of young people have almost never elected a government since that did not ensure, indeed enhance, so many entitlements most of the G8 have huge debt loads which we are unlikely to ever see paid off.
We have become a people who don’t ask but demand that our country DO for us, indeed many Catholics demand the same of the Church!
IF, as the Church teaches, the principle of subsidiarity means that institutions of all types, ‘social bodies’ if you will, exist for the individual’s sake, then entitlements, for example, on the macro scale ultimately are anti the individual person and lead to a self-centred culture of greed and, frankly an abandonment of the principles both of mature self-reliance and loving, generous fidelity to the only specifics Jesus gives about how we shall be judged, the “I was” teachings, the “you gave” etc., as found in Matthew 25:31-46.
An excellent summary of the Church’s teaching on subsidiarity, with all references to the scriptural and other sources, can be found in the COMPENDIUM OF THE SOCIAL DOCTRINE OF THE CHURCH, in particular numbers 185-191.
Read even quickly I suspect many will find themselves, as I did and mentioned at the beginning here, rushing off and thinking of endless situations where IF ONLY!
The rub is, as with Jesus’ words to us about Himself in the “I was” teaching, subsidiarity first and foremost entails my personal responsibility BOTH as an active member of the Mystical Body of Christ, an active member of my parish, an active citizen of my community, town, state/province, country etc., and as a member of the global human family.
The active lived principle of subsidiarity precedes and makes possible the reality of solidarity.
The Church teaches [op. cit. # 189] that the “…..characteristic implication of subsidiarity is participation” and further [# 196] the penultimate reality of solidarity is to be found in the very person and teachings of Jesus in whom we always “….recognize the living sign of the measureless and transcendent love of God-with-us, who takes on the infirmities of His people, walks with them, saves them and makes them one.”
The Star Trek prime-directive in essence was a passive non-interference directive whereas the principles of subsidiarity and solidarity are active, personal, selfless, loving.
While the media in the main have been gushing over Pope Francis it is interesting how little in-depth analysis has been done of his speeches, homilies, encyclical and recent apostolic exhortation, yet studied they reveal, totally in unison with the teachings of Jesus, and Church teachings from the apostolic to the current era, a renewed push for us all to live out in our own and parochial and civic lives the principles of subsidiarity and solidarity.
In a world wracked with hatreds, violence, poverty, dominated by an elite of powered riches where citizens are so numbed by entitlements should a universal economic or food collapse occur I wonder how brief the interim would be before anarchy!
It sure seems to me that, even more dangerously than the infamous nuclear clock stuck at five minutes to midnight, the clock of loss of true human dignity and freedom appears to be at about ONE minute to midnight.
Either like Jesus Himself we become selfless and other-caring or this passive-not bothering to vote-give-me mine culture will swallow us whole into a depth of cold darkness, into a terrible spiral of chaos which will prove fatal, perhaps for the entire human family
Aficionados of the Star Trek franchise well know the frequency with which Captain Kirk, Spock, Captain Picard, Captain Janeway, refer to the “prime directive”, which in essence means that the United Federation of Plants, seeing itself as the big kahuna of the universe, mandates itself, through a principle – the prime directive - more often honoured in the breach than reality, as the higher power/civilization, not to interfere with less developed species.
Seems to me, even with its flaws, the actual, or at least a serious notion of the ‘prime directive’, would have been a good idea for the American Congress and President during the latest gridlock in American political, indeed cultural/social/economic life and if applied to the gerrymandering way congressional districts are allocated the American people might actually begin to experience, in an undiluted fashion, ‘government of the people, by the people, for the people’.
As an non-American viewing things from the outside I am well aware that those of us, in Great Britain, Australia, Canada, for example, who have parliaments more closely rooted in the traditions of the ‘Mother of all Parliaments’, suffer as well from the same detached arrogance of our political elite as did any hapless society confronted by the arrogance of the Federation, the ‘prime directive’ notwithstanding.
While the fratricidal warfare within Islam, not to mention the global carnage wrought by Islamist extremists, paints a pretty stark picture of life for ordinary people under the jackboots of religious fanatics when they have power, thus not an attractive alternative to the current flaws of democratic systems, there lies within the chaos of the Islamic world a cautionary tale for the rest of us, namely weather by bullet or ballot, if ordinary citizens allow too much power to be controlled by the hands and agendas of too few, the people, you and I, will suffer and suffer grievously.
Perhaps not by bombs and bullets, but certainly by such damaging things impacting our daily lives as political correctness run amok, erosion of universal rights by the persistent intrusion of the nanny state into family life, the slaughter of the unborn through abortion, the threat to the elderly and severely handicapped as euthanasia gnaws away at beginning and ending of life within natural law, that is within God’s loving design for humanity. Then too there is the ever more invasive reality of government surveillance, economic policies which trigger more homelessness, unemployment, under employment, just to name a few problems, and within this chaos grow two trends which should make us all uneasy: homegrown terrorism and the growth of militia groups claiming to be in the main anti-government but scratch them and they bleed hatred of everyone deemed not to be like them.
The behaviour of congress, the president, indeed of most parliaments, assemblies, whatever name is used, throughout the so-called democratic countries and indeed the very whimsies of the United Nations, all strike me as various flavours of the philosophy behind the ‘prime directive’, namely: we are IT and you are not!
[IT here means we have the power, the big weapons, the utopian ideas and the will to implement them. Here might be a good point to stop and watch the silent era classic film; Metropolis or actually read Les Miserables!]
When it comes to reflecting on such matters as the emergence of nation states, both after the era of medieval feudal lords and kings, and reflecting too on the emergence of modern democracies, the totalitarian states of the late 19th century and the recent 20th century, no philosopher/ theologian impresses more than Jacques Maritain [1882-1973], his works, his biography and the works and life of his wife Raissa, are a treasure trove about life, faith, history and perhaps someday, the process is underway, we will see this couple canonized by the Catholic Church.
