Many are the Children of the Desolate

Posted By on May 5, 2015

The day was oddly cool for the season, even as the sun waxed higher in the sky. And me in flip-flops with no hat. Scarf, but no hat. It was fortunate indeed that the day was breezy and cool. The situation that had propelled me on this pilgrimage of a hike, across the interstate, up and down long grass and hills, fording two streams, walking on a terrifying highway bridge to cross a much larger river, seemed to me like one that my sense of self-preservation and terror had overreacted to, despite my having trauma with those sorts of triggers.

Along the hike my mind was occupied with placing my feet, finding the rather unwalkable route betwixt lanes of roaring traffic and fenced off gullies, with the occasional two-block jaunt through a nice residential neighborhood before I was climbing the next hill. I didn’t feel bad or even panicky, so long as I was out of the reach of the people who had caused my upset. I shook my head. There was SOME reason for this excursion, some greater plan for it that I knew nothing of. My flip flops kept coming apart, but between putting them back together and going barefoot, I was not making bad time. Had I planned this excursion, I would not be in flip flops. Nor without a hat.

I was on a MISSION… well, just to get to church. Eventually I did get there, after about three and a half hours of walking. Despondent, I took another three and a half hours to lay in a stupor half in the sun, wrapped in my chaddar, trying to get warm and feel less nauseous.  No one was ever around on Mondays, so I had a lot of time to think. I wasn’t quite sure what to think about. My brain felt in a slow fog, that circled from a strange kind of waiting confusion to outright anxiety and conviction, once again, that I didn’t belong here, that I should’ve been a Hare Krishna, where people lived more ordered and sane lives. Of course there was no food, but I took several trips to the water fountain to ease my aching head.

Five hours later I creeped my way into the church. The May crowning of Mary had occurred just yesterday–it had been glorious, I had been singing in the choir, and we had a long procession where we sang a litany and many hymns to Mary. The tenderness and sweetness of such a loving expression still filled the little Mary altar, overflowing with fragrant flowers of all types. The statue of her stood there with the wreath of flowers upon its head. I sat down in the front pew. I was still stupefied. I went in and out a few times, but achieved no more success either at praying or feeling any clarity on anything.

Presently I noticed that someone else had come into the church after me. Peeking back, I saw it was a priest–but one I had never seen before. We had three priests at our church, and being members of the Fraternity they always wore long black cassocks. This priest had on only a white collar and a black suit. He poked around the back of the church a bit, walked the aisles praying his office… I gave him a few glances, but then just continued sitting by the flowers. Who was he? Why had he come HERE to pray–as a priest didn’t he have his own church to pray in? Questions to which I had no answer didn’t bother me much.

A little while, and he left… but not before calling out to me, “Excuse me–” I turned around.  “Would you please pray for me?” he asked. “Father Gabriel.”

“Okay,” I said. He thanked me and left. Thinking little of it, I turned around and looked at the altar again. I hadn’t been able to pray at all for the past two days, and expected no more success now–but suddenly inspiration and consolation filled me and I found pouring from my heart every heartfelt thanksgiving, and petition for Father Gabriel’s help and hope, sentiments I could not have dreamed up five minutes ago. Of course I went with it–how exciting. I prayed for him for some time and then, when I finished, my previous dryness immediately returned.

I was too tired to care much, but the incident made me ponder. Truly the grace to pray is one given by God, for without His aid we have no power of our own to reach Him or even to speak to Him. He must, I thought, be proving this to me by allowing these various torments and the non-functionality that so frustrates me. Here, however, He proves to me that He can give it back in a moment should He so desire.

O fickle diety!

Still, as I sat there, I was soothed, peaceful. The colorful fragrant flowers felt like a sweet embrace, and I couldn’t take my eyes off of the altar. Here HE was. Some vestiges of the love I had always had for Him there with us in the Blessed Sacrament, for the Mass, perked up a bit. How wonderful it was of Him to care so much for his ministers, the priests consecrated to act in His person for the benefit of the whole world.

I went back outside to sit for a while. A friend of mine showed up, who I had been texting during the day. “Hi there, you crazy lady,” she said to me, and, telling me to eat already, unlocked the kitchen for me.

I set to this exhausting but by this time highly necessary task.  After this tiring repast, forty-five minutes later, I wandered out to stare at the bulletin board. As always, a large poster advertising the seminary was displayed prominently. On it were the photographs of all the current seminarians–I found myself absorbed with staring at each of their faces. All of them such ordinary looking men, features of all shapes and sizes, nothing physical remarkable at all… yet to me each one of them glowed. Those smiles for the camera were telling me excitedly, “This is my body–my life–given up for you and for many.”

