If you tune in to any news channel these days there is little to no good news whatsoever. And to compound all this the weather here in the upper Midwest has changed to fall, which means repeated days of rain without any respite of bright sunshine. It is easy with this combo of outside forces to succumb to despair.
On some Fridays, the morning's Psalms for the Divine Office don't help either; between the psalmist who wrote Psalm 51 lamenting his own and humanity's sinfulness and the prophet Habakkuk in his canticle reminding us all about the Day of Judgment, I give up! Melancholy wins the day!
Many get discouraged because, for all appearances, it looks like our present battle has been lost. Close family members have walked away from the Faith and don't look like they're coming back. Statistics reveal the all-too-well-known evils like abortion and euthanasia are flourishing. Bad politicians and their bad policies are celebrated in the media. It's easy to think the battle is already lost and to just give it up already! But that is exactly what the Devil wants.
As disciples of Christ, we are supposed to be people of hope — hope in our Risen Lord and hope in His promise of Heaven and the new creation. You may rightfully ask: "How do we hold on to this hope when it all seems just so hopeless?" That's simple. Get down on your knees and pray. You can do so knowing that in Our Lord's mission, Passion, death and resurrection, the battle has already been won.
Pray, though, as disciples acutely aware that we're living in particularly dark evil days, days in which sin is celebrated and people of faith are persecuted — days in which victories for us as people of faith are few and far between.
Pray with the knowledge that some of us will suffer much because of our faith and that some will even give their lives in the current battle. Recall all the Christians throughout the world that have given their lives just in the last couple of years for their belief in Jesus Christ — in Africa, in Asia, in Europe, and yes, even in the Americas. But, in the fullness of time, the victory has already been predetermined, and Christ is the victor.
Things are difficult in the midst of the current day-to-day skirmishes that we are involved with as disciples — fighting against abortion and pro-abort politicians, fighting against so many apostatizing from the Faith and fighting against the general apathy of American life.
But don't let this lead you to despair and doubt; bring it to your prayer and praise God, knowing that in Christ the battle has been won. As disciples of Christ, when the going gets tough we get down on our knees and we pray. We pray with sincerity, right reverence and piety. We pray knowing our prayers will be answered.
In a spiritual battle like we are in, many faithful are plagued with doubts the Devil likes to suggest to our minds. You may hear that whisper: "God does not answer prayers." Expect that! But at the same time, dismiss it. As a man in my 60s now, I have come to know that God does not ignore our prayers. He just chooses to answer them as best suits his purposes — for the betterment of others and for the fulfillment of what's best for the world.
I do not say this flippantly, but from my own experience. I offered prayers in the aftermath of being abused as a youth. My sincere prayer was for God just to remove from my head the horror of the abuse. Even after having devotedly said dozens of Rosaries, I was still haunted in my head by the horror of it all. The memory of the abuse would not let me sleep. It would not let me get on with my life. But, in time, God gave me the great grace to know with certainty that He had heard my prayers — that it was not part of His plan for me to forget the abuse, but rather to know He permitted it for His greater purposes. There is consolation in knowing that God uses all things that befall you for the greater good of the world and the Church.
In many respects, as the victim of abuse in my youth, the words of Our Lady to St. Bernadette of Lourdes during one apparition truly resonate with me. Our Blessed Mother said, "I do not promise you happiness in this life but in the next."
As a man who at age 11 lost his innocence to a predator in a locked car in a locked garage — and who suffered for years from horrible flashbacks — life in this world for many years was far from happy. But over time and through many tears, God gave me the certain knowledge that in Heaven, all innocence will be restored, and all the tears and sadness of this fallen world will be forgotten. Suffering from abuse is no longer just suffering, but meaningful and redemptive.
As a priest saying the Divine Office day in and day out, and now for over a couple of decades, I have come to value perhaps for the first time the real depth and complexity of the Psalter, comprised as it is with numerous psalms of lamentation.
Omitted from the Divine Office are some harsh words in Psalm 137, written by the psalmist after the destruction of Jerusalem.
Verse nine reads: "Happy be he, who takes your little ones and dashes them against the rock!" These are not the words of a man happy with the cards God dealt him, but a man struggling to wrap his mind around how God permitted the Babylonians to destroy the fair city of Jerusalem and, with it, most of its inhabitants.
I am certain the psalmist who wrote this ended his days lamenting his most grievous losses, but found consolation knowing God permitted the destruction of Jerusalem for some reason, for some purpose — to call Israel to repentance for its waywardness and to pray devotedly for a Redeemer!
The good news is that in Christ, God gave all humanity a Redeemer. For the psalmist who wrote Psalm 137, he would not live to see Israel's redemption from all its foes, but in Heaven now he knows Israel has vanquished each and every one of its enemies. And there is no more reason to wish anyone's babies' heads be dashed against rocks.
The term "dog days" often refers to the hottest days of summer, but the phrase seems fitting for the sad state of affairs we see around us nowadays. For those of us feeling blue in these "dog days" of early autumn, saddened by all the losses recently suffered, it is important to continue the fervent prayers to Heaven, knowing that some of us will suffer greatly in these battles and that some of us will even lose our lives in the fight. But we have hope: "For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ" (2 Corinthians 1:5).
Moreover, find consolation in Our Lord's words in the Beatitudes, spoken to the suffering, battle-fatigued soldiers in His own time sitting before Him in a similar battlefield. One line in the Beatitudes, Luke 6:22, is particularly consoling: "Blessed are you when people hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil because of the Son of Man." As Our Lady consoled Bernadette with the reminder that happiness is not to be found in this world, console yourself that in the next it will be abundant.