Saturday, January 14, 2012

What Price Glory?

Retirement? Usefulness? Alone; forgotten. What value all my work? All forget. Why did I exist?
• Does it matter if I go on? Who benefits from my suffering? Should I abandon friends, as they do me?
• All the accomplishments, all the lauds --- gone.

Tonight I meditated on the Sorrowful Mysteries, and when I came to the third mystery, The Crowning With Thorns, I read the above lines for meditation, and more. My thoughts drifted, as always, between Christ’s life and sorrows, and mine. But tonight they swayed more toward mine, and stayed there.

When I retired my life changed. My life’s focus changed, from caring for my employer’s company, to caring for my mom. Certainly, I am sure, my focus now is more rewarding in God’s eyes --- all caring for others is, and especially for our parents. It’s what Jesus’ “job” on earth was, caring for others. And there are many days when I appreciate my new retirement job, and my blessings.

But not always.

If you’ve led a successful career, whether in the eyes of others, or even if just in your own eyes, how do you step away from that focus and not miss it, and not feel less useful? How do generals retire, and wake up with no army saluting them? How do mothers retire and wake up to no sounds of children in the house? How do you not hear the quiet?

I think perhaps like the rich man, a successful person also has some difficulty getting into heaven. Success in this life makes you enjoy it too much, seek the glory given by others too much, even if it’s only from your children (and then, even if only sometimes). Many of us, myself included, are used to saying: “Life is good,” because so often it has been good for us. We appreciate its goodness, and even give thanks to God, that we are blessed here.

But we were not born to be blessed here. We were not born to receive praise and glory here. We were not born to live only here.

How easily we forget those things, and even before we leave this life, begin missing it.

I’ve been spending a lot of time lately with a friend’s mother, who is very ill in the hospital. Recently out of the ICU --- finally --- she faces a long road to recovery, to whatever life she will be capable of, to the degree her body can heal. I was told tonight that I was a major factor in her recovery thus far, that someone’s presence there mattered very much to her. And I’m sure it did.

But then I read those meditations tonight and remembered. Once there were praises, accomplishments, lauds. Now I am a “presence”. A warm body to indicate to another, that “someone” cares. I’ve been that warm body to a number of friends, and in truth often that is all I am to my mother, a presence she wants, and sometimes needs. But there’s no applause anymore. It’s so quiet. I know that the other day I wrote about the importance of those who are there for another, the job they do, even the one I do, and these people cannot be lauded enough. But they aren’t, and there’s the rub. It’s a hard job to do, and probably most people don’t have the guts to do it, to really love their neighbor --- unless they get something back, some applause, some lauds.

I guess it’s fortunate that I have these thoughts, and write them tonight, in a chapel. As I write, musing on my self-pity, wondering how to conclude this melancholy note of my thoughts, I looked up and saw the tabernacle. And I heard the quiet here. For hours now, it’s been just He and I alone, me in my prayers -- and then sorrows -- and He in His “presence,” just a presence with me, who needed someone there with him this night.

I wallowed in some level of self-pity about ONLY being a presence, but that is what Jesus is to me. And I very much do appreciate the importance of my knowing that He is there. He doesn’t have to work miracles for me each day, all He needs do is listen to my prayers (or moanings), He doesn’t even have to answer. I am content, deeply content, knowing that he is present with me. His “presence” is important.

Thank You, Lord.

I guess I’ve moved on past my self-pity, thinking I have no value. St. Francis, who often prayed alone, Mother Teresa who helped the dying on dirty smelly streets as others walked by, and God here this night in this chapel, they were present for others when no one else would be. They received no applause and little recognition, but they did and still do some of the most important work in the world, God’s work.

I am humbled to be able to serve, to be and instrument of His peace. I and every other person on this earth are important, as part of this body and family of God. There is no greater glory in this life.


