The Cross is LOVE and love is the Cross – the two cannot be separated…
The other day, during the latest COVID-19 lockdown, I was having a break outside the front door of my house, while my children were sitting in the front room of the house with their computers and papers and pencils supposedly working through their schoolwork for the day.
There I was, calmly drinking my cup of tea and speaking on the telephone with one of my sisters. I could hear those children giggling a little inside the room, but over the last few weeks of lockdown, I have come to realise that this is a marathon and not a sprint – so a little giggling and distraction as part of the home-schooling rigour is not the end of the world!
Suddenly – and all in a tizz – my youngest child, my eight-year-old daughter – sprinted outside to where I was sitting and shouted breathlessly, “Mum, we asked Google whether Santa Claus exists, and Google said, ‘Parent know that Santa Claus does not exist, but they tell their children that he does…’”.
There I stood, suppressing my laughter and trying to formulate the most politically correct answer to respond to this latest development in our household – where the younger two children still believed in Santa Claus – with my mouth gaping open and closed like a fish. And just as some semi-intelligent idea started to formulate in my mind, my daughter turned her head and shouted back into the front room of the house, where her brothers were hunched over the computer screen, “Boys! Ask about the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy too…”
It was a funny morning!
That morning, in the space of ten unsupervised minutes of internet use, my children learned a whole new thing – thank God they are so young that they would not think to Google anything worse!
But I have been reflecting on that morning ever since, because those children gained momentum in their activity by working together towards a goal, because they would not have thought to do this all on their own. And this reminds me of the momentum we can gain through the practise of our faith in community…
Saint John Vianney, the Cure of Ars, made his First Holy Communion on a neighbour’s farm in secret with the curtains drawn during the French Revolution when the Catholic Church was outlawed in France. Later – when the Church was allowed back into France – Saint John Vianney became a parish priest, who was renowned for his holiness and dedication to his community.
Saint John Vianney was known – during the last decade of his life – to spend over 16 hours a day in the confessional, and about one hundred thousand pilgrims visited his parish every year to confess their sins and receive the sacraments. Over the course of that last decade of his life that equated to a million souls who that one priest helped…
I have to ask myself why? Why so many? What did he have to offer? After all – he himself was NOT God…
And I realise that the reason for his popularity was not because people saw him as God, it is because he motivated them to try harder to reach God… And he motivated them through his own LOVE of God.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church (2658) quotes the prayer of Saint John Vianney… “l love You, O my God, and my only desire is to love You until the last breath of my life. I love you, O my infinitely lovable God, and I would rather die loving You, than live without loving You. I love You, Lord, and the only grace I ask is to love You eternally. . . . My God, if my tongue cannot say in every moment that I love You, I want my heart to repeat it to You as often as I draw breath. Amen.”
Because the great motivators know that we can always do more to encourage each other along the way of the Cross – for The Cross is LOVE and love is the Cross – the two cannot be separated!
As Saint John Vianney said, “When all our actions shall be brought before us, how few will be pleasing to God, even among the best of them! So many imperfections, so many thoughts of self-love, human satisfactions, sensual pleasures, self-complacency, will be found mingled with them all! They appear good, but it is only appearance, like those fruits which seem yellow and ripe because they have been pierced by insects.”
For it is only when we gain momentum that we can see the truth. As Saint Francis of Assisi said, “O admirable height and stupendous condescension! O humble sublimity! O sublime humility! That the Lord of the universe, God and the Son of God, so humbles Himself that for our salvation He hides Himself under a morsel of bread.”
For the truth is beautiful… And when we see it, we can gain such momentum that anything will be possible with our faith, because even with “faith like a grain of mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” (Matthew 17:20).
And then – after gaining momentum – I too shall be able to pray like Saint John Vianney, “…I love you, O my infinitely lovable God, and I would rather die loving You, than live without loving You…”
For with prayer, I stand on Holy Ground where everything is clear. Here. At the Foot of the Cross.