Meantime, for our purposes here, a few extracts from a series of lectures Jacques Maritain gave in the United States in the late forties while the world was barely emerging from the tsunami of hatred and blood which had engulfed the human family for the second time without the century being even half journeyed through – indeed as we all know much horror remained to be experienced through revolutions and civil war, in the gulags of Russia and other camps, wars in Korea and Vietnam and just when it seemed with the end of the Cold War humanity was beginning to achieve some small degree of peace 9/11 would usher in the 21st century and the unending era of Islamic terrorism and hatred.
It is well then to consider these words from Maritain, some I will quote directly, mostly I will paraphrase his ideas.
Noting his opposition to Hegel’s ideas of the state as neither the ultimate incarnation of an idea, or some form of superman, but rather that the state is simply an instrument for public wellbeing, Maritain stressed that “putting man at the service of that instrument is political perversion.”
In almost an echo of Christ’s teaching about the Sabbath being made for us and not we for the Sabbath [cf. Mk. 2:27], Maritain stresses that “…man is by no means for the State. The State is for man.”
Clearly when politicians at any level of government, such as happened recently with the gridlock in the US Congress, make choices that ultimately are for their own agenda[s], they are by implication, if not direct action such has happens in dictatorships, forcing human beings to be ‘for the State’ and this is indeed an outrageous perversion – yet, let’s be honest here, either by directly voting them into office, or indirectly by failing to vote, the latter the more common reality, we ‘the people’ are responsible such state supremacy and those running the State have such immense and virtually all encompassing power over our lives.
Further Maritain stresses the stark reality of how “power tends to increase power” – look for example at how what began in post-war Europe as a means of equitable coal distribution morphed into the Common Market and then into the European Union with the power of the union’s ‘parliament’, not to mention the required staff, growing exponentially. Or in the US the growth of outfits like Lehman Brothers.
How’s all that been working?
The full thought of Maritain as regards the state and we the people can be read in his 1951 book: Man and the State.
I agree with Maritain’s idea how urgent it is for modern democracies to develop ‘social justice and improve’, among other things, economy and protection from what he saw as totalitarianism, in our day it would be terrorism and the Islamic push for world dominance to force every human being under the jackboot of Sharia law.
Trouble is while – for example in 60’s Canada, the US and indeed in similar fashion in the post Vatican II Church – ‘social justice/human rights’ ascended, at the same time extreme, often selfish, demands flourished, allegedly from ‘the people’, but in truth from small self-interest groups and so under the guise of good governance, but in reality the political choice has been/is a variant on ‘bread and circuses’, we find ourselves awash in ceaseless demands for ‘right’s which are contrary to the God-given authentic human dignity and freedom: abortion on demand, homosexual marriage/adoptions on a par with natural marriage, daily life constantly pressured by extreme environmentalists, the corporate world making local, national, international choices based on profits to the extent workers have become an easily disposable commodity, only the well-off can afford non chemical laden so-called organic food, etc., etc. The list of disorders in human life is pretty extensive.
The State, of course, will only be converted and restored to what it should be in a real democracy, if we individuals are converted – and that’s the rub in the so-called post-Christian era.
Maritain, though not using the word ‘conversion’ in his argument for what needs occur for the State to “achieve its true dignity, which comes not from power and prestige, but from the exercise of justice” – would I am sure agree conversion/metanoia, a radical change of heart will only occur when we the people become anew people of faith, people in the words of Bl. John Paul, of the “Gospel of life.”
Authentic justice, as the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches  “..is the moral virtue that consists in the constant and firm will to give their due to God and neighbour.”
Only a truly just society can render to God what is His and actually know what is ‘Caesar’s’ and what is not!
I believe we can only emerge from the current chaos not only through necessary conversion but also, critically, for a true re-discovery of, and implementation of, the principle of ‘subsidiarity’ – which is about as far from the ‘prime directive’ as you can get, in the real world!
In the next post I will reflect on subsidiarity.
Here I conclude with a word from the Servant of God, Catherine Doherty: What the world needs today is saints – hundreds, thousands, and millions more saints! Hate, fear, bombs vanish like mist in the sun before men and women in love with God, men and women of sanctity.
The international media, not surprisingly, sadly, is all
aflutter, reporting in high pitched and breathless tones the supposed change in
the Catholic Church around homosexuality, contraception and abortion because of
what they say Pope Francis said in the long interview he gave to a Jesuit
magazine, being published this month in English in the magazine: AMERICA and
available on line at their web site.
Not just tragically, but in some respects dangerously, the
major media outlets such as CNN, BBC, CBC, respectively in the US, Great
Britain, Canada, lift from serious, thoughtful, interviews such as the one
given by Pope Francis, those snippets designed not to inform in depth, but
rather to garner viewers who perhaps will buy more of the toothpaste or other
products being shilled between the brief ‘news’ segments.
Everyone, in particular both practicing and non-practicing
Catholics, should read, reflectively, the entire interview.
If that is done then what is revealed is the progressive
deepening of Gospel life which has been unfolding since the Fathers of the
Second Vatican Council began the document on the Church in the modern world
with these Christocentric, and therefore person focused words: “The joy and
hope, the grief and anguish….are the joy and hope, the grief and anguish of the
followers of Christ as well….”, indeed the entire document bears a meditative
Pope Paul VI took us deeper anew into the Gospel in his
encyclicals and homilies as did Bl. John Paul, look for example towards the end
of his encyclical The Gospel of Life, where in paragraph 99.3 the Holy Father
speaks directly, compassionately, encouragingly, with the gift of hope to women
who have had an abortion. Pope Emeritus Benedict continued this long progress
deeper into Gospel life through his teachings and now Pope Francis, who nowhere
in the interview deviates from Catholic teaching, is taking us deeper still
into having for each other, for every human being, the mind and heart of
All this the media have missed!
For example, when asked to define himself Pope Francis
declares: “I am a sinner. This is the most accurate definition.”
It is the answer, indeed the prime answer, every person
should speak as truth.
Even JD Salinger famous for Catcher in the Rye, in Fanny and
Zooey references the Jesus Prayer, a prayer recited by many monastics and laity
in particular in the Orthodox tradition, but among Roman Catholics as well,
containing the truth-speaking cry: have mercy on me a sinner.
