This was my journal entry during my holy hour a few months back. It has delayed publishing because I wanted to clean it up a little with the help of a few trusted friends to give advice on it. Some advice I took. Some I opted to go my own way. I should also point out that I wrote this about a man simply because it is a bit of self reflection, and (in case you didn’t know), I am a man. I didn’t want to use sexually neutral pronouns because the reflection was to follow a single person in life – even though there are some points where we watch a choice that has to happen, and we have no way to know which way our man chose to go.
I hope you like the result.
An infant arrives.
When he is an infant, he cannot walk or move on his own. His mother provides for all he needs; she patiently teaches him to talk and crawl and walk. In the same way, our Mother, the Church, carries us close to her heart and teaches us our first words in the faith; she teaches us that “God made me…to know, love, and serve Him in this life, and be happy with Him forever in the next.”
He grows into a young boy.
As a young boy, he knows the basics. He begins to truly learn right from wrong and to discern the difference. His mother releases him into the world to encounter it, but still keeps him close to her protection. He will undoubtedly become scraped and bruised often as he tests his own limits in the world. He will have to return home for his mother to patch him up. But he will always go out and try again.
He grows into a man.
The man has made the decision of which way he will spend his life: the way of death or the way of life. He has decided if he will act on that calling from his infancy to know, love, and serve God, or if he will reject that calling and set out on his own way. Even though he might choose the way of death, God acts as that father awaited his spendthrift son, or a mother who always receives her son back in love. No matter his mistakes, God the Father, through the ministries of His Church, awaits the man’s return. If he chooses to live the Lord’s calling from the start — chooses the way of life — he will find that he must struggle against the world constantly. Although he strives to die to its sinful allurements, it still constantly calls him to taste it. His mother stands by with a word of guidance and loving support as he engages in the struggle of the world. Invariably, though, he will stumble as he fights the world, but, just as in his youth, he must return to his Mother for a bandage and strength to again take up the fight.
In his adult life, his struggle is real. It is external. He fights daily in the world to cast off the chains that hold him, his family, and the whole world bound. But the struggle is also internal. He knows the responsibilities he has to his family. He struggles to balance all of his responsibilities. He seeks to balance the responsibilities he continues to have to his Mother and Father. He is frequently spread thin.
He must still often visit and seek help from his Father and his Mother. Just as a man struggling in the spiritual life seeks to balance his time of active prayer, of vocal prayer, and of contemplation. He seeks to balance the petitions and intercessions he asks of God with the praise and thanksgiving he offers.
It is in his adult life that a man struggles alongside others. Each walks his own path, but each walks his unique path alongside every other person. This is no short path. It takes a lifetime. Some will never come to the end they seek, but perseverance on the path is truly a grace unto itself. Whether a man completes his path as he sees it or he reaches the end of the path God has set before him and is called home in the midst of his struggle along the way, the sincere and unflinching struggle is what The Lord has asked of him.
As he lives out his years, he continues to ask his mother to teach him to be a father, a husband, a son. He continues to ask his Father to give him the strength to fulfill the roles put before him with his bride, in his household, in the world. He constantly seeks the strength to give of himself freely after the example of his Mother’s bridegroom. There will be times he is afraid, times he holds back, times he cannot give. There will also be those moments most filled with his Father’s grace that he freely gives himself after his perfect example.
The years pass. He grows into old age.
The struggle never leaves, but it frequently finds new demons. The struggle grows more interior as his strength fails. Physically, he is weak, but his spirit continues the course that has been set for it. Instead of struggling in the world, now he must come to peace with the mortality of his frail body. The struggle of his old age may be made all the more odious by the world going on without him, loneliness as his friends pass on before him, as his family finds that he is too cumbersome or requires time that they cannot offer. His body will one day be returned to union with his soul, but first, for a time, he is to be separated. That time is now soon; it is in sight on the horizon. He prays that he will see God’s face. He can no longer change the decisions of the past, but he can feel penitence for his failures and thank God for the grace of his successes. Though the struggle is now more interior, but it is no less real. His family, his friends, the world can lighten his load or add to it, but all too often, this moment is marked by a dark solitude as he is abandoned, seemingly by all. However, his Mother is still there to comfort, guide, and strengthen him.
The twilight comes.
With the twilight, of those who have sought it from God, to a few He grants true wisdom. It is no earthly wisdom the man can offer, but a wisdom of the spirit borne of a life of love and self-donation. This wisdom is itself a grace granted to some so that they may guide the men who come after them upon the road. Their mother entrusts the next generation to them. They can see from their own road behind them where lie the potholes, the ditches, the failures, and the most graced moments. Responsibility is given to the few to guide those who will listen on the spiritual journey to the One True God.
Finally, his mortal body can take no more. Yet, even at this moment, he has a choice to make. He can spend his final moment in an agony of lament and pity. He can spend his final moment offering his suffering for the faults he knows and even those of which he is blissfully ignorant. In this very moment, he has the final grace to wash away faults through true penitence to his Father, through true reconciliation with his Mother. This final moment of agony is his chance to offer his suffering, united with his Mother’s bridegroom, as a free gift, as a penance, as an act of love to atone for his life’s failures.
His soul departs his body; it is called to his Father. It will return, but, for now, He sleeps. He receives the reward he has sought. If he has thanked the Lord for his success and grieved his faults, he is blessed. If he has shunned the Lord on his path, he receives the alienation he has sought. He is given what he has most loved and desired.
May the all-powerful Lord grant us a restful night and a peaceful death.
(Blessing at the conclusion of Compline in the Divine Office)
On the photos:
In case you were wondering, the first two photos in this entry were stock photos from the internet. I took the second two myself while sitting in New York City people-watching in 2010. The last I took in 2012 in a cemetery in New Orleans.