On the serious side of life
I have had permission to share the following below.
I have had many things weighing on both my heart and mind as of late. Death, the meaning of life, choosing joy, embracing suffering, instilling virtue in the home. Balancing home and work life, stepping out of my comfort zone, forming new friendships. Many good and beautiful things are happening in my life, but I keep thinking: for what purpose am I choosing to live?
My best friend's fiancé died tragically a few weeks ago. I wish I had been able to meet him face to face, but as it turned out I had only been able to do so on the phone once or twice. From my friend's descriptions and stories of him, he sounded a lot like Pier Gorgio Frassati: a young man, on FIRE for the Faith, who loved a challenge, and chose joy and chose to love all people as they were. In fact, I've always thought of my friend as a mix of Joan of Arc and Frassati, so for simplicity's (and privacy's) sake, I'll call her Joan. Anyways, they just made sense. Similar humor, desires, goals, you name it. The Lord gave them a beautiful life together, and then permitted it to be taken away. He may not have wanted it, and it may never have been part of His plan, but He allowed it, and we may never know why.
At his viewing, I overheard a number of his coworkers speaking with Joan's mom. They were so inspired by his joy, and his love of the Lord and for Joan. They were just amazed by him. I thought of many things during my trip there, but this struck me in particular. How did he choose to live a life of joy and love that was so attractive to people? Did he pray for it? Was he given the grace to choose? Or was he simply given a very special gift to draw people to the Lord through him?
How am I living my life? He wanted to be a Saint. I so dearly want to be a Saint too, only I feel I do not know what I am doing half of the time. But maybe that is it. Maybe we just have to let the Lord work through us, but without our knowing it (so that we don't get big heads). When talking about vocations, my husband once told me that, "Your vocation is to be the best you can be and to be the holiest you can be wherever God has put you in your life." From there I learned that discernment isn't limited to discovering your calling, but that it is a skill to be applied to everything in life. Simply put, you can discern how to react to your "neighbor's" action. Sometimes it means suggesting a walk or a bite to eat instead of responding with a snappy remark. Sometimes it means refraining from correcting someone so as to not encourage additional embarrassment. Sometimes discernment calls you to just pray or sit in silence instead of scrolling.
In terms of suffering, discernment can suggest you take a different attitude or point of view, even if it's temporary. My marathon running clients perform their best after facing challenges. They've chosen and discerned how to spend their time and energy. They've chosen and discerned when to push themselves to beat a record, or to make it across the finish line. They have suffered through obstacles to attain the joy of completing the race. They suffered because there was merit to their suffering.
I do not try to pretend to "get" what losing a loved one feels like. From observation and various conversations, I do understand that there will be anger and sadness. I have also seen happiness and gratefulness that God allowed the deceased to be, to live, and to be loved by those still living.
The passing of Joan's fiancé reminded me to do many things, and helped me to realize just as many. It is Christlike to approach all with love, without condescension, without judgement, without fear. We are all struggling together, and choosing an attitude of joy is rare. Christ is all knowing, all powerful, all good, would it not follow that He is also all joyful? If we walk a path of joy, this does not mean that we always feel joy. No, this means that in the midst of little hurts, angers, anxieties, and frustrations we choose to offer these up so in union with Christ.
"Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and fill up on my part that which is lacking of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body's sake, which is the church;" Col 1:24
There is a sort of joy in that, that we have the option of praying along with Him as He encounters each station of the cross as prayer is out of time. If we make a habit of offering up little troubles, we can only hope that we can offer up big troubles. We can try to see God's hand in things, or take each instance as a learning or growing opportunity. Being positive instead of negative, which does not mean ignoring what is at hand, merely, embracing it when we can, even if briefly.
This is not meant to negate the mourning that Joan and their families are going through. I am only trying to figure out how to live as her fiancé lived and loved. How Joan lives and loves. How can we create a family culture that encourages virtue, joy, and embraces trials and suffering to live as he did, to live as one should? Through prayer and discussions with Alex and other parents in my life, I am slowing coming to an answer.
It may not be not be something that you actively "do" things for, meaning, it is better to just to make a meal for a family instead of saying, "This is so we can do good." I guess what I am trying to say is, just do. I have known some who tell their children that they will do this and that and why it is good, instead of encouraging their children, and having them come to the conclusion that it is good. That way it comes from the heart and begins to come naturally, instead of being forced. As Tom gets older, and we have more children, I might come to realize something else works, but I so dearly hope to help my children make the connection between head and heart very early on.
And that is my purpose right now. To live a life of joy, maybe not feeling it, but knowing I can choose it. To live a life in which I can nurture virtue in our home, as the family is the seed of society. To ask Mother Mary and Jesus to shine their light through me without me knowing it.
Together may we all lead and guide each other towards Heaven, and may we pray for the soul of Joan's fiance, for Joan, and their families.