When asked about what the Church needs today Pope Francis
stresses “…the ability to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful….”
Stressing: “…I see the Church as a field hospital after battle…”
Spiritual warfare, unlike the battlefield horrors of Syria
where the devastating wounds are raw and visible, at first glance may not
appear to inflict such visible damage.
Seen with the eyes of Christ the broken lives are all around
us, people devastated by anxiety, loss of hope, rejection, abandonment,
loneliness, sometimes with the external signs of divorce, homelessness,
sickness, loss of home and job.
No wonder Pope Francis cries out in the interview both as a
plea and a command: “….Heal the wounds, heal the wounds.”
This is the teaching of Jesus straight from the parable of
the Good Samaritan.
In a world which, to borrow a phrase from Pope Pius IX, has “lost
a sense of sin”, we see in the teachings
of Pope Pius XII, particularly in the aftermath of WWII, the effort to
re-educate humanity about the sacredness of the human person, about fundamental
morality and there follows, from Bl.
John XXII to Benedict XVI, in the documents of the Second Vatican Council and
the Catechism of the Catholic Church, articulate, clear re-stressing, rooted in
Scripture, Sacred Tradition, the teachings over the millennia the depository of
dogma and moral doctrine which is clear, secure, accessible.
Pope Francis is not changing in this interview as the
pundits suggest, indeed cannot, change any of that.
No pope can.
What Pope Francis is trying to do, and this I am sure makes
some, perhaps many Catholics and others uncomfortable, is the very thing Jesus
did when He challenged the religious leaders to move from over emphasis on “the
Law”, which people knew and heard about every time they went to Temple, and to
place the emphasis on love and mercy.
I grew up when perhaps the most pernicious of all heresies
and distortions of authentic Catholic faith, rooted in the 17th
century, still held sway in much of the Church, certainly at the parochial
school and parish level.
Briefly put it sustained an atmosphere of clericalism,
disdain not only for the human body but even a suspicion about personhood and
conveyed the message that God was harsh, mean, so much so many Catholics were
fearful of God.
This is the journey out of bondage St. Pius X started us on,
that made St. Therese, the Little Flower so popular because she reminded us God
IS love, and now Pope Francis is seeking to take us all deeper NOT by changing
the truth about abortion, for example, but, as Bl. John Paul did, calling us to
Christ-like love and compassion for one another.
When in the interview, naturally the media skipped this
part, Pope Francis states: “The most important thing is the first proclamation:
Jesus Christ has saved you……the proclamation of the saving love of God comes
before moral and religious imperatives….” he is echoing the Council’s document
on the Church, which begins with the words: “Christ is the light of humanity.”,
and the words of Bl. John Paul in his first encyclical the Redeemer of Man: “The
Redeemer of man, Jesus Christ, is the center of the universe and of history.”
The interview is long, deep, should be read meditatively for
Pope Francis is revealing his passion for Jesus, his love for Jesus, his
passion for every human being, his love for every human being and his clear understanding
and trust in the deposit of faith from which flows the moral teaching, but Pope
Francis is reminding us of the Heart of Jesus, the essence of the Gospel which
is merciful love, the love which is such that the Father sent His only-begotten
Son into the world not to condemn us but to save us.
Finally when asked about prayer and Pope Francis states how
for him prayer is “…always a prayer of memory…” well is not [my words here not
the Pope’s] the critical ‘remembering’
to do in prayer that I am, that is I exist because I am beloved, yes a sinner
but a beloved sinner?
So beloved that Jesus died for me, for everyone.
The challenge is to remember after I pray to do what Jesus
asks of me: “Love one another as I have loved you.”
Twelve years ago this evening most people in the Western
world, whatever their particular personal cares and struggles, would have had
no inkling what awaited the world the following their night’s sleep the sunny,
calm morning of the 11th.
This evening the American President seeks to justify the
world’s inaction in face of the carnage in Syria since the world has virtually
ignored the 100, 000 already known dead, the innumerable wounded, the millions
of refugees, yet the use of chemical weapons has shaken the world so perhaps
now something will be done.
The what and the how and by whom is what bedevils the
President and Congress.
Pope Francis begs the world’s leaders to strive for a
What amazes me, concerns me, the focus of my prayer, is how
much further down into the deep and dank valley of death this culture of
relativism has gone these past twelve years and how we fail, as Christians, to
face the stark reality of how our prayers and pleas to the Father through Jesus
for peace are at best diluted if not totally hypocritical because we lemming-like
follow the culture of death.
In the past twelve years hundreds of thousands of children
have been aborted, participation in liturgical and faith praxis life continues
to decline, divorce increases, anti-Christian media flourish, the family unit
rooted in sacramental marriage is diminished by the push for so-called ‘gay’
marriage, the push to legalize drugs, for euthanasia, growth of the culture of
self and greed extends its tentacles across the globe.
Besides the Islamist extremists continuing to attack the
west – London, Madrid, Boston not to mention the many attempts foiled in
various countries – within Islam itself sectarian violence continues on a daily
basis while in many African countries Christians are targeted by extremists on
a daily basis.
When will we change our ways so that our prayer is
consistent with our life choices?
When will we heed the exhortation of the Apostle Paul?: You
must live your whole life according to the Christ you have received – Jesus the
Lord; you must be rooted in Him and built on Him and held firm by the faith you
have been taught, and full of thanksgiving. Make sure that no one traps you and
deprives you of your freedom by some secondhand, empty, rational philosophy
based on the principles of this world instead of on Christ. [Col.2:6-8]
Pope Francis has called for the entire Church, yet I hear
within his call an invitation to the entire human family, to pray and fast for
peace in Syria this coming Saturday September 7th.
Prayer, if we are not careful, can be uttered as a challenge
to God and if He fails to answer us exactly as we wish we can become
quite angry indeed.
I knew a now deceased radio personality who sincerely with
the urgency of a father’s heart made such a prayer when his child was seriously
The child died and the man never got over his anger.
Understandably, to be sure.
It is a dangerous thing to root our prayer where all prayer needs
be rooted, in the Our Father: “Thy will be done.”
