I often wonder, when I read about horrific tragedies (and even the not-so-horrific ones), how people who have no faith deal with such things. How would you deal with an alligator snatching your toddler if you didn’t have the consolation of knowing that God is in control and that there is purpose and meaning even to the death of your baby? How would you handle a devastating disease that afflicts you or a loved one?
My sister is one such godless, faithless person. She is a “good person”, I am sure. She thinks good thoughts for people when they need them. She participates in charitable, secular organizations. She doesn’t cheat people or say mean things. Etc. My sister’s ex-husband is remarried; he and my sister are still “friends”, and my sister seems also to socialize frequently with this man and his wife. They are all civil and pleasant to each other, and enjoy the grandkids, and all that. Now I see from Face Book (the knower of all earthly doings) that the wife of my sister’s ex-husband has been diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s disease.
Now, if I disclosed such a traumatic and devastating diagnosis to my circle of friends (which is small, and includes you regular readers here), I would be asking for and receiving prayers – of that I have no doubt. People would be offering Masses for me. A priest would be counseling me, with the emphasis on the spiritual aspects of the issue. I'd be preparing my soul to meet my Maker. The same is true for all of you, I’m sure.
But what do those without faith do? Well, sometimes they do ask for prayers. Usually it’s “thoughts and prayers” they seek. In the case of my sister’s friends, it isn’t even “thoughts” they want: it is “awareness” and donations toward a cure. My sister’s ex-husband said, in part, on his Face Book page:
Many of you have asked if there is anything you can do to support us during this time of medical uncertainty. We will ask you to contribute financially and/or Walk with Us to End Alzheimer’s. The Walks are scheduled in xxx on October 1st and in xxx on October 8th. These events are designed to bring greater awareness about Alzheimer’s and the importance of early detection.
On her own page, my sister had this post:
Hello friends - I hope you can make a contribution...anything helps! I am taking a stand along side(ex’s wife) and (ex) to end Alzheimer's. Let's Get Ready to RUMBLE!! Click below and go to the "donate" button. Join me in supporting (ex’s wife) - help me show her our love and friendship! Remember, anything you can spare is a blow against Alzheimer's! Positive thoughts, likes, shares – anything :) Love WINS! Thanks so much!!
“Love wins”? I wonder, really, what she even means by saying that. What does she think "love" is? And what does she mean by "wins"?
And really, what effect does “walking” and raising money for Alzheimer’s research do for the afflicted individual? Not. A. Thing. But this is the world we live in. Even many Catholics have fallen prey to this mindset: do something in the world (the “social justice” mentality); don’t think about eternal life. Stay in the here-and-now. All this activity accomplishes only one thing: making the “supporters” feel like they are “doing something”.
Our hope lies in our salvation through Our Lord Jesus Christ. This life is dust and ashes. Our earthly life is a pilgrimage aimed at our true home in Heaven. The trials of this life are our means of sanctification. The big picture – the economy of salvation, the salvific value of suffering, the unfathomable mercy of God, His perfect justice – is so incredibly beautiful, that it boggles my mind to think of facing life without the Catholic faith. I wish I could convey this to people like my sister and her friends, to my future son-in-law, to my hiking buddy, to my nieces and nephews, and to so many others…including the fallen-away Catholics in my own extended family.
In the end, all we can do is offer this Truth to others and hope they are given the grace to receive it.
Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.