My thoughts and reflections on my Catholic Faith, Fulton Sheen, the problem of suffering, and books

Friday, July 6, 2012

In which the Theological-Librarian Rambles

Ramble, verb: to talk or write in a desultory or long-winded wandering fashion--Merriam-Webster.

This is the first post in a while for which I haven't prepared something ahead of time.  I prepared my last two on Sheen and took my time in writing them; the post on suffering and the Book of Job had been fermenting for some time; but today I have nothing planned to write.  I'd thought about writing on religious freedom through the eyes of Sheen, but I don't have all of the books necessary to make that post good enough.

So, the Theological-Librarian (aka Hurt-ey) will ramble, per the above definition of the word.

Tomorrow will be exactly 8 weeks since Graduation.  8 weeks of job-hunting and applications, one interview after which I got a rejection letter (with a typographical error, which really cracked me up); one interview that I missed because of transportation difficulties; and, today, one application that evidently I'm not qualified for…says the computer.  Last time I checked, I have a high school diploma, I have more than an associate's degree, and I have customer service skills.  O well.  Such is life.

Last week, I decided it was time to buckle down to praying for a job, in addition to my half-hearted attempts to hunt and apply for jobs.  I found two beautiful prayers at Our Catholic Prayers:

Dear Lord,
Help me find firm ground in this shaky economy.
As I seek work and assistance,
Give me strength not to be anxious when I seem to be going nowhere;
Give me patience not to despair when things look bleak;
Give me serenity to know You are here with me, helping me to carry my crosses each day;
So that I may do Your will,
For the salvation of souls
And my Eternal Life. Amen.

It’s not so much the “shaky economy” that’s upsetting me, as it is the fact that, because I’m lazy and unmotivated and because I was trying to stay sane last semester (because, of course my last semester of college had to be the one in which life went down the drain and in a million different directions), I didn’t do as much job-hunting as I should have.  BUT, as Mr. Brown told us in PHIL 201 (Ethics, Fall 2010), you don’t deliberate about the past: it’s useless.  Not that that is going to stop my worrying, but it’s a good thing to remind myself of.  (“Of which to remind myself,” says the Grammar Nazi/my mother/the people who wrote Easy Grammar, which I used in 4th or 5th grade.)

This prayer has several intentions that I really like: “firm ground”…the terra firma that Christendom College gave me, something firm to stand on, to trust in, to support me.  “Strength not to be anxious”…because it takes strength, fortitude (the cardinal virtue that “disposes us to do what is good in spite of any difficulty,” according to the Baltimore Catechism) to not give in to anxiety about dwindling bank accounts, mounting bills, and general joblessness.  “Patience not to despair”…because in addition to having hope, the virtue that is the opposite of despair, I need patience to help me to continue to trust that God knows what He’s doing and that I will find a job in His good time, which isn’t necessarily my time-table.  “Serenity to know You are here with me”…I really need to start praying the Serenity Prayer every day.  I was, for a while, through the advice of a good friend and fellow-student, the Head Student Supervisor at Christendom’s Library; but, like many other things in the life of such an unmotivated person as I, it kind of fell by the wayside.

Second beautiful prayer from Our Catholic Prayers:

Dear Lord,
In this time of uncertainty,
Be my rock in a world built on sand;
Be my oasis of grace and peace in a world of tension and turmoil;
Help me to carry my cross gracefully, as you did in Your Passion;
Help me to follow Your beam of light in the midst of this darkness;
Help me to see Your will in all things
And show others Your comfort and strength.
Keep me calm when tempers flare up;
Keep me sane in a crazy world;
Keep me focused on the houses in Heaven
rather than the houses of cards collapsing around me;
Keep my eyes focused on the prize of Heaven
and not lose hope in You in this world or in the world to come;
Make me compassionate in dealing with others;
Let me see my travails as carrying my cross and sharing in Your Passion, for the love of You and for the salvation of souls, including mine.
And may all my difficulties be ultimately for my good and Your glory. Amen.

The theme that’s jumping out at me from that prayer is trustThe Baltimore Catechism defines the virtue of hope as “the virtue by which we firmly trust that God, who is all-powerful and faithful to His promises, will in His mercy give us eternal happiness and the means to obtain it.”  I’m reading Joseph Pieper’s book On Faith: a Philosophical Treatise right now, and next his book On Hope; maybe I’ll be able to get some pointers from Pieper about the virtue of hope.  Because I’m terrible when it comes to trust.  In dealings with other people, I struggle with trusting that they’ll do what they say they will, that what they say is really true, that they’re not just “being nice” when they say they’re not mad at me or when they tell me I’m a wonderful person.