That is the extremely difficult paradox that we first
encounter as little children and subsequently flee from as adults: Any petition
to a loving parent only guarantees the response itself will be loving, but not necessarily
what we want or perhaps expect.
As the Servant of God Catherine Doherty has taught: Prayer
must lead to total surrender, or it will lead us nowhere except back to
Total surrender in the context of prayer for Syria means
purging our hearts of all anger, desire to punish, exact revenge.
Prayer for peace must be prayer FOR peace, not that side x
or y wins!
Again Catherine reminds us that: It is this surrender we
fear so much…….
I recall the night of 9/11 about to celebrate Holy Mass, the
Mass the Church gives us to celebrate In Times of War and Civil Disturbance.
My sincere prayer was for peace but as I was about to make
the Sign of the Cross I was fully aware of the state of my emotions best summed
up in the expression: nuke them!
Bowing before the Icon of the Pantocrator I stayed bowed in
prayer until my emotions had settled and then was able to sincerely celebrate
Holy Mass for real peace.
Yes let us follow the request of Pope Francis and pray and
fast for peace in Syria, but let us do so both surrendered to the Holy Will of
God, whatever He may permit, and with hearts against no one but lovingly for
Having come out of the period of mourning after the death of
my father, a member of the “Greatest Generation” of veterans of WWII and subsequent
conflicts, I have been focusing on prayer for the suffering people of Syria and
praying also that the rivers, indeed oceans of blood flowing throughout the
Islamic world as the various sects attack each other and spread terrorism to
the rest of the world be staunched.
At the same time I have been struggling, particularly since
the attack by the Syrian government with chemical weapons on its own people,
seeing the video of the traumatized and injured children, and adults, with the
emotions which I had to come to grips with on 9/11, recalling my visit sometime
after the event to ground zero to spend time in prayer for an end to all
hatreds and violence on earth.
But I admit my Italian emotions run hot and it is a battle
and I have been begging Jesus to ‘give me eyes to see, heart ears to hear’ when
suddenly early in the morning came through the open window of the hermitage a
cry from a man, one of the countless homeless-dumpster divers in the area.
“Help man, please, help! My buddy is injured and stuck in a dumpster.”
Immediately I went to the window and assured him I would
come with him and see what could be done.
Down the rain soaked alley we went until we came to the
dumpster he said his friend was trapped inside.
I looked inside and there was a beaten and bloodied man,
curled up like a little child.
I could sense in the depth of my heart, in the marrow of my
bones the pain and desolation, the sense of not being a somebody in the eyes of
the rest of us.
At my age trying to get the injured man out of such a deep
place even with the help of his friend was impossible, plus given his injuries
clearly medical help was needed and so I called 911 and within short order the
ambulance came, and the paramedics not only showing professional care by
speaking with and treating the injured man with respect, speaking with him real
person to real person, got him out and took him to the hospital.
As I turned to walk away his buddy said: “Thank-you man. God
In truth when I first looked into the bin and saw the man
curled up I was surprised I was aware of Jesus in the manger, in the garden, in
These two days since I have been trying to understand
something about Syria and all places of violence and hatred, human-on-human and
clearly it seems to me the great evil in much of the world, in many hearts, is
our refusal, [ though for we the baptized a salient and necessary never to
forget truth IS everyone I meet is an encounter with Jesus], to see every human
being as one like myself, flesh of my flesh, blood of my blood.
The 1,000,000 child refugees from Syria, the millions of men
and women refugees are not merely other human beings. For we the baptized every
child IS my son and my daughter, every adult IS my brother and my sister.
There is ONLY one human race.
Yes we need the police and the military to intervene
locally/globally when such immense evil unfolds against our brothers and
sisters as is happening in Syria or on our own streets.
But if I can blithely walk past Jesus in a dumpster or an
alley, or in any way disparage, reject, hate any human being then I am a
participant in the evil which stalks the earth with so much darkness and
violence; if I fail to defend the unborn child, to care for the elderly and
vulnerable, then I am part of the global dehumanizing of the earth.
How grateful I am I met Jesus in the dumpster because I know
now I must pray intently that any and all garbage in my heart of thought, word,
attitude which denotes difference from others needs be carted away, far away,
like all garbage; that my heart and soul need to be so cleansed that I see as
Jesus sees, love as He loves.
Daily I pray an ancient litany, given to me by a dedicated consecrated woman, a lay missionary, some thirty years ago. She and I have known each other more than fifty years and I treasure her holy presence in my life.
We are both in that last stage of life referred to as old age or being elderly, which brings with it a persistent process of letting go, a process which at times is excruciating, sometimes frightening, always a challenge to embrace with faith and trust that our Abba, our Heavenly Father knows what He is doing in allowing us to age.
Anyone who lives with, deals with, has as a co-worker or confrere or family member one of “us” who is aging find themselves in a mystery: often; a challenge: frequently!
Indeed the young, as in non-adults cope rather well with we old people: there are similarities between us such as needing adult care and attention, approval, assurance we are loved, for example – it is the younger as in adults over twenty but well below my age, who can find things a tad overwhelming which then causes much hurt, misunderstanding, anger directed at us so for we seniors the result is deep pain, experience of rejection and a type of dark fear which has us asking if perhaps it would just be best all-round if we were at least less visible, if not ‘out of the picture’ entirely.
Today is mentioned as an example of how both for the elderly person and their younger family, friends, co-workers, this journey of life where generations are co-mingled, pilgriming together, has real challenges, with real people consequences: being of the fountain pen generation computer systems sometimes are daunting and I often feel I must seem illiterate to this wired generation and so when a serious glitch hit I sent a text to a family member, whose professional field of expertise is all things computer related, for help.
Their response, simplified here, was they were already having a stressful day and I had just made it worst and ruined things for them.
The paradox is they get upset if I contact someone in their field other than themselves to fix things – but what choice did I have but to do so today – and it was rather expensive.
So I have spent a day, emotionally, feeling like so many in my age group: a burden, rejected, a problem, unwanted, unloved – the whole emotional gambit – feeling I betrayed the family member by hiring an outside technician and then the struggle NOT to give into emotions of self-pity, resentment, anger piled up on top of everything else!