The harvest is plentifulbut the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. …

I went back outside to meet my two friends. Father Gordon had just returned from a hike (Monday being his day off), and we all chatted for a while. I told them about Father Gabriel and my experience with praying for him. Father Gordon seemed to suddenly have attention for this story, looking at me–

“You see,” I said, “I have realized today that God does as He wishes with us, and it’s not even that I’ve done anything, but He is doing His own purpose torturing me!”

“No,” he said, “the reason I was taken aback… is that… it seems you may have a vocation to pray for priests.”

“There’s something I’m supposed to do…” I said. “That’s good news.”

Quite confidently he then quoted to me Isaiah 54:1…

“Give praise, O thou barren, that bearest not: sing forth praise, and make a joyful noise, thou that didst not travail with child: for many are the children of the desolate, more than of her that hath a husband, saith the Lord.”

“Hey, yeah!” I said. “It’s the way it was arranged; there won’t be any children for me, because my husband ran off…”

“Not physical children,” he agreed, “but so many more SPIRITUAL children.”

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2 Responses to “Many are the Children of the Desolate”

  1. Tyler says:

    Mark can’t control your life. If you want to get married and have kids, then get married and have kids. If you want to become a religious and devote your life to praying for priests, then become a religious.

    I’ve held off on saying that you have to get over him because I don’t know if we ever get over some people and it is still a long healing process no matter what. But I don’t want you to say you can’t do something because of what he did to you.

    Yes, I tried everything to get you not to marry him — I pleaded with you, I tried to contact many people to convince you not to go through with your plan, I prayed oh so hard but things went ahead as planned. But even though you wanted to marry him, he clearly had no real intention to take it seriously. I don’t know if he was plotting from the beginning or not but I doubt lifelong fidelity was his true intention.

    Furthermore, even though you were also involved in the Hare Krishna group, you did officially become Catholic while in Bellingham. This means that you were subject to Catholic law even while you were not practicing. Catholic law requires that all Catholics be married in a Catholic ceremony, in front of a priest with two witnesses. Many fallen-away Catholics get married in Protestant, non-Christian or secular ceremonies and this is known as “defect of form.” It is a trivial thing to obtain a Declaration of Nullity due to defect of form because it is an objective standard, you don’t have to speculate on his intentions and mindset at the time of the wedding or even appear before a tribunal, you simply have to submit some documents to the chancery and you’ll obtain formal proof that you were never married. But even without this formal documentation, as far as the Church is concerned, you’re still an unmarried woman.

    I understand and respect wanting to stay faithful to your commitment but Mark showed himself not to be a man worthy of the respect and devotion you have given him, even in his absence. I also understand wanting time to heal but two years could easily turn into twenty and you’re already saying you’ll never have children because of what he did.

    I’m not saying this for my own sake. If you marry a good Catholic man in your parish, I’d fully support you and even come to the wedding (the primary reason I didn’t come to your wedding with Mark was because you were getting married outside the Church and it’s considered a sin to attend an invalid wedding — I didn’t go to my own sister’s second wedding for that same reason). If you want to become a religious, I am happy to support you in every way that I can as well.

    We all make bad decisions in life (as much as I would like to say I have no regrets in life, I have many) and we suffer the consequences of those decisions. That doesn’t mean that God is out to get us. We can still pick up the pieces and make a brighter future for ourselves. While shallow emotional happiness and pleasure certainly isn’t the point of life, neither is life supposed to be drudgery or misery. You should do what you want to do and what you believe God is calling you to do without feeling restrained by poor decisions you’ve made in the past or how other people have treated you.

    I care about you and I want to see you happy — whether that’s in a nun’s habit or with children clawing at your pinafore or even as a single woman without children if neither of those are your calling but please don’t hold yourself back from doing any of these things simply because of one jerk. I don’t think God wants to torture you but rather to lift you up. You have a complicated past, as do I, but that doesn’t mean the future can’t be bright.

    Please take care.
    Love always,

  2. Tyler says:

    So if you want spiritual children, follow Justin into the religious life. Don’t let anything or anyone hold you back from that if you believe it is your vocation. You have talked about it for years, even before I met you if you include the Episcopalian sisters. I don’t know why you haven’t made a formal discernment yet but Justin shows how to get around the debt problem so that’s not an issue. You mentioned that your priest had talked to you about the Missionaries of Charity, IIRC, but you should look into that or a traditional convent or some other mode of life such as a hermitage.

    I still don’t know what I’m doing with my life, I’m just working like a dog and burying my nuts like a squirrel, saving up to pay off my student loans and buy a house. So I probably won’t enter religious life but I do believe it is a very wonderful thing and my time with the monks was life-changing. Certainly I would be very happy and proud if you became a nun or a religious sister.