Paul Moore: Suffering, gracefully borne, builds the house of the Risen Son

In My Father’s House l By Paul Thomas Moore

I was gazing at a photo of a beautiful church on my wall calendar (Immaculate Heart of Mary, Cordoba, Spain) as I said my morning prayers. It struck me that even the most spectacular churches — a St. Peter’s in Rome, or Notre Dame in Paris after the fire restoration is complete — offer just a semblance of heaven and God’s eternal glory.

“He had been lying awake in the wee small hours of the morning, somewhere between 1 and 3 a.m., when it suddenly dawned on him in a silent rush of conviction, ‘The Resurrection is real — God is real . . . it’s all true.’”

God must look upon our works of human hands as a parent or grandparent looks at a drawing of a flower made by a child and taped to the fridge. He sees our attempts to reflect his reality in art and architecture and says, “Well, perhaps it doesn’t look exactly like the real thing, but I love that they’re trying.”

However, when we hear a story of a conversion, of a soul turning to see God as it never had before, in a moment’s leap of faith and love that might have been a lifetime coming, that truly is the real thing, and I’m sure it looks the same from God’s perspective as ours.

I heard such a story recently. It wasn’t a conversion story per se, as the man already was a happily practicing Catholic, but it was as if the Lord suddenly said to him, “There is more.”

“SOMETHING HAD HAPPENED”

I’ll call him Jim. I visit him at the nursing home. He’s always friendly, even though he’s bedridden, and I expect he’s often physically uncomfortable when I stop by. Nevertheless, he never has a spirit of complaint about him, or even mentions what’s going on with his health, unless I specifically ask.

On this day, as I entered his room, he looked different.

“Jim, you look good today,” I couldn’t help but blurt out. He nodded modestly, though I don’t think my reaction surprised him. We visited, and as I was about to leave, I was struck anew by his demeanor. His face looked so serene. I remarked on it again and this time, despite his natural humility, he allowed that “something had happened” the other night.

I said that if he was willing to share, I was eager to hear. He replied that he had been lying awake in the wee small hours of the morning, somewhere between 1 and 3 a.m., when it suddenly dawned on him in a silent rush of conviction, “The Resurrection is real — God is real . . . it’s all true.”

GOD’S PRESENCE BEYOND WORDS

Before retiring, Jim wrote for a living, and taught others to write, but he admitted he didn’t have words for what he had experienced that night. The closest he could come was that he had received a blessed moment of “illumination.”

He recalled how he had once confessed to a Catholic high school teacher his honest doubts about the faith, and the good sister had replied that anyone who didn’t have doubts by the age of 19 just wasn’t thinking. On this morning, I sensed that whatever doubts Jim might have had — especially in recent years, given the physical crosses he has borne — were now gone. “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.” (Psalm 30:5)

Writers pride themselves on their ability to describe, but I could see that Jim was at peace with his inability to adequately capture what had happened to him. Maybe it was even a kind of reverse proof of the indefinable plausibility of divine love.

We talked about St. Thomas Aquinas, among the greatest of the Church’s philosophers. Aquinas received a revelation from God near the end of his life, put down his pen, and never picked it up again. “I can write no more. All that I have written seems like straw,” he said.

God had shared his presence beyond words.

Or, to quote St. Paul, “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.” (1 Corinthians 13:12)

What I saw in Jim’s face was that he knows his Lord on a new level. Later that morning, as I checked in with some other nursing home residents, I shared his story. They nodded before I finished speaking, identifying completely. All were either going through or had gone through their own dark nights of the soul of physical affliction.

The most beautiful churches and Christian works of art pale in Christ’s eyes to the suffering of his children who keep faith in him. To offer a new twist on a traditional folk song, one might say that suffering, gracefully borne, helps build the house of the Risen Son.

PAUL THOMAS MOORE is lead coordinator — communications and media relations with Illinois Central College. He and his wife Mary Louise attend St. Mary of Lourdes in Germantown Hills. He can be reached at paulthomasmoore@hotmail.com.

 

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