Stranded in Toledo. It was that bad.
After a grueling month that was culminated by my actress Maria Romine falling in Lake Superior, we left the piercingly beautiful city of Duluth, Minnesota for our 18 hour drive to Monroe, New York to perform for the World Youth Day events of the Parish Visitors of Mary Immaculate and right after passing through the toll booth on the Ohio Turnpike, our transmission went out and we had to be towed fifty miles to Toledo, where I had to rent an SUV and throw our sound, lights and costumes into it and keep driving, as the show must go on - for some crazy reason. (The van is still in Toledo and Karen will have to drive seven hours up from St. Louis and get it once it's fixed.)
The show went well enough, especially considering that most of the ninth and tenth graders there were forced to come by their DREs.
And I sat there in Mass on Sunday, at the sister's charming chapel, feeling angry and bitter and simply worn out. Then the homily - by (I believe) Fr. Glenn Sudano of the CFRs (shown hearing confession outdoors before Mass) - kicked into high gear, and I saw it all, the pain, the travel, the sacrifices, the hassles, the bad money, the foolishness. It all came into focus. "At first Peter was not afraid when he stepped out of the boat," Father explained, "because he didn't look at the waves and at the storm around him. He kept his eyes on Jesus."
Well, naturally, keep your eyes on Jesus. That's why I'm doing this, after all. There's no other good reason to.
And afterwards our fans found us and the consolations flowed.
But it's difficult. It's difficult to keep motivated. It's difficult not to slide into depression when the resistance, both in the world and in your own breast, is persistent.
Today, for instance. As difficult as this Genesian Lent has been (from the Immaculate Heart of Mary til now, when I began this series of posts), today was the hardest. My wife Karen and I were getting hit from all over - financial challenges, difficulties with clients, family trouble - even a friend trying to resurrect the Lying Debate and claiming he'll never see me again if I don't salve his conscience and admit I'm deliberately perverting the Catechism when I say lying is bad. I mean, the devil is the Lord of the Flies because he does his most effective work with thousands of annoying little bug bites - and today the insects had full reign.
There is something about suffering that only the greatest of saints understood.
Look at the similarities between Christmas and Easter. In both cases, God vanished and Faith and Hope seemed to mock us.
When God died on Good Friday and Mary held Him in her arms, all of the universe had ceased to have meaning. Truth and Goodness had been made Ugly by our sins and our hate and the Prime Mover of All Things, the source of all meaning itself, lay without movement in the arms of a woman who should never had been made to grieve. And after He is laid in the tomb, we do not see the moment when death turns to life. It is hidden from us, for it is too glorious for us to understand.
And we all know the magic of a dark Christmas Eve. We all know the hush of that Silent Night. But that hidden blessing comes from God being absent from the eyes of our world-weary vulgarities, unheard by our hungry hungry Herods. God is as hidden in that cave in Bethlehem as He is in that tomb in Jerusalem. In both cases, the silent turning point is veiled and the world turns its bloodlust elsewhere as new life secretly begins.
Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. 1 Cor. 15:51-52
This sounds like wishful thinking, a child's dream. But on the contrary, St. Paul insists upon it. If Christ be not raised ... then is our faith in vain. Eternal life is central to the Christian Faith - His resurrection and ours can not be separated.
The body of flesh dies and the body of the Spirit is born to a glory unimaginable. But how do we keep our eyes on that when they tend to gape at the storms around us?
We began these posts by talking about St. Genesius, our patron, the only actor with integrity, whose Feast Day is August 25. He, like so many then and now, died for Christ.
We must all die for Christ. "I die daily" as Paul said. And die not only to our sins, but simply die. We must come to that painful awful place where meaning has fled and the One in Whom we put our faith lies dead in the arms of a weeping woman; that painful place where the songs of the angels mock us - we are told He is born, but He is hidden from our eyes, unseen and unfelt by our broken hearts.
When God is dead, Faith becomes true Faith. When our hopes are dashed, Hope becomes true Hope. And when we love a God we cannot see, and who lies lifeless in our arms, Love becomes Love at that moment.
And when our transmission goes out fifty miles shy of Toledo, our vocations are being tested.
Chesterton, as usual, says it best ...
Hope is the power of being cheerful in circumstances which we know to be desperate. It is true that there is a state of hope which belongs to bright prospects and the morning; but that is not the virtue of hope. The virtue of hope exists only in earthquake and eclipse.
"Great news!" Sister Maria Catherine said. "The Pope has granted a plenary indulgence to anyone participating in World Youth Day activities - anywhere in the world, including here in Monroe, New York!"
Ah, yes, so we traded a transmission for an indulgence, but the hard part is always the condition that makes it stick - renouncing our attachment to sin - including the sin of not seeing the forest for the trees; or not seeing the Jesus for the waves.