By BRENDA HOPF
CONNECTING FAITH AND LIFE
“We are bound to memories, to a past, even to those full of all that is aghast, and yet, we must conjure up enough strength to live beside our ghosts, unafraid" (Barbara Garay).
As I read the above lines of poetry, I was reminded of a time I volunteered to be the server for a funeral at which there was a private viewing in church prior to Mass. As the time for Mass drew near, the family began to say their last goodbyes to their loved one. I had a few tasks to take care of yet, including lighting the altar candles. Conscious of the solemnity of the moment, I wanted to be respectful and get in and out of the sanctuary as quickly and quietly as possible.
I lit the candles on the former high altar first; then the two candles at the main altar. As I turned to exit the sanctuary, I inadvertently hit the glass candle shield with the snuffer on the end of the candlelighter. A sudden, loud shattering of glass broke the silence as hundreds of pieces of glass fell to the carpet.
I felt terrible for the disruption I had caused for this grieving family. I moved quickly to start picking up the pieces of shattered glass. The sacristan and music minister came to my aid, for which I was so very grateful. We did our best to clean up the mess before Mass started, leaving some tiny shards of glass imbedded in the carpet for a more thorough cleaning after Mass.
The obvious teaching moment of this story is, well, be a bit more careful when lighting candles during a solemn moment! Seriously, all joking aside, I was struck by the thought that as we suffer through the pain of mental and spiritual anguish in this messy world, God is right there with us. Just as the sacristan and music minister came to my aid and helped me in a very difficult moment, so, too, God works through people who reach out to us and help us cope with whatever mental or spiritual heartache we may have to endure here on earth.
Most often, as life goes on, our past pain and suffering from the challenges of our earthly life ease – at least enough that the pain subsides to a point that we can function somewhat normally in our daily life. However, there will be days when we come upon those “tiny shards of glass” deeply imbedded in our memory. As the shards poke us, the memory of pain from the past returns and we begin to bleed. I believe that, when these shards of glass from past memories poke us, it is not necessarily a bad thing – but, rather, a reminder of how Jesus has helped us through our past trials and has never left our side. He will always be there to stop the bleeding. It is not that God doesn’t want us to be happy or that we have to suffer unceasingly. It is just that, in order to be with Jesus someday in heaven, we have to be like him here on earth; and some days, suffering is a part of that journey.
Saint Faustina, who suffered much throughout her life said, “…often my best intentions were misinterpreted by the sisters, a type of suffering which is most painful; but God allows it and we must accept it because in this way we become more like Jesus.”
Brenda Hopf is a member of Divine Mercy Parish in Dubois County and also contributes to the “Sharing the Load” column in The Message.