Thursday, June 19, 2008

Letter to the Da: On Being an Immolation

The spiritual da had much to discuss yesterday, during lunch out. He spoke of thoughts he'd read regarding our asking Jesus to enshroud us in His shroud during Holy Communion [and would be good all the time]. He spoke of how Jesus is inside [such as His Sacred Heart image, and wanting us nesting within His Heart?] and desires us to come inside to Him.

Then he spoke of deeper conversions, and also of his suffering. He spoke of his back pain and how many ibuprofens he takes, and is that too many? Then of an injection in his spine that did not seem to help, and was it right to seek after relief? Is this not his time to suffer and offer the suffering to God? And he spoke of the past couple of days of not feeling well at all, and of his heart not being quite right.

I reminded him of how four years ago he was in the hospital with heart problems, and that he 'd asked, "Pray for me poor heart! Pray for me poor heart." I had prayed very much for his heart. God heard our prayers, as many people were praying. And yes, he should not take so much of one over-the-counter medication, and that one could upset his stomach. And yes, it is right to seek some relief to the suffering, as he was not going to any extreme. The saints agreed to whatever simple and recommended means would help them endure. I also explained that the pain in his back could be radiating and causing nerves to affect other organs, such as his heart, causing arhythmia. So to try to take the edge off the pain might help his heart.

It was a rare conversation, for he usually does not open up about his suffering. Yet it was bothering him to the point of expression, and part of it is the acceptance of a possible reality of impending departure from this world. He then laughed and said he'd tried to make a bargain with God that he could suffer a few more years and be left here. The laughter was due to his knowing that we do not make bargains with God. So we both laughed.

Yet I understand more than I could express that I understand. Part of his point was to share what he is facing, and it wasn't helped in the temporal experience of the sisters having other priests come once a week to give father his "day off." He still celebrates Mass on his "day off", getting up his usually early and being at the altar by 7 a.m. Ten sisters or so come to this Mass.

Yesterday, they had a priest come who drove a distance to be there, and he is a rather forceful priest, very much an in-charge personality type. Father said yes, he had taken charge and even took charge in questions to father, a priest of two decades or more experience beyond the in-charge, guest priest's years. I reassured him that this is how this other priest is--his temperament.

Then the waitress patronized the da, sort of making fun without meaning to, directing comments to me, or asking me questions about what he would like, even though he was right there. It was so demeaning to him, and he responded with his own requests of what he would like to drink, even when she made comments about his not wanting water. No, he did not want water. Just coffee, with cream. And then she asked me, and I repeated. To her, he was just a tottering old man, and rather quaint with his accent, and she catered down to him.

He did not like it that I brought him dessert; he was not up for sweets, which is not like him. He then said, "Let's get out of here"--when most of the lunch crowd had left, but not all. So we discussed more his thoughts, which are always excellent, and yet some were good repeats; and when we pulled into the parking lot by his quarters at the convent, he said to just pull up by the door rather than to park, that he was going in to take a nap.

Later, I read some pages in the biography of St. Catherine of Siena. Jesus spoke to her, in what she had repeated to her confessor, and it pertained to the da's suffering--and the good of suffering, the good of being an immolation. So I called him in the evening, and told the da that I really do have concern, and reminded him again of other over-the-counter meds to relieve some pain, and that his doctor might give him something to help take the edge off from time to time. And I told him about the pages read and that I'd write it out and mail it.

Today I will write him a letter, expressing what St. Catherine reported of Jesus' message. It is all about being an immolation. Yet, perhaps I won't re-quote what she had to say. Not sure yet. Being an immolation sounds grand when in writing. In reality, it is inexpressible.

Being an immolation includes facing one's mortality. Being an immolation means being humbled through other people's patronizing tones, remarks, and attempts to hide the fact that one's capacities to do what one had previously done, are fading. In some cases, they are bleached out completely. And eventually, for all of us, the final bleach is inevitable.

Being an immolation is the greatest process we will ever experience in suffering. It is what reduces us to true nothingness. This is sort of what St. Catherine of Siena was trying to express, but not with these words.

Being an immolation provides the opportunity or many such, repeatedly, in which one ought only lower one's head and humbly say..."Pray for me".

The da later didn't want to talk about this level of bodily decline and said he is all right, but he said he'd seen the other over-the-counter that I suggested he try. Being an immolation is the greatest means of death to self that God so lovingly provides.

One simply must keep going within the immolation opportunity. There is no choice for a follower of Christ, keen on union with Christ, but to en-joy the immolation process.

My current immolation moments might preclude the letter to the da, but I will pray the thoughts, and the Holy Spirit might take it to him.


2 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

So why didn't you stand up for the da with the condescending waitress instead of wringing your hands about it via a blog? Why didn't you tell her that he was perfectly capable of making his own order and knew perfectly well what he wanted to drink? Why did you just sit there and let him be talked down to and treated disrespectfully? If you were afraid of embarrassing him, you could have called her aside and done so.

7:56 AM  
Blogger nothing said...

I appreciate your loving questions and insights. And my answer to these: Because, my friend in Christ, I knew within, at some lovely level, that this was a kind of stripping the Lord was allowing for the Da. It was a form of immolation for him. How dare I try to take that suffering which was God's gift to Him--even though painful to observe. It was best to not interfere, yet to pray for all involved. Sometimes anguish is best played out in silence, don't you think?

Be at peace, my friend, once again, for anger and hostility betray the motives of the soul.

8:06 AM  

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