And I also have trouble trusting God.  I know, intellectually, that He has a plan for my life, that He knows what He’s doing, that He knows where I’ll be four weeks, eight weeks, six months from now.  But I have trouble trusting that things will all work out.  That’s why I need a prayer like this.

Asking Our Lord every day to “Be my rock in a world built on sand” reminds me that He is that Rock, that terra firma, that firm ground on which I can stand, no matter how much the “sand” of political upheaval and the “winds” of stress and personal problems and joblessness beat against me (cf. Mt. 7:24-27), and that I can put my trust in Him, I can trust that that Rock is not going to move under my feet, that I’m not going to fall over the cliff (I’m terrified of heights…or, more properly speaking, of falling from heights), that I’m going to survive the “rain,” and the “floods,” and the “wind” (I hate storms).

Be my oasis of grace and peace in a world of tension and turmoil”…an oasis, according to Merriam-Webster, “a fertile or green area in an arid region (as a desert),” also “something that provides refuge, relief, or pleasant contrast.”  An oasis is that pleasant patch of water and living vegetation in an otherwise barren, arid desert—the water that you find when you need it most, just when you think you’re about to die from thirst.  So, in times of joblessness (which essentially equals “tension and turmoil”), I’m asking God to be an “oasis of grace and peace,” to give me His grace to not be discouraged by joblessness, and His peace to not become frazzled by the “tension and turmoil.”

Then there are the two phrases about the Cross: “Help me to carry my cross gracefully, as You did in Your Passion,” and “Let me see my travails as carrying my cross and sharing in Your Passion, for the love of You and for the salvation of souls, including mine.”  Now, I know some people are going to look at that prayer and be disgusted by the view of suffering as carrying the cross.  To some, it’s going to seem like you’re just passively accepting suffering, with defeat, with resignation.  But there’s an active verb there: “carry.”  I don’t just say “Yup, I’ve got this cross to deal with, time to get back to my actual life.”  Carrying my cross is part of my “actual life” (and, believe me, I feel like a hypocrite writing this); and all the intellectual knowledge about how suffering, rightly done, is a share in the Passion of Our Blessed Lord, does nothing to help the actual practice of that.  It’s not a matter of knowledge; it’s a matter of practice, of prayer.  “Theology is best done on your knees,” as Dr. O’Donnell told us in Ascetical and Mystical Theology, Spring 2011.

Help me to follow Your beam of light in the midst of this darkness”…our world is in darkness, our world has turned its back on the Light of the World, just as Pilate turned his back on the Truth of the World (cf Sheen, Life of Christ, 345).  I guess joblessness and financial uncertainty could be “darkness” in a sense, but the darkness that’s really bothering me is not being able to go to daily Mass.

O, I took daily Mass for granted at Christendom, I would pass it up for lame excuses; but if you want to appreciate the Mass, then try not being able to go to daily Mass after going to it at least several times a week for roughly four years.  Since Graduation, I’ve gotten to Mass every Sunday and maybe 7 or 8 other times.  I miss it, I miss being able to assist at the Sacrifice of Calvary every single day, I miss placing my sorrows and worries and prayer intentions there on the paten next to the Host so that Father can offer them to the Eternal Father (Sheen reference, but I don’t know from where), I miss the strength that I received and took for granted.  May the Heart of Jesus, in the Most Blessed Sacrament, be praised, adored, and loved with grateful affection, at every moment in all the Tabernacles of the world, even until the end of time.  Amen.

Help me to see Your Will in all things, and show others Your comfort and strength.”  It is only if I am living my Faith that I can really share it with others.  It is only if I see my tribulations as “The Shade of His Hand outstretched caressingly” (Sheen, in his Preface to his Life of Christ, quoting Francis Thompson’s "Hound of Heaven") that I can dare to try to help my friends see theirs that way; and it is only if I have experienced the Cross in my own life that I can give comfort—not mine, but Christ’s—to others.  (As Sheen said: "When one is looking for counsel, it is always well to seek out those who themselves have suffered.  There is much more wisdom acquired from patiently bearing suffering than there is from books.  No one is ever consoled by having a moral theology flung at their head."[1])

Keep me calm when tempers flare up”…O, I need that.  My temper isn’t as violent as it was when I was in high school (case in point: I slammed a door in anger, and it shook the wall so hard that our holy water font flew off and broke), but I am very easily frustrated, and my reaction to accusations or other things from my mentally ill mother is anger…anger because, even though I know that her twisted logic is not twisted in her head, it’s still wrong; anger because nothing I say or do will make her change; anger because she doesn’t trust me enough to treat me like an adult.

