Sunday, October 2, 2011

Better late than never

In my ongoing protest against this, where is selling downloads of my articles without my permission, and I don't receive a cent of the proceeds, I'm posting my stuff free online. My September column from Catholic Insight

Kill me quick, Lord

Our family tries to have devotions each morning before my husband Dan leaves for work. We pray for particular intentions and share the daily Mass readings, which Dan reads to us. I say “tries” because sometimes, some of us (even occasionally the mom) don’t make it out of bed on time. This is particularly difficult during the summer holidays, when the kids tend to stay up later at night, and thus sleep in a bit more often in the mornings. But we do our best, and resuming the fall school schedule will no doubt help a bit.

Early last month (when I wrote this column), the first reading was from Numbers (11-15). It described one of several instances where the Chosen People were also the Irritating People, whining and carping to Moses. He finally loses patience, and in turn complains to God: "Why hast thou dealt ill with thy servant? And why have I not found favour in thy sight, that thou dost lay the burden of all this people upon me?”

Oh, how a mother can relate.

Moses continues, rhetorically: “Did I conceive all this people? Did I bring them forth, that thou shouldst say to me, `Carry them in your bosom, as a nurse carries the sucking child, to the land which thou didst swear to give their fathers?'” I dare not ask the Lord that question, because the answer would be, “Why yes, dear, you did bring them forth. You asked for every bit of this, seven times over.”

Yet overwrought parents can be tempted, like Moses to protest: “I am not able to carry all this people alone, the burden is too heavy for me. If thou wilt deal thus with me, kill me at once, if I find favour in thy sight, that I may not see my wretchedness."

At the kind (and long-standing) suggestion of my intellectually superior sister and blog partner, I have finally taken up reading the works of American writer Flannery O’Connor. I wish I hadn’t waited so long to do this, but I admit a bit of an academic prejudice (mostly unjustified, I know) against modern writers, and North American modern writers in particular. This past summer I immersed myself in all things Flannery and had a smashing time of it. Best known for her short fiction, she was brilliant in other non-fiction genres as well.

One of my favourite Flannery quotations (and other people’s too, since one sees it so often) comes from the short story “A Temple of the Holy Ghost”, wherein a profoundly flawed character considers her own level of sanctity (or lack thereof). After a list of numerous faults, comes the concluding punch line: “She could never be a saint, but she thought she could be a martyr if they killed her quick.” Which contains pretty much the same sentiment as Moses’ grievance: I can’t take this, Lord; just shoot me. Maybe modern writers have something to offer after all. (Well, I know Flannery does.)

Not in any way to make light of real-life martyrs for Christianity (and they are becoming distressingly more numerous by the day, especially in areas dominated by radical Islam), we sometimes think it would be easier to die an instantaneous physical death than to ‘die to self’. But the latter is the only way for most of us to live and enjoy the fullness of life: not only here on earth, but (more importantly) in the life beyond. The long, slow road to sanctity is always the hardest, because it involves dying to ourselves a thousand times a day. We make it more difficult by clinging to our stubbornness, our selfishness, our pride, our weakness and sin. We make it harder by ignoring our hunger for God, and instead spending our time, energy and resources on that which does not satisfy.

We can and should pray, unceasingly, for mercy in our struggle, for the grace to endure and triumph. Ask the Lord to kill—quickly, decisively—everything within us that would hold us back from serving and loving him—and, by extension, all those whom he has placed in our circle of care and influence.

Kill me quick, Lord; I want to be a saint. And help me get up in time for prayers tomorrow morning.

No comments:

Post a Comment