Saturday, February 04, 2006

Re-calibration

I have a dear parishioner who is at home dying. He and his wife are so wonderfully kind and generous to me as I visit them, and I am moved by the seriousness and piety with which they take their faith and spiritual lives.

This sort of situation is not uncommon in the life of a parish priest, I'm afraid. In a healthy parish of some average size, a parish priest is not dealing with this every day, but it comes up periodically. At the recent clericus, one priest mentioned that his parish had been an older parish and in the last dozen or so years, he had buried 90 of Christ's faithful. Wow.

So, I am ministering, to the best of my ability, to this older couple. I bring them the sacrament, pray with them, give them the parish news. The parish can ill afford to lose either one of them, as we don't have that many older people in the parish--well, they're essentially it.

As to the title of this post. Much happens in life that is so trivial and inconsequential. So much happens that is just stupid and insipid and tediously taxing to one's patience. In one sense, because of our laziness and slackness, much just doesn't happen at all.

So many people spend their life complaining--and I point the finger at myself too for such silliness and pettiness. Yet, when I am faced with the death of a wonderful member of our parish, when I meet with a student who has just lost her father, when I see the brokenness all around me, but particularly, death, I have my meter recalibrated.

It's the sort of meter that would flash or buzz when you enter an outhouse. It's the sort of meter that everyone really needs to have and keep calibrated. For me, death up close and personal does a very fine job of recalibrating it. Suddenly the world and life and the universe is all put into perspective, I'm reminded that we only have one ride on this merry-go-round, and each moment is particularly precious and important to the Kingdom of God and to the joyous life I am supposed to live in Him.

So, when I hear the incessant complaining and carping, when I hear how rough it is in this situation or that--and particularly when I come up with those issues from my own heart, I am reminded of the young death of my best friend from childhood, of the young death of two friends and mothers (one a parishioner) on Christmas Eve's two years apart, I'm reminded of the accident this last Christmas time of a family friend who lived through his own car accident only to be killed by the car coming behind him, I'm reminded of my dear parishioner and his wife who is not ready to say goodbye, who spend their days together comforting one another, laughing a little, crying a little and probably just being quiet together as a married couple learns how to be after dozens of years of marriage.

I hope and pray that I am patient and kind and loving to those who are complaining, but I hope to God that I can communicate the important things of life to them too--especially when I am the one complaining. We only go round once; let's live each moment in the joy of our Lord and quit complaining about the great blessings that He has seen fit to bestow upon us--even the blessings of trials and temptations since we know that they are meant for our continual sanctification as well.

And, may God continue to give me opportunities to re-calibrate that all important meter in His timing and will.

6 comments:

G.I. said...

Americans do not know how to cope with death. Turning to my post, I think that the buddhists do. They're idea of life after death is incorrect(as is their view of life before death for that matter), but they know how to handle death. Faithful members of the Church should have nothing to fear in death, and from what I hear, that parishoner is displaying that calmness beautifully.

mr_bartel said...

Thank you Fr. Foos for reminding us of what is really important. May we all strive to understand the blessing of each breath we take. May we learn to live passionately. May we learn to die passionately for, as you mention, death glorifies God as much as life. This is hard to understand; it takes some thought, but I believe it to be true.

LiteraryGirl said...

Wow. Good post. I am constantly attempting to remind myself of this truth in my daily life, but you are right that it often takes a crisis for us to get perspective. We get so caught up in our own lives we can't see past it. Great reminder.

Miss Steinberg said...

Great post, Father.

Nathan said...

Wonderful post Fr. Foos. I deal with this issue quite often, as I'm in medical school, and headed into internal medicine, where most of my patients are probably in the age range of these your parishoners. I'm struck, continually, by the sharp relief impending death throws their lives into. Some of my patients are like yours, calmly, prayerfully, though usually somewhat regretfully preparing for the end.

Others are more tragic, at least from my perspective as a Christian. They take more Dylan Thomas to heart and "rage against the dying of the light." It's these patients I most feel for, and I try, like you said, "live each moment in the joy of the Lord" to "communicate the important things of life to them."

Thanks for sharing your perspective, and for the encouragement you may not have even intended.

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