Sunday, September 26, 2010

Camping Complaints

(photo-the bluffs at Devil's Lake State Park, Wisconsin)

The beauty belies the chill in the air, as frigid bodies curl close for warmth, and tents set up in the dark on top of tree roots make for sleepless nights.

The joys of camping-marshmallows roasting on the fire, hiking in the bluffs, fresh, clean air
in our lungs, family time spent close together without electronic interruptions-are overshadowed
by the cold of early autumn.

A friend once asked me if I wouldn't like to live outdoors in the beauty of nature. As my family and I hiked in the wooded bluffs around the lake I pondered that question and I almost thought I would answer yes to that lovely thought as a pristine day spent in nature with the glory of God filling my heart easily pushes away any negative thinking.

But sleepless nights in a flimsy tent during 40 degree weather take all reminders of the glories of nature away and I am quick to complain about how cold and tired I am and I wonder out loud why my family considers camping to be a vacation.

Later, I regret my whining words and I wish that I had offered all that suffering up for a higher cause. I thought of a book I recently read, "Merry in God" about the life of Fr. William Doyle, SJ, an Irish priest who served as a military chaplain during World War I. His letters and journals spoke of nights trying to catch a few minutes of sleep in a wet, muddy trench with giant rats all around and the sounds of bombs whistling through the air. During his years of service, he rarely complained about the weather, his sleeping conditions, or his lack of food, but instead focused on his need to minister to his fellow soldiers and bring God to their weary hearts. He offered Mass in the most difficult circumstances. He listened to endless confessions and offered general absolution before many major battles. But during all of the stress and difficulty of the horrors of war, he was forever smiling and loving to everyone, offering all of his hardship to God for the good of his comrades and the sake of their souls. And it was that spiritual service joyfully offered in time of war that finally took his life during a horrific battle.

Shame fills my heart when I realize how far away I am from that ideal attitude that makes saints out of men. These words of prayer from that very holy man are worth remembering when I am tempted to complain of little sufferings and inconveniences:

"O Jesus, Jesus, Jesus! Who would not love You, who would not give their heart's blood for You, if only once they realized the depth and the breadth and the realness of Your burning love? Why not then make every human heart a burning furnace of love for You, so that sin would become an impossibility, sacrifice a pleasure and a joy, virtue the longing of every soul, so that we should live for love, dream of love, breathe Your love, and at last die of a broken heart of love, pierced through and through with the shaft of love, the sweetest gift of God to man."

"I must eagerly welcome every little pain, suffering, small sickness, trouble, cross of any kind, as coming straight to me from the Sacred Heart. Am I not your loving victim, my Jesus?"

  • Prayer for Priests by Fr Doyle

    O my God, pour out in abundance Thy spirit of sacrifice upon Thy priests. It is both their glory and their duty to become victims, to be burnt up for souls, to live without ordinary joys, to be often the objects of distrust, injustice, and persecution.

    The words they say every day at the altar, "This is my Body, this is my Blood," grant them to apply to themselves: "I am no longer myself, I am Jesus, Jesus crucified. I am, like the bread and wine, a substance no longer itself, but by consecration another."

    O my God, I burn with desire for the sanctification of Thy priests. I wish all the priestly hands which touch Thee were hands whose touch is gentle and pleasing to Thee, that all the mouths uttering such sublime words at the altar should never descend to speaking trivialities.

    Let priests in all their person stay at the level of their lofty functions, let every man find them simple and great, like the Holy Eucharist, accessible to all yet above the rest of men. O my God, grant them to carry with them from the Mass of today, a thirst for the Mass of tomorrow, and grant them, ladened with gifts, to share these abundantly with their fellow men. Amen.

  • Fr. William Doyle, SJ

    To learn more about Fr. William Doyle, visit Remembering Fr. William Doyle, SJ


    1. I should comment about all the lovely things about priests and offering up the adversity, but all I can think of is--I used to camp with my family as a child at Devil's Lake in WI when I was a child every summer. It still looks about the same from the picture at the top. I grew up in Rockford, IL, so it wasn't far away like St. Louis is. Thanks for bringing back that memory.

    2. Oh yes, we are human aren't we? But God also knows your heart that constantly strives for holiness! I am writing down the book...It sounds like one I would love, especially with my military background. Thank you, Anne.

    3. I had read of, but not read, Fr. Doyle. Thank you, Anne, for posting his prayers. In a way his prayer speaks from my heart more than that of Therese; welcoming every little pain, little suffering, and being His loving victim are usually far from my heart when I suffer irritations. How I wish those thoughts were closer.

    4. Well, if it makes you feel better, I am ashamed, also, after reading that because I complain if my bedroom is too hot (with no rats - only an escaped hamster in my walls).
      Father Doyle showed heroic virtue despite terrible circumstances. As much as I'd like to be virtuous to this degree I'm stuck being plain old Mary instead. Sometimes, bearing with ourselves as we really are and trying to do so because we love God can be difficult enough! The good thing is, we can offer that up :) It's a win-win situation!

    5. Anne: Many thanks for the link and comment on the Remembering Fr Doyle site. Yes, Fr Doyle is very special - he really is a relatively unknown spiritual treasure.

      The book Merry in God is excellent, but it is far surpassed by Alfred O'Rahilly's original biography which gives much greater insight into the spiritual life of Fr Doyle. It quotes more extensively from Fr Doyle's letters and notes and also gives a superb commentary on Fr Doyle's life of prayer and penance. If you like Fr Doyle I really recommend getting this book. A lot of the story will be familiar from Merry in God, but I think you would gain a lot from the commentary.

      There is a link to a reprint of the 2nd edition on the website (I am not commercially or financially associated with this in any way) and there is also a link where you can read the full book online.

      The later editions, especially the 4th and 5th, are actually much longer than this second edition - the extra 200 pages are filled in with even more commentary on Fr Doyle's spiritual life with dozens and dozens of examples of how Fr Doyle's life is based on solid Catholic and Jesuit principles and how his practices were similar to that of the saints.

      God bless!

    6. Family time is made up of many experiences; laughter, tears, smiling and complaining are some of these experiences. But through all these many things come lessons learned and memories we will look back on later, much like roses in December.

      Thank you for sharing the beautiful prayers of Fr. Doyle, as well as some of the backgfound on him and his life;I am not too familiar with him.

      The picture of Devil's Lake is beautiful. Did you take it?

      God bless you Anne.

    7. Thanks for all of the kind messages!

      Patrick, I had looked for that book at the same library where I found "Merry in God" but they didn't have it. I'm glad to know that I can find it on your website.

      DG, my son Joe took the picture with his cell phone. The kids were all rock climbing while Paul and I stood at the bottom of the bluff holding our breath and praying for their safety. Joe took this picture from the top of the bluff. Who knew that cell phones could do such a good job?

    8. Great post. Prayers were beautiful. I loved camping but then, we started in a tent, went to a pop-up, then a travel trailer, then a motor home! Definitely preferred the motor home!