  1. What can I say, but I must comment. You moved like a human does, in this world, feeling the miseries of this world trying to overcome you. Your own miseries almost did, entering this world of quiet and contemplation that you now exist in, at least this seems to me. 'In this world but not of it' yet the sorrows still are very much there, very real. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. k

  2. Thank you for this post. It moves my heart to places where once upon a time I want to forget. I always thought, maybe because I was brought up in this way, to think that I have or need to make an impact with my existence. But since the last couple of months, I seem to be retreating or pulling back or falling back, whatever it's called, to a place where all I can hear are just my voices and sometimes just the emptiness. Actually I don't really know where I am going with this. But all I want to say is, what you've written here is real to me. The silence is real. And when I do pray, sometimes that silence can be tremendously beautiful and also painful. Anyway, God bless you and your mom.

  3. Of the over 500 posts I have here, I enjoy those rosary meditations I wrote the most, and pray them each evening. Each time I read them it is like reading Scripture, always new things are said and heard. They open my mind to His.

    We sometimes forget (as I demonstrated here) what we sign up for when we say we are "a friend." A friend is not just a friend in good times. A friend is there with you in bad times, too, and not just as a "presence" either. A friend shares your burdens, so that together "His yoke" is light. If we are not willing to share our friends' burdens, financial, emotional, or faith doubts, then we are not a friend.

    Being a friend, loving our neighbor, is no easy commitment. Pardon me, my friends, if I say it hurts sometimes, and I apologize for crying here on your shoulders. I trust you understand.

    Melissa, hard times are not to be something forgotten, but built upon. Heaven is the easy time; here we imitate His passion, in our own way. I'm glad you and kam found value here, and I pray it may make you just a little bit less anxious. It's why I write these thoughts, which He gives me. Thank you for reading, and caring about your neighbors also.

  4. I relate to this post. You have said it very well in your words "If you’ve led a successful career, whether in the eyes of others, or even if just in your own eyes, how do you step away from that focus and not miss it, and not feel less useful?"

    I didn't draw my self-worth from my job, but I identified with my musical gifts which I loved to share in our little parish in a small town in Iowa, until we moved away to TN. I was a liturgical musician for over 20 years. In the early years, I received no recognition or praise. In the final years there, a few people came to realize that I was an asset, and recognized my faithfulness.

    When we moved to TN, my "glory" days were over. I had an identity crisis. I wasn't important any more, except as you say, as a presence.

    Here, we had the opportunity to enter the world of silence in Eucharistic Adoration on each Friday of the week. When we could no longer do that, Clinton and I felt a great sense of loss. Those few years were the most satisfying of our lives. We no longer have access to visits to the Tabernacle, but must be satisfied with just being a presence among the Residents here. Each of us is reduced to that: just being here. We redeem the time as best we can with personal prayer. We've both moved past the need to be anything more than that presence to others, even if they don't even realize that we are carrying their needs to their Lord and ours. Perhaps they, like us, are a prayerful presence to us. I pray so.
    Rejoice in your ability to Love they neighbor. Yours is a very noble 'retirement job' - one of great value.

  5. Maryellen, I must correct you in a couple of things. You said you no longer have access to visits to the Tabernacle; rest assured that in my nightly visits before the tabernacle or monstrance, there with Jesus, you and Clinton are with me. I will never forget you both, as I pray you will never forget me. And as far as your glory days being over: Hah! How little do you know, you woman who must be growing senile. Your glory days are yet really to be begun. The glory days we have here, basking in others' praises of our work, will be like a match in outer space, an infinitely small light compared to the sun and glory we will see, up close and personal.

    And relative to my ability to love my neighbor, I am confident of the importance of my "retirement job", yet I am equally confident of the greater importance of my prayers for those I meet or even glance at. I may be able to bring people some level of peace, but He can bring them healing, body and soul.

    Thank you, Maryellen, for all you do. Now.

    1. Tom, thank you for correcting me. You are so right. My senile mind recognizes that the "Glory" days here are nothing compared to what is to come. That's why I put the "-" to the word glory. I was addressing your thought "how do you step away from that focus and not miss it, and not feel less useful?" It's pretty universal to feel less useful. For me it was an identity crisis that took several years to resolve. Interestinly enough, my Son-in-law was going through the same thing, having just retired from FedEx where he was important.

      I'm glad for you that you've overcome the self-pity you spoke of. I agree that being a presence is very important and useful.

      I love the thought that Clinton and I are with you in your nightly visits. I never thought of it that way. It's a comforting thought, and I'll carry it with me always. Thanks for reminding me.