Shaken from the Dream
When someone we love dies, our sense of reality is altered for a time: it is as though all that once seemed solid loses its solidity. Objects and people melt into a waking dream and all about us appears shadowy and insubstantial. Even our own bodies and faces acquire a strange and artificial quality, as though our physical form were little more than a mask for something unseen, unknown, below the surface.
Two years ago this month, Father Nicholas Gruner died unexpectedly. And now, John Vennari, editor of Catholic Family News and a long-time friend of The Fatima Center, a man much loved by so many in the Catholic world, has been taken from us after prolonged suffering. We knew that John’s death was coming for some time. Still, death is always a shock, no matter how prepared we believe we are and no matter how long its advent has been awaited.
And with John’s death, that shift in perception, from the world of solid substances to the waking dream world, has occurred for those of us whose lives he touched in an intimate way. We know that, in a while, death will lose its sting and life will resume its pace and preoccupations. The world will regain its usual shape. But perhaps we should ask ourselves: Which is the real vision: that of the insubstantiality of the world that follows the death of a loved one, or the commonplace perception of the permanence of people and objects?
Most of us have lost the familiarity with death that was once a part of everyone’s life. Until modern times, few couples saw all of the children born to them survive until adulthood. Diseases that have now been conquered once held the field and those most dear to us could be cut down quickly. Wakes were held in family parlors and black crepe pinned to a door was a common sight. Death was no less terrible then, but people accepted mortality as normal and inevitable. Now, it seems to be an aberration.
When someone dies we feel somehow violated, as though an intruder has broken into our home and taken something precious from us. It is, perhaps, natural to feel this way, but our Faith should take account of the fact that nothing, not even our lives, belong to us. We live at God’s pleasure. This is more easily said than accepted. But its acceptance is at the heart of our religion. The world, including the lives of those we love, is not ours to enjoy as we please for as long as we please. We are all here, not as permanent residents, but as tenants with no secure lease.
These reflections may seem morbid, but that will only be so if we insist that the world should be ordered according to our likes and dislikes. When we reflect on mortality in light of the Faith, we can find a peace and consolation that is truly wonderful. Throughout the history of the Church, our great saints and teachers have reminded us that our spirits are eternal, made in the image of God. Our bodies are given us for a short time, as vehicles in which to do God’s will — or not — in this passing world.
So while what happens here is important, it is only so in the light of our spiritual destiny. It is the hereafter that should be ever before us, helping us to live “sub specie aeternitatis” — under the aspect of eternity — as the Latin phrase expresses it. The history of mankind is the sad record of failed attempts to make of this world a permanent dwelling place, a utopia based on human schemes for producing lasting happiness. But there is no lasting happiness in this world. Here, everything comes and goes; all is born and all must die. And we are told that this parade of death is the reward of sin. The physical creation was altered by the disobedience of our first parents. We are their children and heirs. But we can reclaim our inheritance of eternal life through loving Our Lord and Our Lady and doing all they ask, which is not difficult. Grace is ours if we only open our hearts to it. And if we live in grace, we can say, like St. Paul, “Death, where is thy sting?”
We miss Father Gruner and we will miss John Vennari. The importance of the work to which both Father and John devoted their lives lies in its effect on the salvation of souls, not on any temporary arrangement in this world. Russia must be consecrated, not as part of any utopian scheme, but because Our Lady made it a condition for releasing the grace She so longs to give us. Heaven’s plan is, in a sense, Heaven’s business. Ours is to live in Faith and obedience, ready to surrender all we have, including all whom we love, to the greater Wisdom that is the only light we will ever know and the only real love that will reach beyond this corruptible world and carry us into the arms of the one lasting love that embraces us all.
We must work and pray ever more fervently that the Holy Father and the bishops will heed the requests of Our Lady of Fatima. (See: Petition to Our Holy Father — The Consecration of Russia and Petition to Our Holy Father — The Release of the full Third Secret.)
We must also keep informed. Read the recent “Fatima Perspectives” (view here) and “Fatima News & Views” articles listed below.
Latest Fatima News & Views
Francisco and Jacinta Close to Sainthood Declaration — The Holy See has announced that Blesseds Francisco and Jacinta Marto have been credited with a miracle needed to move their cause for sainthood to its conclusion. There is speculation the canonization may be done this coming May 13, when the Pope visits Fatima to mark the 100th anniversary of the Fatima apparitions.
The Annihilation of Nations — Anyone who knows something about Fatima generally has heard the dire warning given by Our Lady, of what would happen if Her requests were not heeded. The final punishment that would incur is the annihilation of nations.
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