Praised be Jesus Christ! Do you ever find yourself arguing with what you read in the newspaper? Maybe you no longer read the paper... God knows there are a variety reasons for why newspaper subscriptions have plummeted, but one very compelling source of discontent is that people feel they cannot trust the media to tell the truth. Take, for example, the following story which appeared in the August/September edition of the magazine First Things: “The case of fourteen-year-old Valentina Maureira, a Chilean girl who suffered from cystic fibrosis, illustrates... the power of social influence. Maureira made a YouTube video begging her government to legalize assisted suicide. She admitted that the idea to end her life began after she heard about the case of Brittany Maynard, the twenty-nine-year-old woman who campaigned for the legalization of assisted suicide before ending her own life. Maureira, however, later changed her mind after meeting another young woman suffering from cystic fibrosis who encouraged her to persevere in the face of adversity. Her father complained that the media were only interested in her story when she wanted to die.” Do you see the problem? Now before we start grinding our axes too vigorously, it’s good to remember and adopt The Christophers’ mantra: “Better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.” In the same periodical some excellent news apropos of parish life appears: “We now have a sizable body of medical research which suggests that prayer, religious faith, participation in a religious community, and practices like cultivating gratitude, forgiveness, and other virtues can reduce the risk of depression, lower the risk of suicide, diminish drug use, and aid in recovery.” We are social creatures and we need a strong community if we hope to push back the ubiquitous demons of futility and darkness. Sadly, the temptation to isolate ourselves has overwhelmed our culture and shows itself in our penchant for choosing our phone over the person sitting right next to us. There is a theological insight here, namely we were created by a God who is a community of Persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Therefore, we will never be at peace with ourselves in self-imposed isolation. A powerful illustration of how geared we are to be in communion with others is conveyed by the following story: “A few years ago, a man in his thirties took his own life by jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge (as more than fifteen hundred other people have done since the bridge was built). After his death, his psychiatrist went with the medical examiner to the man’s apartment, where they found his diary. The last entry, written just hours before he died, said, ‘I’m going to walk to the bridge. If one person smiles at me on the way, I will not jump,’ (First Things).” These are difficult times because though we are connected by myriad technological possibilities, it seems we’ve never been so far apart. Thank God for the gift of faith, which unites us both to each other and to our Heavenly Father. Our challenge is to live our faith more consistently, pray more fervently, and offer our sufferings more generously. Doing so will give us the grace to touch our broken world with compassion and love. Saint Teresa of Calcutta was famous for living her faith with supernatural hope. She instructed her Sisters (and us), “Let us always meet each other with a smile, for the smile is the beginning of love.” For those of you who are just learning to pray on a daily basis, do not forget to take a few minutes every day to rest in God in the silence of your heart. Ask your Guardian Angel to help you enter God’s Presence and then just rest there for a while. Encountering the Lord in prayer heals the little hurts that we experience every day and reminds us that our life is a gift to others. Pray more, smile more, and more people will decide their life is worth living.
May God teach us to pray well, with our hearts wide open! Your friend in Christ,