I have a mixed heart today. This afternoon I heard the encouraging news of the Holy Father’s Mass in the Roman youth prison, which included washing the feet of young women and Muslims. Surely this must be throwing some of my sister and brother Catholics into apoplexy. I feel for them. I can imagine how it must seem to have a spiritual worldview come crashing down.
I remember well enough my confrontation with mortality when my brother died nearly two years ago in a highway crash. We learned a few days ago my wife’s sister is gravely ill. It is hard to get information all the way from Florida, and lensed through upset loved ones. But it seems the end is near. I remember being in denial about my brother, trying to convince myself I did not hear his wife quite right, and that I would arrive at their home and he would be fine. But he wasn’t. My heart could not steer my mind, not totally. My wife spent most of the day helping me prepare for the first two Triduum liturgies. I hope it was helpful. We didn’t talk too much about things, except over lunch.
Our niece did tell us that she read the Bible to her mother last night. And a tear came from her eye. Otherwise, she has been totally unresponsive to people. My wife debates whether to go now or wait, perhaps, for a miracle. The Triduum is here, the anniversary of her reception into Full Communion over thirty years ago.
This was the backdrop for me of our parish’s Holy Thursday Mass tonight. We were in our temporary location on campus at the Iowa State Center. Our open foot washing got off to a slow start. For a moment, I didn’t think anyone would come forward. It was the first year the young miss declined to wash and be washed. (Usually the three of us would wash each other’s.) But finally, people did come, and it went on for four songs.
The students opted to conduct a transfer procession from the auditorium back to our parish’s lower lounge. Ordinarily, I’d feel heartened by the public act of worship past a few blocks of fraternities and dorms to our student center. But no flowers were prepared, and no special lighting employed. Just a ciborium on the altar, and the “corporate” fluorescent lighting beaming down.
I feel mostly at a loss. Too much time away in exile away from church. Too much heaviness inside of me.
Where to go from here? Psalm 4 is one of my favorite Compline psalms. Verse 2 promises a path out:
Answer when I call, my saving God.
In my troubles, you cleared a way;
show me favor; hear my prayer.
Show me favor: that’s direct. The ICEL Psalter was a bit more insistent: “Be good to me.” Sounds like a Blues song. Dare we insist, “You better be good to me.”? What about this great tune? That sums up where I am right now, ’round midnight. Quiet and melancholy drift, and the occasional blast.
Verse 7 echoes my thoughts tonight:
Many say, “May we see better times!”
But that’s not the conclusion, the “Amen” of Psalm 4. Verse 9 is:
In peace I shall both lie down and sleep,
for you alone, Lord, make me secure.
There are nights when we can only lie down, and sleep does not come. I hope for both after midnight. I suspect the Lord will be good to me.
I realize I am not invulnerable. My brother was not. And now, my wife’s only sibling she has known. Certainly, the human body of Jesus was not, victimized as it was on Good Friday. What is the meaning, and where is the redemption in such suffering? We grow weary from the pounding of life’s events. It may seem as if God is not there. But if not, from where will hope come? On dark, troubled nights like this, I realize clearly I have nowhere else to go. So I will go, banging on the door. “Be good to me.” It’s nearly midnight.