Thursday, November 17, 2016

Those Who Keep The World Turning, Part I

The great mystics have said many enigmatic things over the centuries.  My favorite quote comes from the 7th or 8th century from a North African saint (unfortunately I can't recall his name).  By that time Western Civilization had collapsed, and Islam was subduing once Christian peoples through violent jihad.  The North African saint, a wandering John the Baptist type, baldly declared,  "It is only by my supplications and those of [another holy hermit] that the world has not been destroyed."  In other words, like Sodom and Gomorrah, the world would be spared if only a few righteous men could be found.

I've thought about this quote many times in the past year as four of the best Christians I've known have passed on.  First there was Rosie Vlcek, a spunky nurse who worked with my mom and was a stalwart with 40 Days for Life.  She had a giant heart and an innocent's courage, standing up to injustice in the face of long odds (whether against troubling new workplace rules or social problems).  She died unexpectedly.  God also suddenly took Nancy Curcio.  She had been a religious sister for ten years before entering secular life and teaching at the local Cathedral School.  She later married but was not graced with children.  Nancy helped oversee the 24 hour adoration chapel,  and steeped her life in spiritual reading and private devotions.  Nancy's smile and presence were a testimony to the existence of her Creator.  She had something so few people have.  Jim Germann, who passed a few days ago, once reverently pointed her out to me to say, "Now there is a real Catholic lady."  Then he just smiled and took in the sight of her.  Jim and I did biweekly runs to the Oregon Food Bank for five years for our St. Vincent De Paul chapter before he was sidelined by cancer.  He would lug forty pound bags of rice (against my protestations) even at the age of 90!  Jim was country strong, raised on a farm in the Dakotas, and spent his life stocking groceries.  When I visited him a few weeks ago he came to the door himself, tidily dressed, and his face seemed to glow.  He was half here and half in Heaven, in a strange twilight before becoming one with the Father through the Son.  By contrast, I recently visited an elderly relative who has led a life of greed, selfishness and malice.  He looked and acted like Gollum.  We all die as we have lived.

My late mother, Pamela Loogman, shared many things in common with the other dearly departed.  All of them were without guile; they did not have their own agenda.  They were simple and straightforward in a complex and crooked world. Each of them had to suffer, and often it was their children that rent their hearts.  My Mom suffered through so many things, and like the others, she never lost her joy.  She was kept aloft by "the peace that surpasses all understanding".  As I've thumbed through her photo albums, seeing her grow up on a dairy, surrounded by younger siblings and cousins, I've often thought, "This sweet, hard-working girl has no idea of the sufferings ahead."  But God gave her the grace of a happy childhood and the grace of faith so she could endure and win hearts amidst the cruel dysfunctions to follow.  She grew up wanting to give herself completely as a religious sister, but her mother wouldn't have it.  But she still fulfilled her vocation, living so as to offer herself "as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God" (Romans 12:1) for her children, husband and hospital patients.

My Mom and her parents after graduation from nursing school

As these true Christians have passed on, I've often  wondered at God's plan.  Who will replace them? Is he taking them because he wants to spare them from a coming chastisement?  But I quickly quash that last thought.  Ours will be a long defeat without any great fireworks.  The important point is that Jesus has asked all of us to replace them.

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