Monday, March 06, 2006

A Victim Soul Must Be a Failure

A victim soul is nothing.
A victim soul must be useless.
A victim soul is helpless.
A victim soul must be a failure.

The abject failure of a recent assignment has dented my frontal lobes and shattered my heart.
Yes, I am a failure. A big, fat failure. The other day I moodied on this fact, to the point but not into self-pity.

No, I didn't go into feeling sorry for myself, but it was close. Quite seriously, the past assignment was critically examined: what I did and what the assignee did. How I have reacted and how the assignee reacted.

I prayed, I suffered, I spoke and confronted the assignee, I read about the affliction. I hung in through thick and thin, although there were several occasions in which I attempted to flee. I remained beyond what an emotionally healthy individual should--veering close to being a co-dependent protector. No, I did not enter that wrong door, but I had to flay back the facts in order to keep the assignment very much in clear focus. I did not abandon ship until the captain threw me overboard. Prior I had remained like a pirhana on the attack, my big smiley mouth full of teeth clamped down relentlessly upon the one to whom I was assigned.

The assignee prayed, suffered (goes with the affliction whether or not recognized by the afflicted), spoke about the affliction, and kept going as if not a thing in the world in upset. As the assignment continued, the assignee began resenting my presence to the point of rudeness, meanness--and dare I suggest cruelty? Yes, words and actions can be cruel. But the assignee remained willing to try; this was the key for my remaining steadfast in faith and hope. The assignee prayed more, read some holy books and adopted at least exteriorly a life of increased penance and mortification.

Even after I was thrown overboard and left to die in the tumultous ocean like a pirhana with all its teeth knocked out and its school of fellow pirhanas to be found only in books and the spiritual realm of other-worldly waters, I kept praying. Admittedly, I prayed in abbreviated fashion but perhaps more pointedly fervant. "O Lord, vindicate me, your worthless servant!" "Our Lady of Good Remedy, help [the assignee]!" "Father, forgive them all for they know not what they do!" "Jesus and Mother, do whatever You need to do to help [the assignee]." Then, finally, in desperation, "O Lord, do whatever is best for Holy Mother Church!"

Before I had prayed for a complete and total healing. I prayed for the assignee to be a saint, to be fully and wholly holy. I actively supported and encouraged the assignee in any and all thoughts and actions toward this supernal end.

I failed.

Any way I look at it, I failed my assignment.

The other day at the Cathedral Mass the priest spoke of how Mother Teresa for years felt her life a failure. Yes, yes! This is just how I was feeling! Then the priest said that her life was far from a failure. Look at all the good she did for the poor! Listen to what she told someone who asked how she could keep going even in her frail years: "I begin each day knowing I begin with Jesus, and I end each day knowing it ends with Jesus." After Mass I shake the priest's hand and mumble something about how I appreciate his comments on failure. He stares back and shakes the next person's hand. Dear God, I didn't even express myself successfully; I realize he thought I said his comments a failure.

But I have not done any good for anyone, not the poor or the rich. The only thing I've done recently is be a snitch and snitch on the one for whom I'd spent two years praying, suffering, loving, hoping for, studying and encouraging.

Then I happened to read a chapter in Dom Hubert Van Zeller's Approach to Calvary. The chapter read was on failure. He writes about Jeremiah's laments and frustrations--that the frustrations of this prophet can be explained by love and thus does not destroy but perfects.

Van Zeller's one sentence takes a suction tool to my dented frontal lobe and pulls out a big crease: ...If we are to resemble Christ we should expect to resembe Him in failure.

I finish the chapter on failure. It makes sense. Either the follower of Christ "takes the way of the world or the way of faith." If a person views the defeats from the material realm, they lump into categories of bad luck, unappreciated talents, lack of control, not enough resources, and other people's wrongs. If a person views the defeats from the cross with Christ (and from the tomb, and with the resurrected Christ), they float into clouds of possibilities, of united strength, of hopeful mystery and answers incomprehensible but answers all the same.

Jesus--that strong, young man Who people said was the Messiah--fell many times carrying the cross to His own death. He wept pitiably in the Garden of Gethsemene and remained pathetically mute when grilled with questions as to His mission. He gasped and died like any criminal of that time period.

From all views he was a failure. From all views, that is, except God's view: from God's view (which is His own view, too, as He agreed to this suffering and death) Jesus was a success.
Yes, Jesus was and is a successful failure in His victimhood. Even today many people consider Him a failure, if they consider Him much at all. But Christians must see and know Him as a successful "failure" and unite our own failures to His success.

Last evening I mentioned to the parish priest my deep sense of having failed in the recent assignment. He asked, "How do you know? Do you not suffer for souls?"

"Well, yes," I responded, "but I seem to always fail for these souls in every assignment. I am either taken off the assignment because the soul does not come around, or else the soul refuses to try, or the soul wants me off the assignment. So I am a failure."

The priest reminds me that this does not mean it is a failure. I begin to argue and insist that I am a failure, but we both speak at once that I must not "argue" with him. So I listen. We build upon the fact that a victim soul be good useless, that a victim soul is helpless, that a victim soul is--well, is a good failure.

The priest insists that I view the failures as "successful failures", for I do not know the end of the story. I do not know how God considers the assignment and whether or not I have applied myself as He desired.

[This morning a man teaching an intro theology class at a local university comments that one of his students will fail because he has missed 14 out of the 20 classes thus far. The priest is in on this conversation, and I announce that this is an example of one who is an "unsuccessful failure." There is laughter, but of course we recognize that there would be ought else worse than being an unsuccessful failure except in being oppressed or possessed of sheer evil.]

There is something I would tell the priest except I'm uncertain if I ought. It has to do with something that happened shortly after I received the full import and impact of this past assignment, in all its heartbreaking horror and yet in all the hope held out for that soul. Something happened that very much explained that in order to suffer one must love, and in order to love all the more, one must suffer.

Indeed I did that. God knows I suffered and I loved. Whether or not I was prudent, wise, helpful, kind, generous, selfless or undeceived is undeterminable in my poor, weak mind. I cannot begin to know my own soul well enough. But if the loving and the suffering and the praying counts for something, then at least I can offer God these attempts and hope that I united myself with Jesus in being a successful failure.

Maybe this is the most a victim soul can hope for: to be a successful failure.


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