While a nation seems intent on devouring itself, I cling to the Crucifix
This nightly news has been overwhelming me: three police officers and the wife of a suspect, shot, two dead.
A child so neglected as to be a forgotten soul, only noticeable in his death.
A protestor’s rage over offenses past and present, her shouts in the public square making it clear she doubted there was any mechanism by which the injustices could be addressed.
Day after day, the city, the state, the nation, the world seems intent on devouring itself.
Night after night my simple attempt to be informed has left me reeling. After watching the news, I have closed my children’s bedtime prayers with “and pray for peace, love and special intentions like …” but the prayers have felt very small and ineffective in the light of all I’d seen.
Recently, I sat thinking about the news — all of the news, both in the big, roiling world and in my personal life — about the sufferings of family and friends and the strangers in the headlines. How do we participate in the redemption and healing of the world when all we can see are the gaping wounds? There were so many scourges to address.
“Sometimes, all you can do is crawl to the foot of the cross and bawl like a baby.”—Granddaddy Green
The saying was burned into the heart of a 13-year-old me, aching to puzzle out pubescent awkwardness. It rose again whenever life felt like too much — when one friend divorced, another friend succumbed to cancer and a third fell away entirely. I loved the odd comfort of the image: me crawling to the cross, crushed by the weight of the world, to sob at the one place where all of it could be healed.
Bringing the nightly news to Christ’s feet seemed silly, but then I thought about friends of mine, people of astounding resilience who hold onto the crucifix as fiercely as a lover. One is a remarkably strong woman who suffered from a hard divorce; she prays with fervor and keeps a buoyant spirit at all times. Another has surrendered the last 13 years of her life to the care of a medically fragile child and finds the time and wherewithal to reach out to other parents of kids with intense medical needs, to bring them a touch of lightness and laughter. She totes superhero capes to the children in ICU, turning those other families’ struggles to merely survive into an opportunity to live, to hope and to thrive.
The third is my mother, who has held on through two floods destroying most of her possessions, and my father’s long battle with Alzheimer’s. She’s come to care for me, my sister and sisters-in-law when we’ve needed it during pregnancies or illnesses, and she’s come just because we’ve asked.
Each of these women holds onto the nails, not the hurt. But how do they do it, and how can I? For them, it’s meant willfully surrendering pain, worries, anger, impatience, frustration, fatigue, sadness and grief, all at the foot of the cross.
It’s seemed impossible, but when I consider these three women I revere, I see that the consequence of their daily surrender is peace of heart. Their suffering has not defined their lives. Their lives are defined by their relationship with the One on the cross, not the cross itself. Through offering to participate in the mercy of Christ’s passion, they have become part of the balm of consolation offered by God, and the salvation.
The pains and ills and sins of the world are legion, but what would the world look like if all of us who know Christ, who know the Person on the cross, were to offer to join him there, to become salve? The news could either remain a passive source of despair, or an inspiration for living out the beattitudes, for working to be the hands and feet of the Body of Christ, via prayer, via listening, via reaching out not to be white knights but to be humble servants of love to ones in need of love.
I know this much. Each of us would be aching to turn on the news each night.
Sherry Antonetti is a former special educator and currently a freelance writer and mother of 10. She writes at Catholicmom.com and her blog, Chocolate for Your Brain. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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