Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Write My Life, Lord

“I say to myself, and I say to you: do we let God write our lives? Or do we want to do the writing ourselves?” ~Pope Francis

"Fools that we are!  We admire and bless this Divine action in the writings relating its history, and when it is ready to continue this writing on our hearts, we keep moving the paper and prevent it writing by our curiosity, to see what it is doing in and around us.  Pardon, Divine Love, these defects; I can see them all in myself, for I am not yet able to understand how to let You act...I have not, as yet, by abandonment, received even the bare outlines of your pencil."  ~Jean-Pierre de Caussade, Abandonment to Divine Providence

...or in the case of Jesus, hang on a cross and bleed.
Photo and quote  H/T Nancy Shuman.

Pope Francis gets to me.  I can't get through reading a single one of his homilies without the realization that I've got a lot of improving to do in my life, especially when it comes to the poor.  Over and over again he reminds us that the poor are the most important, that we need to give our all for them, that we must simplify our lives, in solidarity with, and to benefit, them.  It is no easy task.  In his recent homily on the Gospel account of the Good Samaritan, he reminds us that "part of listening to the Lord comes with helping the needy."  I'm certain that I often fail to be a good listener.  I recently experienced a week of great discomfort because God put situations into my path for which I did not adequately give my all.  I was the Levite and the priest hurrying on my way, too "put upon" to recognize the distressed face of Christ in my life.

I often spend time alone in church after the daily 7 AM Mass, praying before the tabernacle.  Many days I am the only one in church.  Recently, a homeless man came and sat in the pew in front of me, turned to me, and asked if he could tell me about his problems.  I listened as Terry told me about his brother who recently died and his lack of funds to attend the funeral out of town.  He complained about his divorce, his HIV positive status and his loneliness.  Alcohol fumes emitted from his mouth with each word he spoke.  He told me that he was so consumed with anger that he wasn't sure how much longer he could control his behavior. With those words, I became very uncomfortable, but despite that, when the maintenance man entered the church from the sacristy and stopped to stare at Terry and I, I waved to him to let him know that everything was fine.  Then I reached in my purse, gave Terry ten dollars, promised him my prayers, and walked away from him to light a candle.  When I got up to leave church, Terry was gone.  I left Church that day, feeling, not a satisfaction that I had found Jesus within Terry and responded out of love, but a disgust with myself for feeling uncomfortable and giving him money as a way to rid myself of his company.  Thinking back upon the situation, I wished that after listening to Terry's concerns, that I would have shared my concerns with him as well, as I would have with any other friend who takes the time to confide in me, that we would have had a real conversation.  There, despite the presence of Jesus in the tabernacle, I didn't give to Terry from my heart full of love, but, rather, from my mind full of fear.

Later, during that same week, my family and I spent a morning working at our parish food pantry.  I volunteered to work at the registration table.  A handsome young man came to sign up and when I asked him how he had heard about the food pantry he told me that God had told him to come.  I asked for his identification and he said that he had been in jail and the police took his ID card and never gave it back to him.  Then he started crying, with tears streaming down his face.  I reached out and held his hand, offering words of reassurance.  Suddenly, his crying turned to laughter; loud, boisterous laughter, that drew the attention of others in the crowded church hall.  I withdrew my hand and finished the paperwork.  As he worked his way through the food line, he continued to laugh, as well as dance and sing at the top of his lungs.  I recognized that this man was struggling with mental illness.  The compassion that I had felt while he was crying, turned to repulsion with myself because I didn't do more for him.  I wondered, what if that were my son, suffering so publicly, would I just turn away and ignore it, hoping that someone else would address it?  What would it have cost me to walk with that young man as he made his food choices, and to help him to carry his groceries home?  Could I have offered to assist him with obtaining another form of identification?  Shouldn't I have followed up with him in a week's time to see how he was getting along?  But instead, I turned to the next client and left this young man, this man that God had brought into my presence, to face his problems on his own.

And so, with a sorrowful heart filled with regret, and at the same time, a hopeful heart filled with promise, I pray:

Write my life, Lord.  Help me to hold still while your pen works out my story, so that I may accept all that you intend for me.  Don't allow me to squirm away from Your plans.  Spill Your ink upon my soul, and when you are through, open the book of my life to others so that they will read the words of Your will faithfully followed in every situation.  Amen.

