Recently I have been wondering if my efforts make a difference. The thoughts aren’t prompted by self-pity but are attempts to try and recognize the power of God at work in the world. I say they’re attempts to try and recognize God’s power at work in the world because I understand my efforts as one of the many manifestations of God’s love. I know I occasionally play a small part in the lived reality of God’s grace, as does each reader of this newsletter.
This perspective is theologically grounded and based on the conviction that we are instruments of God’s grace and blessing. Without our efforts and our generous response to the power of grace, it would be difficult to recognize the power of God at work. However, this point of view doesn’t mean there are no questions. A lively faith is one that often includes questions and doubts. Not the unrelenting and oftentimes unsettling questions and doubts prompted by scrupulosity, but questions and doubts nonetheless.
Of course, my ponderings may result more from being tired or unfocused, common human experiences. Importantly, my perspective is, in part, an outgrowth of some significant experiences and events I’ve witnessed that at first glance seemed unrelated. But they have invited me to at least wonder about each event’s meaning and to try to place each one into a helpful perspective.
For example, I recently celebrated the funeral Mass of a young woman who was only twenty years old when she died. Her death resulted from a convergence of the effects of a lingering illness and a bubble bath. While enjoying a relaxing bath, she unexpectedly had a grand mal seizure. The seizure caused her to drown in the tub. Many young men and women attended her funeral liturgy. My task was to provide them with some sense of purpose and to try and place the experience into a bigger picture that was somehow informed by faith.
A second example. I was called into a hospice room at a local nursing home to anoint a woman who was close to death. Her death was no surprise. She had lived a long life and had come to the end of her journey. She was surrounded
by family and friends, who said “she just could not let go.” We didn’t know what she was waiting for since she was unable to speak. But after celebrating the sacrament of the anointing of the sick, she seemed visibly relaxed and very much at peace. Perhaps this sacrament was what she was waiting for in order to continue her journey.
A final example of what was at the source of my pondering and wonderment was the suicide of a friend from my past with whom I had lived and worked. He was suffering from depression, and even though he was doing all he could to fight the illness, he succumbed and achieved his peace, not in the life we all hoped he’d enjoy, but rather only in the death that came unannounced and unwanted. In this instance there was nothing I could do but pray, remember, and give thanks.
We are all people of faith. This is all the more important to reflect upon and understand as you read this newsletter. Men and women who struggle with scrupulosity are some of the most faith-filled people I’ve encountered. Despite our faith, however, there are moments when we struggle to see the will of God and the blessings of God in our midst. This is not a description of sin. This is not a description of faithlessness. This is a description of what it means to be a human being. All of us have moments when life seems focused, clear, and filled with meaning. On the other hand, there are days in which we experience the exact opposite. It’s all part of the adventure of life, the fullness of what it means to be a child of God.
I understand that I will continue to ponder and wonder. And whether we go a hard way or an easy way, it is all grace. I just need to learn and practice more and more each day a sense of gratefulness to our Creator.
FR. THOMAS M. SANTA, CSsR