In times past, I would have spent this Memorial Day at a local cemetery where we’d honor and pray for those who died in service to their country. This year, however, I can’t make it for many reasons, some which are a bit obvious.
Slowly, the world is finding a sense of normalcy after weeks of lockdown orders due to COVID-19. However, with my health issues, I take many precautions. So, that means avoiding our tiny cemetery that tends to get a lot of foot traffic each Memorial Day.
This season of history has me searching the holy words of Fulton J. Sheen, a favorite of my grandfather, a veteran of WWII. He often talked about how Bishop Sheen had an ability to really clarify a situation while comforting you. He spoke with assurance and confidence. And, even after all these years, I see what Grandpa saw in him.
I know I’m not the only one who needs some comfort. But real comfort. The kind you can only find in Christ Jesus.
So, to share some comfort, here are some wonderful words I’ve found in the book Lord, Teach Us To Pray A Fulton Sheen Anthology, which I highly suggest picking up or getting on kindle (like I did) for copious quote-saving. You can get it at Sophia Institute Press.
Why Pain, Loss, Sorrow?
The lesson for us is that many things are inexplicable here below, but they are only the details; For instance, “Why this pain?” “Why this loss?” “Why this sorrow?” The general principles remained true and unshakable: God is good, and He wills what is best for the soul. We may be lonely, but God is never out of our hearing. Our Lord has gone into the forests of suffering and loneliness, but He has left His footprints there so we can find the way out. Take God’s hand and follow Him in the dark, trusting and believing.
How we act in times of Cross
… But though He saw all, we could not know how we would react to the Cross until we were unrolled upon the screen of time. We were not conscious of being present there on Calvary that day, but he was conscious of our presence. Today we know the role we played in the theater of Calvary, by the way we live and act now in the theater of our day.
Unification of sacrifices, sorrows …
So, the Christ goes out into the world, gathering up other human natures who are willing to be Christ. In order that our sacrifices, our sorrows, our Golgathas, our crucifixions, may not be isolated, disjointed and unconnected, the Church collects them, harvest them, unifies them, coalesces them, masses them, come in his massing of all our sacrifices of our individual human natures is united with the great Sacrifice of Christ on the Cross in the Mass.
Pain and suffering for Our Lord
There is nothing more tragic in all the world than wasted pain. Think of how much suffering there is in hospitals and among the poor and the bereaved. Think also of how much of that suffering goes to waste! How many of those lonesome, suffering, abandoned, crucified souls are saying with Our Lord at the moment of consecration, “This is my body. Take it.”
Self-denial of some kind or other is involved, as is evident, in the very notion of renewal and holy obedience. To change our hearts is to learn to love things that we do not naturally love – to unlearn the love of this world; but this involves, of course, a thwarting of our natural wishes and tastes. To be righteous and obedient implies self-command, but to possess power, we must have gained it; nor can we gain it without a vigorous struggle, a persevering warfare against ourselves. The very notion of being religious implies self-denial, because by nature, we do not love religion …
Death is not the greatest disaster in the world; sin is. “And fear ye not them that kill the body, and are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him that can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matt 10:28).
I must not be ashamed if I am fearful and if my whole being shrinks in dread, for the Lord in the garden before going to the battle of Calvary prayed: “If it be possible, let this chalice pass from me. Nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt” (Matt 26:39).
What I must fear is my unwillingness to fulfill the will of God as revealed by the present circumstances of life. Not my will but thine be done (see Luke 22:42).
Praying for God’s Will
We should never pray for anything without at the same time submitting to God’s will. Petition is inseparable from resignation, since God is good. When our will is one with God’s will, then nothing can happen to us except what God wills; thus, we will never be disappointed.
As they say in Ireland when it rains and spoils of picnic: “Well, ‘tis a good day to save your soul.”
Prayer of Action
Do not think that you have to be on your knees to pray. Sacred scripture tells us: “Pray always.” This means there is also the Prayer of Action.
Hence, never undertake any duty, whether it be typing a letter, dressing children, sitting down to a meal, going to a movie, listening to a dull story, studying, or digging, without doing it in the name of God. It then becomes a prayer.
Every action is an unsigned check: when we offer it in the name of God, we sign God’s name to it and give it the value of a prayer.
Mortification does not mean that we “give up” something; It means that we make an exchange. We do not “give up” our worldly pleasures; we exchange them for peace of soul.
Understanding meaning of pain
Pain in itself is not unbearable; it is the failure to understand its meaning that is unbearable. If pain and suffering had no reason, our Divine Lord would never have embraced it. By patiently accepting each pain in union with his cross, we become redeemers with a small r as he is a Redeemer with a capital R.
Devotion to Our Lord’s Mother
It is a Christian tradition that no one who is devoted to Our Lord’s Mother is ever lost. There was a story to the effect that one day, as Our Lord was walking through the courts of heaven, He saw some souls who seemed to have won heaven quite easily. “Peter,” he asked, “how did these souls gained entry into my Kingdom?” Peter answered: “Don’t blame me, Lord; every time I close a door, Your Mother opens a window.”
We recommend Mrs. Pamphili’s previous article, “5 Saints to Call Upon During a Pandemic” as well as the article “Ten Reasons to Make a Holy Hour According to Fulton J. Sheen.”
Also check out our interview with Al Smith, the editor of two Fulton Sheen anthologies, which you can stream below or click here. You can also find it by searching “Catholic Exchange” on your phone’s podcasting app.
image: Fulton J. Sheen, 1952. Photograph by Fred Palumbo, World Telegram staff photographer / Public domain.