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  • Sarah Raad

Nets

“So you have sorrow now, but I will see you again and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.” (John 16:22).

Fish Market (Calling the Apostoles Peter and Andrew) (Jan Brueghel)

I have been reflecting on the “nets” that each of us are called to leave when we are asked to follow God…


For it can be the most difficult thing in the world to leave our nets…


“…And passing along by the Sea of Galilee, He saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net in the sea; for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, ‘Follow Me and I will make you become fishers of men.’ And immediately they left their nets and followed Him. And going on a little farther, he saw James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, who were in their boat mending the nets. And immediately He called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants, and followed Him.” (Mark 1:14-20).


And I have been reflecting on the nets that these men left behind. For in following Christ, they left behind all the “tools” of their trade and their families, commitments, and friends. And they left them immediately. They did not run home to say good-bye to their mothers or girlfriends or wives. They did not discuss it with their cousins or friends. Instead, they got up and left everything and went…


And they went where the Master called. It sounds crazy, comical even – to just get up and go. But it was completely the opposite of comical. You see, the Master replaced those physical “nets” with spiritual ones instead, and those Graces allowed them to become “fishers of men…” (Matthew 4:19).


In Sydney on the 10th of January 1921, Servant of God Eileen O’Connor died of chronic tuberculosis of the spine and of exhaustion. Eileen was 28 years old...


When Eileen was three years old, she fell out of her pram in Melbourne and broke her spine. The damage to her spinal column was irreparable and Eileen spent the remainder of her short life experiencing terrible nerve pain and undergoing countless (unsuccessful) treatments for her condition.


Eileen’s opportunities for social interaction and education were limited by her illness, and after moving to Sydney – on the rare occasions when she was well enough to attend school – a family member would physically carry her there and back home again because she could not walk the distance. And then, in 1911, Eileen’s father died suddenly, and Eileen’s burdens grew as she not only dealt with the physical infirmities of her own illness, but also her grief for the loss of her father.


And yet, Eileen cast off her “nets” – her health – to follow her Beloved…


You see, when Eileen was a young girl, she saw an apparition of the Blessed Virgin. During the apparition, Our Lady asked Eileen to choose from three options. Firstly, Eileen was asked if she would like to die and go to Heaven with the Blessed Virgin (to end her suffering). Secondly, Eileen could choose an ordinary life (which implied the restoration of her health). And thirdly, Eileen was asked if she would like to offer her health for the good of others.

Eileen chose the third option – she cast off her “nets”…

A few days ago – exactly one hundred and one years after this “saint in waiting” Eileen died – another young girl also died in Sydney, just a few minutes before the holy noon-hour of the Angelus and I have been reflecting on the soul of this girl and on the souls of her family, too…


You see, late last year, this family prayed their son “into the loving Arms of God” (to use his mother’s own words) and in this way – just as Saint Francesco preceded his younger sister Saint Jacinta into Heaven – so too did that young boy’s soul precede his older sister to Paradise there.


And because I can see how this family cast off their nets – just as those apostles did two thousand years ago – I can also see the power of their spiritual net as it lights up the world through prayer…


You see, there is such great Grace to be had in walking beside those – like this family – who walk to Calvary. And the miracle is that I, and all of us who bear a lesser cross, can walk beside those who bear the greater. And in this way, we can participate in the crushing burden of their heavy cross, because though we are not called to carry it for them, we can sit beside them when they fall and wait for them to get up and move again. And we can do all of this without their even knowing our names… Because we can do all of this when we pray…

And it is for this reason that these souls are the “beloved” of Our Lord, because they are at Calvary with Christ, just as Saint John the Beloved was there…

For as Christ said to Saint John, “So you have sorrow now, but I will see you again and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.” (John 16:22).


And I pray that this family – who bear such sorrow now – find comfort in the prayer of Father Bede Jarrett OP, who prayed so much more eloquently than I could ever write…


“We seem to be giving her back to you, O God,

who gave her to us.

Yet, as You did not lose her in giving her to us,

so we do not lose her by her return.


For You do not give as the world gives, O Lover of souls:

what You give You never take away,

for what is Yours is ours also, if we are Yours.


For life is eternal, and love is immortal,

and death is only an horizon,

and the horizon is no more than the limit of our sight.


Lift us up, strong Son of God, that we may see further;

cleanse our tearful eyes, that we may see more clearly;

draw us closer to Yourself, that we may know ourselves

to be nearer to our loved one who is with You.


And while You prepare a place for us,

prepare us also for that happy place,

that where You and she are, we may be also, for evermore.”


For there is much work to be done. And through prayers – yours and mine – God will grant them joy... For they left their “nets” to follow Him.


And so my prayer for these souls is that they can dance along the way of the Cross, which is the only way Home…


That they can dance all the way home and see their children in glory there...


And what a terribly beautiful prayer that is...


For with prayer, I stand on Holy Ground where everything is clear. Here. At the Foot of the Cross.

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