Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Now I Know How You Feel

Eden, nearly in full bloom.  Even in the face of grief, life goes on

Mass wasn't nearly as well attended this morning as it normally is.  The gentleman who has been battling cancer and defying the odds for the past two years was conspicuously absent.  No one seems to know where or how he is.  It was nice to just stay behind in the darkness and the quiet afterward and pray for a little while. I try not to think too much about my sister-in-law and where her soul is right now, but it's hard.  I remind myself that God's mercy will always surpass our expectations and that it's always a mistake to try to figure out what God is up to in any given situation.

Like a lot of people, I suffer from distraction at prayer.  It saddens me to think that Our Lord allows Himself to be confected from ordinary bread and wine and I can't even manage to pay attention to Him for more than a few minutes at a time before drifting off.  It breaks my heart to think that He patiently waits until my fit of distraction is over to begin to talk to Him again.

When I was growing up, I always felt like I was a more steady and reliable friend to others than they were to me.  Part of the problem was that one of my friends was extremely popular and though she always said we were best friends, the truth was that we were friends born of convenience.  When she didn't have something better to do, she'd expect me to drop everything.  When she'd have a crisis with one of her many boyfriends, she'd expect me to go running to her.  It got tiresome, especially since this loyalty was never reciprocated.  More often than not, my feelings were hurt.

Now that I am 50 years old, I have to tell you that things have not changed much.  When folks call me, sometimes in the throes of emotional or spiritual agony, the expectation is that I will drop everything for them. Being the kind of person I am, I usually do. It's just impossible for me to ignore a friend in need.   I was feeling kind of sorry for myself regarding this because I have reached out to someone whose expertise I need with a work issue, and I've yet to hear back.

And then it occurred to me.

Could the Lord think so highly of me that He would want to give me a small token of what He experiences when He seeks our friendship?  He's never too busy or disinterested to listen.  How many times have I been willing to drop everything to listen to Him?   How many times could I have offered Him solace and either ignored Him or refused outright?  How many times has He tried to say something to me, but I was too distracted by the world to listen?

"Behold this Heart, which loves men so much, but they do not want to love Me in return."


  1. Oh don't feel sorry for yourself Joyce, feel blessed. You are such a good soul. "Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land." I was probably similar too when I was young. I grew older to be fairly forceful. I guess one gets that way in the competitive world of engineering. But I felt I was more stepped upon than not as a teen and young man.

    By the way, I don't consider you so meek. You have been pretty forceful in some of our debates. ;)

    I do have a religious question on death, since it's been on your mind. What do we Catholics believe happens at death? Does the soul go directly to heaven/purgatory/hell or is that on judgement day? Some people say that we are in essence asleep until that last day. But that doesn't seem correct to me.

  2. Thanks Manny, you're right. I need a good kick in the butt. There is no merit in feeling sorry for one's self.

    To answer your question, I think that is something to which there is no definitive answer. For instance, Our Lady has promised that those who faithfully wear her Brown Scapular will be taken to Heaven, by her, on the first Saturday after their death. Now, what does that say for everyone else? I honestly don't know. On the other hand, at Fatima, when the children asker her about their little friends who had already died, she told them that one of the girls was in Heaven, but the other was in Purgatory until the end of time. That would lead me to believe that even if we are not judged immediately, some have been judged already. Sorry I don't have a better answer but maybe someone more learned than me can chime in.

  3. Thank you. If you do get an answer I would be intersted in hearing it. I'll continue to look around.

  4. Hi Manny and Joyce. The Church's teaching is that we experience the "particular judgement" immediately at death, and go straight to heaven, hell or purgatory, but in spirit alone, as we do not receive our bodies back until the Last Day. At that time, we participate in the "General Judgement," where everyone will understand all that God worked in each soul and the graces they were given and choices made. It will be the day of God's Justice. Everyone will understand the workings of God in each soul. Then, with body and soul, each person will enter eternal life. All who had died before will return to their previous abode, but now united to their bodies. However, purgatory will no longer exist, as this is the final judgement and the end of the world as we know it.

    We do not "fall asleep" at death. We are like the Saints, who even now are united with God in heaven, and pray for us etc. Many of us will probably have to do some time in purgatory first though. Hope this helps!

    Joyce, I understood completely what you wrote. I felt like I was reading the story of my own friendships. We are in good company. Therese also experienced this, and wrote in her autobiography that she loved others with her whole heart, but they never returned her love in that way. Then she said that God wisely denied her the love of creatures, because she would have probably given her heart away.

    Like you, as a mature adult now, I see this as a blessing too.. It enables one to learn detachment, after being treated this way many times over.

    And, is it not truly an honor and blessing when we can share a tiny bit in something of Our Blessed Lord's suffering.

    I loved your insight on how we often treat Him in the same way others hurt us by their neglect and half-hearted friendship. Thank you.

  5. This could turn into quite a good discussion. I spoke to a Catholic mystic who had a near death experience. She said there is definately purgatory and we should be very glad there is. Different levels so perhaps different time frames, plus all the choices to be made at the time of death. Even the very worst of the worst can go to heaven at the last minute if they open their hearts and accept Christ.

    As for your friends, it is a shame people take advantage, and they do even if they don't realize it, but it shows you that you are someone that people feel they can trust and turn to when they don't think they can handle things by themselves. That alone speaks volumes.

  6. Patricia, thank you much for taking the time to correct Manny and me. It's wonderful when someone is willing to share their knowledge of the faith to help others understand as well.

    Thank you also for reminding me about St. Therese. I know she often wrote about her oversensitivity, and your words remind me of her Christmas conversion after Midnight Mass. I'm a work in progress and I'm glad to have the encouragement of a fellow traveler.
    God bless you!

  7. Thank you very much Patricia. That is kind of what I thought. It's good to finally have it confirmed.

    Seems unfair that the people at the end of time will not have much of a purgatory, because I know I'll be in for a long time...lol. I'm kidding on the unfairness. ;)

  8. Joyce, the entire explanation of the Church's teachings on judgment and what happens after death can be found in paragraphs 1020-1050 in the CCC, which is accessible online, if one doesn't have a copy.

    I think Our Lord had a tender and sensitive heart too: Simon,you gave me no kiss, no water to wash my feet.....; Could you not watch one hour with me? What she (Mary) has done for me will be remembered as long as the gospel is preached; Were not ten healed...?

    But Jesus although hurt, forgave everyone, and He turned His tenderness toward others in need, rather than feeling self-pity as I have often done.

    How beautiful HE IS!

  9. Yes, Patricia, there is none more beautiful than He


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