Wow, I did not mean to go into a rant about Mommy Dearest; my sincerest apologies.  (Except, if I were really sincere about apologizing for that rant, I would delete the above paragraph, which I’m not doing.)

Keep me sane in a crazy world”…that phrase has so much more meaning for me now, after last semester.  I joked all semester that our beloved History Professor—God Love him!—was keeping me “sane”; and I’m slowly adjusting to the fact that, in popular parlance, my mother is “crazy.”  (To all my readers who know me personally: never, never, NEVER use that word when talking with me about my mother; you may call her “mentally ill,” you may speak of her “paranoia,” but to hear the word “crazy” or the word “lunatic” applied to my mother is too painful to deal with, even though it’s true.)

Keep me focused on the houses in Heaven rather than the houses of cards collapsing around me.  Keep my eyes focused on the prize of Heaven and not lose hope in You in this world or in the world to come.”  This reminds me of what Our Blessed Lord said in His Last Supper Discourse, in Jn. 14:2: “In my Father's house there are many mansions.”  I need to remember, especially now as I’m (hopefully) entering into the world of having a job, being completely responsible for paying my bills and buying my groceries, eventually (God-willing) settling down somewhere permanently, that this world isn’t “permanent.”  This is not all there is.  That’s another reason I need to have hope.  Sheen draws this out in his simple yet powerful analogy of a child playing with a ball:

Picture a child with a ball, and suppose that he is told that it is the only ball he will ever have to play with.  The natural psychological reaction of the child will be to be fearful of playing too much with it, or bouncing it too often, or even pricking it full of pin holes, because he will never have another ball.  But suppose that the child is told that perhaps next month, perhaps next week, perhaps even in five minutes, he will be given another ball, which will never wear out, which will always give joy and with which he will never tire of playing.  The natural reaction of the child will be to take the first ball a little less seriously, and to being playing with it joyously and happily, not even caring if someone does prick it full of pin holes, because he is very soon going to have another ball which will endure eternally.
            The child with one ball is the modern pagan who has only one ball in the sense that he has one sphere, one world, one life, on earth.  He cannot enjoy the earth as much as he would like because he must always be fearful of the earth being taken away from him.  He can never even tolerate that any suffering or pain should ever come to his little ball, the earth, for it is the only ball that he will ever have to play with.  The Christian, on the other hand, is the one who believes that someday, perhaps even tomorrow, he will have another ball, another world, another sphere, another life.  And so he can begin to play with this earth, enjoy its monotony, and even be resigned to its pinpricks, for he knows that very soon he is going to have the other ball, which is the other life that will never wear out nor become tiresome, because its life is the life of the Eternal God, the beginning and the end of all that is.[2]

Make me compassionate in dealing with others”…see my blog post Compassion for my thoughts on this virtue.

And may all my difficulties be ultimately for my good and Your glory.”  This last line in the prayer is where the whole question of trust comes up again.  It takes trust to know that God can bring good out of evil, that God can make one’s difficulties redound to His greater glory, and that my difficulties can—with the help of God’s grace, with my cooperation, and if I accept them in the proper spirit—turn to my good.

So, I guess the moral of today’s ramblings (very long ramblings…this is 5 pages of single-spaced paper, according to Microsoft Word) is trust.


Trust Him when dark doubts assail thee,
Trust Him when thy strength is small,
Trust Him when to simply
Trust Him seems the hardest thing of all.
Trust Him, He is ever faithful,
Trust Him, His dear will is best,
Trust Him, for the Heart of Jesus is thy surest place of rest.
Trust Him, then in storm and sunshine,
All thy cares upon Him cast,
Till the term of life is over and thy trusting days are past.

"Bye now, and God Love you!"
Yours in all things Theological,
Hurt-ey

[1]Guide to Contentment, quoted in the anthology From the Angel's Blackboard: the Best of Fulton J. Sheen: a Centennial Celebration, (Liguori, MO: Triumph Books, 1995), 95.
[2]Fulton J. Sheen, Moods and Truths, in The Fulton J. Sheen Treasury, (New York: Popular Library, 1932), 309-310.

3 comments:

  1. You have expressed this very well indeed.

    I have a message to get to you, but you seem to have disappeared from access. How may I send it to you. My email is

    :-)

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  2. Your footnotes/endnotes don't look Turabian. :) :D Love you!

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    1. The first one probably isn't Turabian...I'm still a little spotty on how to cite an anthology. The second one is...at least, that's how I did it in my Thesis, and none of the Writing Center people caught it. ;-)

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