"The Holy Spirit continues to carry on the work of the Savior.  While helping the Church to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ, He writes His own gospel in the hearts of the just.  All their actions, every moment of their lives, are the Gospel of the Holy Spirit.  The souls of the saints are the paper, the sufferings and actions the ink.  The Holy Spirit, with the pen of His power, writes a living Gospel, but a Gospel that cannot be read until it has left the press of this life, and has been published on the day of eternity.  Oh!  Great history!  Grand book written by the Holy Spirit in this present time!  It is still in the press.  There is never a day when the type is not arranged, when the ink is not applied, or the pages are not printed.  We are still in the dark night of faith.  The paper is blacker than the ink, and there is great confusion in the type.  It is written in characters of another world and there is no understanding it except in heaven."  ~Jean-Pierre de Caussade, Abandonment to Divine Providence


  1. Anne,
    Don't beat yourself up too much. It sounds as if you did show compassion. At least you offered an ear and prayer, with a smile I'm sure.
    Thank you for sharing your witness and faith.

  2. Anne, you did so much more than many of us do. Don't you think Our Lord leads us gently, as we try to follow in His footsteps? I'm sure even Mother Teresa didn't always do the perfect thing...especially in the beginning. As far as your fear with the man in Church, it's prudent, I think. I have been in similar situations, and it can be confusing to know what to do. I think Jesus from the tabernacle was so very pleased with you and your kindness to this man. I think you made His day...so to speak. Rare is such kindness as you showed. Thanks for sharing Anne. You are an inspiration to me. God bless you!

  3. Thank you, Gail and Patricia, for your kind words of encouragement. I guess we know that there is always room for improvement in each of our lives, and the Lord looks deep within our hearts, so my hope is that with each glance He sends my way, all He finds is love. Bless you both!

  4. Never stop trying! Christi

  5. Anne, you mentioned using that Hemingway quote in a blog post... but oh my! How moving!! I think you were beautifully generous to the young man, and I have a feeling that Our Lord was very pleased. Thank you for sharing this. I am especially moved by your speaking of Jesus hanging on the Cross and bleeding. The Word Himself hung on the Cross and bled for us......

  6. Beautiful. I agree with Nancy. And I love that - let God write our lives.
    And Pope Francis gets to me, too.

  7. Your comments are all so kind. I think we often feel as though we're on the right path when we give a donation or spend some time helping at a meal program or food pantry. But, no matter how much we give, there is always more need, isn't there? I've been thinking about all of the houses we passed on our way to the meal program, so many of them boarded up and run down, and my family and I come and spend a few hours and then drive back to our suburban neighborhood and complain about our own minor struggles, never fully understanding the scope of troubles that the truly poor have to deal with every day. And yet, they are often so willing to open the book of their lives to us, to let us into their sorrows and struggles, to give us a glimpse of Jesus suffering upon the cross in them. Our lives are greatly enriched by the presence of the poor among us.

    I guess this is a topic that will remain heavy on my heart as I learn to become a good Samaritan, helping the poor, and not only that, but allowing the poor to become good Samaritans to me, ministering to me in my own varied needs.

    God writes with a powerful pen, that's certain. And I can't say that I always want to read His words-most of the time the lesson He means to impart to me feels as though it's beyond my comprehension. But I have to be willing to try, again and again. Pope Francis seems to be the typewriter through whom God bleeds His Word most effectively today, striking the keys that mark our hearts in the ways each of us most need to be touched.

  8. The pangs of growth! What an ongoing struggle to love the other, to will the good of the other as other...you are so encouraging by your witness. How many times we turn away, how long. I love what you say about God writing with a powerful pen and not always wanting to read His lessons. God bless Pope Francis and you Anne for you are a wonderful pen in the hands of God!!

    1. Thank you Cynthia. There's so much for each of us to take away from the words of our beautiful Pope, aren't there? And you, you are a pen, writing so magnificently, making our spirits soar to heaven with your poetry. Thank you so much for all of your inspiration!

  9. Anne, the saying is that "you can't fit a square peg into a round hole." And wishing will not make it so. But the reality of that truth doesn't blur another truth: You must have faith; you must keep trying. Eventually a square hole will come by, and your peg will be exactly what is needed.

    And there is one other truth, that not all can accept: sometimes we cannot judge correctly whether our target is a round hole into which our message will not fit, or a square one which so desperately needs it --- or whether it is a round one which may look at our message and say: I must change, to accept this message.

    Much is beyond our control, but still we must try, and love.