God is very patient and understood my early morning prayer time was less than peaceful, more through gritted teeth and so the day of battle unfolded – hoping my battle with stress would be taken as an offering to ease the stress of the family member.
Then late in the day, there before my eyes, in a pile of notes for a different essay, was a copy of the very litany which in my discombulated state I had failed to pray in the morning.
It is called: LITANY TO THE VICTORY OF THE BLOOD OF JESUS, a copy of which I’ll put at the end of this.
So drawing on sections of the litany in light of the reality of aging as noted above, here is what came from meditation:
I praise You Precious Blood of the Lamb of God who heals all the infirmities of my body, of my soul, of my spirit.
Really? – yep that was my kneejerk reaction until I looked and listened carefully and understood: YES You are healing the infirmities of my body, not the ‘I am cured!’ way I often ask for, but in the ways which enable me to continue this journey towards the end of earthly life, to approach, hobble if need be, be carried bedridden if it pleases You towards, at times with some uneasiness on my part the door of death – which You promise us opens into life!
There are various stages of the journey before being bedridden and carried the last steps of the way – eyes dim, mobility slows, the car goes and public transit becomes the norm, true a great opportunity to pray everyone we travel with meet Jesus, but for family, friends it can mean the added burden of having to bring the elderly person back and forth for visits, hence more and more the visits become less and less and so aging is a time of increased isolation, aloneness, augmented by the stark reality death takes away our contemporaries and so there is added pressure on the young to fulfill our need for human contact!
The challenge for we elders is to embrace all of this with equanimity and love and gratitude, to accept what is offered with joy and not become demanding of others, to embrace solitude as time alone with Him.
The challenge for the young is not to forget us or make us feel we are a burden but to remember we are Christ disguised as us!
When it comes to healing the infirmities of my soul – yeah I experience this in every Confession and in every Holy Communion but here too NOT the easy way I expect: I have to go to confession with a truth speaking, contrite heart – which is rather humbling if I have been needy-demanding of family or impatient or……yeah I’d rather a system where I could mail it in and get absolution by return mail! Nope! Jesus loves closeness, presence, likes us to be right there with Him in the person of the priest so we can hear Jesus Himself speak the words of healing and restoration.
A dear delightfully Irish priest friend told me once, which it comes to healing of the spirit, that locus where the emotions often hang out, that our emotions are both the last thing to be healed, the last part of us to die – and this temperamental Italian sure gets that one!
So just how O Jesus with Your Precious Blood are You healing the infirmities of my spirit?
Well, I know He is because, for one thing, while I might interiorly be extremely hurt, in great pain, feel resentment, finally in my old age I don’t over-react, externally, don’t thereby cause hurt to the one who has hurt me, in a word Jesus is teaching me to follow His Heart and absorb the pain of other, the stress, the anger, carry the burden for them – it is what love does.
So a wee word to all who must bear the burden and wish to learn how to be patient and understanding with those of us who are elderly, and keep getting older: speak with us, ask us about the journey and listen, and we will ask you and listen too so together we will grow and understand this stage of graced life, loving each other with patience, kindness, humour.
Here is the full litany:
Litany to the Victory of the Blood of Jesus
I praise you Precious Blood of the Lamb of God who heals all the infirmities of my body.
I praise you Precious Blood of the Lamb of God who heals all the infirmities of my soul.
I praise you Precious Blood of the Lamb of God who heals all the infirmities of my spirit.
I adore you Blood of the Lamb in your powerful forgiveness.
I adore you Blood of the Lamb in your powerful healing.
I adore you Blood of the Lamb in your powerful purification.
I adore you Blood of the Lamb in your powerful renewal.
I adore you Blood of the Lamb in your powerful protection.
I praise you Precious Blood of Jesus Christ which purifies me and rids me of my sins.
I praise you Precious Blood of Jesus Christ which frees me from slavery.
I praise you Precious Blood of Jesus Christ which is stronger than my corruptible blood.
I praise you Precious Blood of Jesus Christ which transforms me to His own image.
I praise you Precious Blood of Jesus Christ was makes of me a new creature.
Glory be to the Blood of Jesus Christ which delivers me from the powers of evil.
Glory be to the Blood of Jesus Christ which triumphs over my enemies.
Glory be to the Blood of Jesus Christ which protects me from the snares of satan.
Glory be to the Blood of Jesus Christ which robes me in the white garment of the wedding of the Lamb.
Glory be to the Blood of Jesus Christ which makes all things new. Amen.
Lately I have been re-reading and meditating upon the Spiritual Canticle of St. John of the Cross and originally planned this little essay to be focused on the love affair between God and us, we and Him.
While it is true we are called to be His lover, first and foremost He is our lover for by creating us He makes us His beloved.
Then, a morning routine, as I was preparing to write I checked the news and the day’s emails.
The news: filled with the threats from North Korea, Iraq, Somalia, Syria, places of immense human suffering.
The emails: filled with the anguish of a young university student struggling with depression and the weight of secularism wounding his faith, a woman friend in real danger from a violent, angry, hate filled companion, a brother priest exhausted with his treatment at the hands of his bishop as this priest becomes more impoverished and hopeless, wondering where is the vaunted compassion so powerfully called for by Pope Francis.
Snail mail from a widow who serves the poor but bears the weight of widowhood, a note from a family bearing the stress of a vulnerable newborn who is in hospital.
As one of my correspondents asked: “How come it is that God, who is all pure love, can allow this planet to spin into worse insanity and violence…..”
At that juncture I was about to continue my pre-writing notes when word came in about the bombings today in Boston and for a moment I thought perhaps NOT the time to write about love – yet it is the very absence of love and its replacement by unbridled hatred which is at the root of the deep, cold, dark evil which is modern North Korea, a country where those with power freeze and starve the ordinary people for what? More weapons? For Why? Well clearly the why is to blackmail the rest of the world.
Where is the international courage to deal with such bullies?
