Tag Archives: battle

“Good” life and “good” death

A depiction of the Battle of Agincourt from the early 15th century (Image Source)

Some months ago I contrasted the outlook of St. Therese of Lisieux, and that of St. Josemaria Escriva – the first with her “Little Way” of childlike trust in God, and the latter with his encouragement to strive (“Esto vir – Be a man!”)

Life is not easy, no matter what your path or state. St. Therese’s way seems attractive – it is attractive. Sometimes I wish God would sweep me up in His arms and clean up my overwhelming messes for me while I sleep. At times He does just this. However, sometimes I find myself wishing life would just stop – that the striving could be done. St. Therese, who endured many pains of body and mind, would not advocate that.

I was reminded this week of King Henry’s St. Crispin’s day speech in Shakespeare’s Henry V.

[G]entlemen in England now abed
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks,
That fought with us upon St. Crispin’s day.

Of all the teeming billions of human beings ever created, just a relative handful of us are here, now, living out our brief span, assailed by “the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to.” Life is a battle – but I think we are meant to be in it and not out of it – falling down, and getting up again and again as long as we can, until the end.

Lately many have been reading and thinking about Brittany Maynard, the young American woman who chose euthanasia after receiving a fearful medical diagnosis. It was written of her that she “loved life.” That’s just it though – did she love life (not that that is easy) or a limited part of it? Euthanasia means “good death”. What is a good death? What is a good life?

Can you fight like a soldier but have child-like trust? I think, yes. It’s hard to say which part is more difficult.

Be not afraid

On Friday we left Los Angeles, driving east for our summer family vacation.  We left California, crossed Nevada, and stopped for the night in Utah.  The boys got so much delight from spending the night at a real, live, hotel, that we were delighted, watching their enjoyment.

One of the great pleasures of a road trip is getting to talk in the car.  As we drove through high red rock formations in Utah on Saturday morning, Michael and I talked about politics and culture, wars and persecution, the virtue of courage, and how we might go about instilling this virtue into our children.

      “Remember the words of Our Lady of Guadalupe,” said Michael.  “‘Do not be worried or anxious about anything.'”

Am I not here who am your Mother? Are you not under my shadow and protection? Am I not your fountain of life? Are you not in the folds of my mantle? In the crossing of my arms? Is there anything else you need?”

Take those words, then think of these from the Song of Solomon:  Who is she that comes forth as the morning rising, fair as the moon, bright as the sun, terrible as an army set in battle array?

It seems like a picture of the perfect mother: warm, loving, reassuring – and just a little bit terrifying.

Queen of Victories, Star of the Sea, Mother of the Church and our mother.  Painting the Mother of God is a bit of a tall order.  I asked the Lord when I was painting to help me to convey some of the sweetness of his mother.

Queen of Victories, Star of the Sea, Mother of the Church and our mother. Painting the Mother of God is a bit of a tall order. I asked Jesus when I was painting to help me to convey some of the sweetness of his mother.

We are now in Colorado.  We’ll be on vacation all through June, so posting will be sporadic, but I’ll do my best.

Hope, hard thing!

seedling

Soul, self; come, poor Jackself, I do advise
You, jaded, let be; call off thoughts awhile
Elsewhere; leave comfort root-room; let joy size
At God knows when to God knows what; whose smile
‘s not wrung, see you; unforeseen times rather—as skies
Betweenpie mountains—lights a lovely mile.

These lines of Gerard Manley Hopkins, so kindly and calming, are like a balm for a tired soul – particularly the tired soul burdened with a fierce self-directed critical faculty. They come at the very close of his Sonnets of Desolation, or “Terrible Sonnets” – six sonnets which detail inner darkness and turmoil.   Altogether they seem to exemplify what a good friend in college once told me, that peace is sometimes hard-won.

“[W]e. . .exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope.”

I was all ears as the lector read this on Sunday, for being of a melancholy turn of mind one virtue I notably lack is hope.  So, to get to hope we start with. . .tribulation?

I took the confirmation name of Joan, for Joan of Arc, because even at sixteen I knew there were battles to be fought and that I needed the courage of a soldier.  And there have been battles, sometimes difficult ones; but I have learned two things, and what a difference the knowledge has made.

One is, that I am not alone.  Across the street, at the park, on the freeway, I am surrounded by brothers and sisters each with their own battles.  I root for them, and it makes the struggle easier, to know that all around me are others who have come from the same beginning and are going to the same end – I hope – and who struggle, sometimes mightily, too.

The other is that we have a captain who has seen every kind of battle fray and over whom no enemy can triumph; and who moreover loves and watches over all of his soldiers and desires that not one should be lost.