In my homily this past Sunday I used a line from Author David Kindred where, when asked why he does what he does, he simply replied, “Writers Write”. I suppose that is why I do what I do as a priest. Why I sacrifice for God and the Church, and why I try not to become too distraught by those who have fallen away, or feel they no longer need God since they have been away for almost a year now due to the pandemic. It is why, despite the tragic loss of our second child to miscarriage three weeks ago, Katelyn and I are undeterred, though terribly and painfully sad. We are grieving deeply, but we know that somehow God will come again, even in our anger, disillusionment, and feelings of betrayal.
This last year has taken a huge toll on me personally and vocationally. I find that at times I just want to walk away and give it all up; it is a struggle somewhere deep within me. I find that I feel more often alone and abandoned. Then, with this recent loss, and my mother’s illness and hospitalization this past week, the toil to keep us going as a parish is even harder.
I suppose to be direct; I am not much different than you, am I? Perhaps we are all struggling to ‘keep afloat’ in this year of trial? Maybe mine is a bit different in that I believe that my life and vocation are inextricably linked to my soul as a priest. How can I walk away from God like the Apostles did when He begged them to stay in the Garden of Gethsemane near Him in His pain? How can I lock myself up in an ‘upper room’ and look out over what I feared and then say that I still honored my vocation? How can I not look up and see the blood and scars from the One who died so that I might one day truly live by just walking away into whatever might be next when I haven’t finished here?
I suppose once this grief passes into some form of acceptance, as the pandemic finally lets loose its death grip on us all, as we witness the joy of another birth, and this last year of such grief and fear fades to just an awful memory and terrible page in history, I might find my balance again. I pray so for me, and for you. Until then, I will simply grieve, but will I not abandon my position like a ‘people who have no hope.’
I know that some say – and perhaps even believe – that God no longer cares or comes near us. I say God often and unexpectedly draw closer when we need Him most and when we least anticipate it. I also find that God so often does through those we least would think. This past week, in my grief, that is exactly how God came. A woman came to me as an angel sent from Him whom I adore, and yet whom I am so angry with in my grief. She reached out to me a few weeks ago, just after the miscarriage happened, but I did not delay her. Instead, we met via Zoom and I aided her in her need. Then, quite unexpectedly, after attending the 9:00am Mass this past Sunday virtually, she learned that Katelyn and I suffered this terrible loss and reached out with a poem of her creation. Little did I know, God would use a poet to bring me hope. Yes, as I gave so freely even in my despair, so I received a true measure of compassion and hope. Perhaps that is today’s lesson: we are not to give up or abandon, because we are the hands and feet of the Christ we serve. Come home. Support us again. It’s time.
To those in loss and to those, especially, who lost a child and the hope that could have been, I leave these words for you, too.
—until we meet, my child
The morning you left, I lay on a steel bed
in a silvered room—ticking my right thumb
on my right thigh—the minutes clicking
across the face of the relentless clock
that mocked us through a fluorescent fog—
folded myself to the dark heat of my womb
where, blank and barely alive, out of breath
in its frantic search for you, its membranes
at wits’ end—its pulse slowed to a numb standstill.
I netted my fingers over my belly,
and blessed you on your way—a meager baptism
to light your fully-formed wings.
from Waiting for the Light to Change
WordTech Press (2013)