It is hatred when violence rips Iraq and Syria apart, hatred which enables all forms of violence be it between nations or tribes or religions or ordinary people or families; hatred and a disdain for the beloved sacredness of other.
So unless we the baptized in particular start taking our baptismal vocation seriously and chose in every aspect of its Gospel rootedness to be lovers as Christ loves, then the global insanity and violence, the global cold darkness of the absence of love, will leave us with nothing more than a decaying civilization of death.
People get a tad tense [putting it mildly] when they bemoan to me God doesn’t seem to be around or answering their prayer and my challenge is: do You love Him?
All of us have a huge struggle with the reality of love for try as we might to be lovers, that is the ones without compromise or holding anything back being the ones doing the self-gift of loving, the truth is mostly we would prefer to be the beloved.
Being a lover is fraught with danger of our love not being returned, danger of our love being outright rejected, and danger of the one we love taking advantage.
But then as we quickly learn in life being the beloved is no cakewalk either!
Reality is, within love between two human beings, love is a learning process, love and pain are inseparable, love cannot ever be 50/50 all the time, love is uncontrollable, much as we like to pretend we have some control over it – true love means I have handed over control from my brain and emotions to the selfless wisdom and direction of my heart.
St. John of the Cross notes the verse: “Where have You hidden, Beloved, and left me moaning?”
Who has not wondered where He is hiding when our newborn is in hospital with a tumor, when the women and children of Syria are being blown to bits, when our brothers and sisters in North Korea are starving, when thousands of our brothers and sisters from around the world gather for a marathon in Boston – a city familiar to me and always experienced as friendly, friendliness a type of love – yes where was He hiding when the bombs went off and people died and were wounded?
Normal questions we all ask but the foundational question I must ask, we must ask, first and foremost must be the mirror question Jesus asked of Peter and asks of us: “Do you love Me?”, hence I/we must ask: DO I LOVE JESUS, GOD, EVERYONE?
Am I light in the darkness death culture of hate, or by the coldness and self-centeredness of my heart have I become part of the darkness?
St. John of the Cross comments on the verse: “Where have You hidden, Beloved, and left me moaning?”, by teaching in part that the soul “ calls Him ‘Beloved’ to move Him more to answer…prayer. When God is loved He very readily answers the requests of His lover….If you abide in Me, ask whatever you desire and it shall be done unto you [jn.15:7]. A person can truthfully call God Beloved when he is wholly with Him, does not allow His heart attachment to anything outside of Him, and thereby ordinarily centers his mind on Him.”
I abide with Him and in Him and live and move and have my being in Him not by some isolated pseudo-mystical experience but through authentic presence and fidelity to the duty of the moment of my chosen vocation, hence if I am married the abiding in, being wholly with and attached to Him becomes reality if I am truly self-gifting present to, loving of, my spouse and seeing my spouse as a living icon of Christ, for to love and abide in Jesus is to love and abide in the Father and the Holy Spirit.
Whatever my state in life, whatever my vocation the absolute abiding with, being in love with Him, being His lover is possible, is reality because FIRST He loves, first I am His beloved, first He abides in me, His living abode by baptism.
Yes as my friend wrote in her letter asking for prayer the world is insane and violent, peopled by millions I would add of lonely and anxious human beings drowning in the darkness of the culture of death because the living light in the world, the baptized, has dimmed because we have become more concerned, in the climate of greed which poisons the human family, with being loved rather than being lover.
The extreme radicalism of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the call to love one another as He loves us: selflessly, serving, laying down our lives for other.
What happened today in Boston is what happens when love is absent.
What happened on Good Friday is what happens when love is present.
Outside the hermitage window a spring snowstorm covers the world anew in white.
The snow muffles sound so there is a particular silence, yet the sun, though hidden behind the clouds, is already high enough, strong enough as we move towards late spring, that the snow is literally dazzling white, a reminder of the brilliant light of the Risen Jesus.
In the weeks since I last posted like much of the world I have followed the actions and words of Pope Francis, especially during Holy Week and this Easter season.
Meditating on a recent word of Pope Francis, reflecting on the person of St. Mary Magdalene and her encounters with Jesus before His passion and after His resurrection, I was struck by the Holy Father’s comments on the reality of tears, of human weeping.
On the threshold of seventy it should surprise no one I am of the generation where tears of any kind for a boy or a man were simply not on.
Crying was female stuff, a sign of weakness for a male and dare any boy-child cry there was indeed hell to pay, which even as a child struck me as rather odd: to stop a boy from crying spank him, itself tear inducing!
Thankfully we have matured as people in our culture to the point where when the Pope speaks of tears and weeping it is clearly wisdom!
The key phrase from Pope Francis is: Sometimes in our life tears are the glasses to see Jesus.
The Holy Father stresses we should ask the Lord for the ‘beautiful grace of tears’, thus echoing the teachings of the early Fathers on tears as a gift of the Holy Spirit referring to such tears as a second baptism.
The Fathers of the Desert stressed continuously the importance of the Holy Spirit’s gift of penthos [tears], for with this gift we weep not only with contrition for our own sins but those of the whole world.
However, as Pope Francis reminds us, tears are not only a gift of contrition they are also a gift of goodness for such tears prepare our eyes to look at, to see the Lord.
In his book: The Heart of the Desert, Deacon Chryssavgis points out that: The silence of tears reflects out surrender to God…..It is the depth of our love that determines the intensity of our weeping. Through tears, we give up our infantile images of God and give into the living image of God.
As I was meditating on all the above about tears I was struck once more by the impact of sunlight not just on the deep snow as a mass, also what happens when the light hits a single crystal of frozen snow.
Anyone who has walked in the bush on a moonlit winter night has experienced the dazzling display of countless diamonds of light as moonlight bounces off the frozen crystals.
In sunlight, a more intense experience of light, crystals become like prisms and what appears, as with a drop of water, window glass, even the glass of my trifocals, as things through which the light pours undimmed, suddenly at the right angle each of those becomes a prism and suddenly all the colours ‘hidden’ in light become visible.
One of my elderly Aunts when I was a boy had a rosary made of crystal beads and whenever she would pray the rosary with us with light hitting the beads the display was awesome.
