If you're connected to any form of social media, chances are good that you're being barraged with exhortations to "be a joyful witness" and to "transmit joy and hope to others." It would seem that there's nothing more worthy of contempt these days than giving the appearance of being a "sad Christian," an "old maid," or a "sourpuss," to use a few choice insults which have been directed at faithful Catholics over the past few years. One gets the distinct impression that, no matter what you do, all will be forgiven as long as you do it with a smile.
Well, I call phooey.
Personally, I'm tired of the insinuation that I'm a bad Catholic if I'm not glad-handing everyone I meet. Why not let prospective converts know the truth from the get-go?
Being Catholic is not always easy. It's not always fun, either. Sometimes, you have to make sacrifices that hurt. Sometimes those sacrifices are made for you. Sometimes you understand why, and sometimes you don't. But, as a Catholic, you can be sad without losing hope; you can experience sorrow without falling into despair. The great strength of Catholicism is not that it eliminates suffering, but that it gives our suffering meaning.
There's an old woman who sits, always alone, a few pews ahead of me at church. She never speaks to anyone. She knows all the hymns by heart. And she weeps bitterly through the whole Mass.
When I see her return to her place after having received Our Lord, her eyes are puffy and bloodshot, her nose red and shiny. Before the ciborium is placed back in the tabernacle, she has moved on to her second handkerchief, the first having been utterly demolished during the consecration.
After Mass, she kneels and sobs, sits and sobs, blows her nose a last time, collects her things, and then rises to leave. She always looks exhausted, like she has just returned from the bedside of a terminally ill loved one. There is a hint of a smile on her lips, but the smile is neither for me nor for the other parishioners, with whom she doesn't even try to make eye contact. She's smiling for Our Lord, who is in her heart.
She might be old and wrinkled, but at that moment, she's truly beautiful, positively glowing with love of God. And I love her for it.
If you are a "sad" Catholic, take heart, gentle reader: you're in good company.
|Mater Dolorosa, ora pro nobis!|