If we allow the Light of the Risen Jesus to touch our tears then truly we shall behold immense beauty, for Jesus is light from light, true light, come to fill the world, to fill us with His Light, His very self.
To embrace tears is to embrace the grief of not knowing, it is to embrace overpowering joy, to accept, as Pope Francis teaches the beautiful grace of tears as profound encounter with Jesus, an encounter which, as for St. Mary Magdalene, the disciples on the road to Emmaus, will change our entire lives from being bent towards self and the false gods of the world to having our hearts on fire within us, for it is within the depths of our heart that we encounter more fully Jesus who dwells within us.
Not unexpectedly after the brief gushing upon his election
about the humility, compassion, love of the poor radiating from Pope Francis,
the media is now on their typical tear, attacking, attacking, attacking,
without of course irrefutable evidence.
Truly while we should pray for, heed, love Pope Francis, we
should also pray for the souls of those men and women, in the media and
elsewhere, who spend their lives in absolute opposition to Christ, His Church,
His Pope, His people.
We have developed such a culture of the angry, negative,
tear down and destroy that it seems to me the media in particular have lost
Media should inform with verifiable fact.
To be sure within the reality of human life not all
reporting will be of good news stories, however these days things are so tilted
towards the aggressive, the negative, the accounts of human hatreds, wars,
violence, yes sins, rooted in the awful adage: if it bleeds, it leads.
We are left with a perception of human life, of various
cultures, indeed of purported reality in our own cities, towns, countryside,
which hardly reflects actual reality.
Perhaps part of the media fury is a reaction to the simple
yet powerful, clear and challenging teaching Pope Francis gave in his first
homily as Pope.
In this teaching he notes: “Walking: our life is a journey
and when we stop, there is something wrong.”
Those who relish finding reasons, real or imagined, to
attack others, irrespective be it the Pope or any person, are people who have
stopped walking, thus they sink ever deeper in the mire of the dark and the
Pope Francis also taught: “Build up the Church…..With every
movement in our lives, let us build!”
We can extend this call to build, with every movement in our
lives, beyond Church to society at large.
Always finding fault with family or co-workers or the
government or culture or other races, religions, yes with the media [mea culpa]
is to tear down, to destroy, rather than build.
To build is movement as elegant as ballet, as dance in
To tear down is a nasty, dusty, noisy aggressive, harsh
Drawing on words of Leon Bloy, Pope Francis continued: “’Whoever
does not pray to God, prays to the devil.’ When one does not profess Jesus
Christ, one professes the worldliness of the devil.”
The Holy Father concluded with a call to true holiness in
union with Jesus Christ, reminding us we too, like Jesus, must carry the cross:
“When we walk without the Cross, when we build without the Cross, and when we
profess Christ without the Cross, we are not disciples of the Lord. We are
worldly…..I would like that all of us….might
have the courage – to walk in the presence of the Lord, with the Cross of the
Lord….My hope for all of us is that the Holy Spirit, that the prayer of Our
Lady, our Mother, might grant us this grace: to walk, to build, to profess
Jesus Christ Crucified. So be it.”
Last evening with a simple gesture of closing the doors of Castel Gandolfo the Church witnessed to the world the peaceful ending of the pontificate of now Pope Emeritus Benedict and, by the same gesture, opened the door into the awaiting time for the emergence on the balcony of St. Peter’s of the next Vicar of Christ for the Church and the entire human family.
In his final words to the assembled Cardinals Pope Emeritus Benedict quoted the theologian Fr. Romano Guardini: “The Church is not an institution devised and built at a table, but a living reality. She lives along the course of time by transforming Herself, like any living being, yet her nature remains the same. At Her heart is Christ.”
While the media frenzy has, mercifully, died down somewhat, the ignorance remains! To wit a commentator today on a major network suggested the Cardinals are already forming ‘alliances!’
For people of faith, Catholics in particular, these are not the times for speculation or gossip, for advocating for Cardinal X or Cardinal Y.
Rather we should be spending our time, with open hearts, praying, humbly and ardently, that the Holy Spirit will guide the Cardinals to the one He has chosen, that the Cardinals will allow themselves to be guided.
“There is no need to worry; but if there is anything you need, pray for it, asking God for it with prayer and thanksgiving, and that peace of God, which is so much greater than we can understand, will guard your hearts and your thoughts, in Christ Jesus.” [Phil.4:6,7]
Jesus You know I have been drowning in confusion, frustration, wondering when this so painful period in the life of the Church will end.
It is a sense of drowning in a sea of powerlessness and pain as the world’s media attacks, attacks, attacks the Holy Father, the Church in these long days between Pope Benedict announcing his obedience to Your will and resigning.
I am old enough not to be surprised by my or anyone’s: pope, cardinal, bishop, priest, religious, man, woman, believer, non-believer, capacity for sin.
Such is the reality of life; such is the un-holiness all around.
I am old enough to have known, two of them already among the ranks of the blessed and soon to be canonized, real saints, real martyrs from those same ranks of human beings in various vocations.
There was a time, Jesus as You know, the news media, save for the editorials on the page set aside for such things, reported the news: verified, factual news.
Now we live in an era when repeatedly ‘breaking news’ is flashed around with biased editorializing. Often subsequently the initial report is proven deficient if not completely in error – yet the original almost instantaneously becomes imbedded in the minds of the majority of people as irrefutable fact.
Why Jesus have You allowed so much, to borrow from Pope Paul VI, of the smoke of satan to invade the Church, why do You allow via the media in particular, this war which is doing so much damage to the faith of ordinary people, this war of mockery and innuendo, this media war reducing the conclave to a political horserace?
Then too Jesus I don’t understand why You allow the relentless war in Syria with so much hatred, violence and death, why You allow abortion, abuse of the innocents, hunger, war and every other evil.
Have You no answer?
“My child I have given You an answer in the Parable of the Wheat and Weeds. Go and let it penetrate Your heart. Then go, live out My commandment of compassionate trust. I have already overcome all sin and death, all darkness and evil and I am with you, with the Church, with everyone.”
[cf. Mt. 13: 24-30; Lk.6:27-36]
Over the past several days, after briefly showing some respect for the Holy Father when he announced his resignation, much of the world’s media, have revealed their persistent anti-Catholic bias, dragging before the cameras the usual assortment of disaffected priests, nuns and others to once again bad mouth the Holy Father.
When not slamming the Church, and the Holy Father, the media then blather on about the forthcoming conclave as if it were a mere human political endeavor, ignoring the simple reality that a conclave is fundamentally the work of the Holy Spirit.
As Catholics we should follow the example of the Holy Father in his humility and simply be praying that the Cardinals do listen attentively to, and follow the guidance of, the Holy Spirit with the help of Our Lady, Mother of the Church.
From the earliest moments of his election as Supreme Pontiff, Pope Benedict revealed his humility and faith, saying: “…the Cardinals have elected me, a simple, humble labourer in the vineyard of the Lord. The fact that the Lord knows how to work and to act even with insufficient instruments comforts me, and above all I entrust myself to your prayers.”
In the intervening years Pope Benedict has been tireless in his guidance of the Church, his teaching strengthening the faithful, his outreach with compassion to the whole human family.
I admit being shocked, like most of the world, when the Holy Father announced his resignation, indeed as shocked as when Pope John Paul, called “the great” by Pope Benedict, died.
We are accustomed to quickly taking each pontiff into our hearts as true father and shepherd, knowing, or at least until now, only death would take him away.
Humbly Pope Benedict has opened the door to allow his successor[s] to choose another path, a post pontifical life of prayer.
In his homily at his installation Mass in 2005, Pope Benedict pointed to the truth of how pope’s are chosen, to the reality of being faithful disciples of Jesus, friends of God: “…. How alone we all felt after the passing of John Paul II – the Pope who for over twenty-six years had been our shepherd and guide on our journey through life! He crossed the threshold of the next life, entering into the mystery of God. But he did not take this step alone. Those who believe are never alone – neither in life nor in death. At that moment, we could call upon the Saints from every age – his friends, his brothers and sisters in the faith – knowing that they would form a living procession to accompany him into the next world, into the glory of God. We knew that his arrival was awaited. Now we know that he is among his own and is truly at home. We were also consoled as we made our solemn entrance into Conclave, to elect the one whom the Lord had chosen. How would we be able to discern his name? How could… Bishops, from every culture and every country, discover the one on whom the Lord wished to confer the mission of binding and loosing? Once again, we knew that we were not alone, we knew that we were surrounded, led and guided by the friends of God. And now, at this moment, weak servant of God that I am, I must assume this enormous task, which truly exceeds all human capacity. How can I do this? How will I be able to do it? All of you, my dear friends, have just invoked the entire host of Saints…... In this way, I too can say with renewed conviction: I am not alone. I do not have to carry alone what in truth I could never carry alone.”
So we wait, with intimate confidence in the Holy Spirit, for the conclave, the election, the emergence on the balcony at St. Peter’s of the next pope.
Indeed each Lent we prayerfully prepare for and await the greatest solemnity of the year, Easter!, so it is a good time to prayerfully await and pray for the new pope, and to pray for Pope Benedict as he enters a new part of his apostolic life.
I have not thought much about my computer since I first started using one when basically they were simple word processors. Indeed computers are ubiquitous, much like electricity which we tend to be aware of only when there is a power outage. They always work: email, internet, all of it just is and does.
Until it happened!
I was having my morning coffee, looking out the window, full, I admit, of frustration, anger, why me and how come Lord You keep letting this crap happen to me?
Christmas eve I had a major computer glitch which, when following the advice of one of those offshore people computer companies expect us to trust, though often their English abilities are excruciatingly, frustratingly poor, resulting in the subsequent repair/re-install wiping out absolutely everything.
Apparently, according to another English deficient technician, a ‘clean install’ is considered normal and yes everything, all documents, settings, links, you name it, everything is gone!
Several hundred dollars and weeks of ever increasing frustrating, disheartening anger later, things are more or less working again.
But I was still angry with a God who’d allow a pensioner, especially over Christmas, to have such unexpected expense and worse, since I rely on the computer for writing, communicating, getting world and Church news, staying in touch with family and friends, well come on God, why do You keep doing this stuff to me, allowing such crap to plague my life?
Then I looked up and out the window.
There she was.
An elderly dumpster diver who, she was covered in snow, had clearly just fallen on the ice.
She was sitting on her haunches, looking up towards the heavens from which snow was falling relentlessly, pushed by a wind which had driven the windchill down towards the minus thirties.
You could feel the intense pain deep in her very being and hear borne on the wind the cry of a beaten down human being, gazing upward, yearning to understand, pleading for a comprehensible answer to the proverbial enigma of “why?”, yet all that came down from the heavens was more snow borne on the icy wind.
Like the innumerable falling flakes of snow, as I scrambled to put on my boots to go out to help her, words from psalm 69 came to my heart: I am stuck…there is no place to stand…the storm overwhelmed me. I grow weary with crying; my throat is hoarse; My eyes fail me from hoping in my God….Let not…the deep swallow me up….Turn not Your face from Your child, for I am afflicted…I am poor and suffering….
However by the time I got out the door and was heading into the alley to see if I could help her, she had already gotten to her feet, was slowly walking to the next dumpster to see what she could find.
I watched her until I felt sure she was alright and came back inside.
Everything now was in proper perspective: so I’d had a rough time because an inanimate object had broken down, so I had to spend time and a little money getting things fixed, big deal!, I am blessed with sufficient food, clothing, shelter, warmth, family, faith.
No daily struggle not to freeze to death at night because there is no room in the shelters, no hunger as I trudge through snow in the bitter cold to find a few empty cans or bottles to sell.
Sure, all of us from time to time can feel like that woman, can in the depths of our soul be down on the ground overcome with sorrow, frustration, darkness.
What a gift though to have seen things in proper perspective.
Bless Your daughter, my sister O Lord and I trust, as I asked of You in the morning, she found a dumpster overflowing with empty bottles and cans.