Here is a more unfamiliar beatitude, a jarring statement of Christ found in the Gospel of Matthew (Matt 11:6), apart from Eight Beatitudes given during His Sermon on the Mount (Matt 5).
Right now, much of what Catholicism teaches – and none of it is new – is taken with great offense. Not from those outside the Church, but those Catholics seeing themselves as ‘sensitized’ to the modern human condition. The warm blanket of false compassion is everywhere, yet the reality is, it ultimately leaves souls out in the cold.
An acquaintance recently told me she didn’t call a priest to see her dying father because she didn’t want to scare him. Several cousins did the same thing – skipping the Last Rites to ‘keep their parents comfortable’ and unstressed. The parents were daily Communicants, and practiced their faith devoutly for 80+ years. They footed the tab for the kids to attend Catholic school. To deny them final sacraments was a spiritual act of betrayal. The kids even skipped having a Catholic funeral Mass. But the afterparty? Yep, went off without a hitch.
The deeper reality is, when people rebuff the teachings of God – teachings they have been raised in, but of late decide to defer to ‘keeping people comfortable’ over extending proper spiritual works of mercy — it’s like a spiritual hate-crime.
This past fall, a phone interruption I almost left for voice mail ended up being a major surprise. A long-ago friend from high school whom I had dated called out of the blue, to talk about his endstage cancer. I knew immediately that he wanted to talk seriously, and that he was scared. We hadn’t spoken more than a few times in almost 40 years. I left my office and went outside with the phone.
Three years of intensive treatment had beaten him down; he was in organ failure. His typically robust voice was crackly and higher-pitched, and his tone somber. He talked of strengthened faith throughout his illness, and worried about the well-being of his wife and child, and how his business would be managed in his absence. I tried to offer suggestions.
But he needed more, and trusted me to be straight with him. I braced and began.
“You’re approaching the most important meeting of your life, and soon,” I said. “Have you seen a priest for your sacraments?” He was quiet.
I took a big breath. This was surreal.
“Listen, I could say a lot of things, but here’s the bottom line: you’ve got the gift of time to prepare to meet Christ. You want to embrace Him wholeheartedly, right?”
I continued. “Would you call your favorite priest, today, and make an appointment? You won’t be sorry, I promise.” He agreed. His tone lightened, and he took no offense at the suggestion, but thanked me for ‘being like he always remembered.’ He died peacefully on a First Friday a few weeks later.
And somehow, I sense, things are all right at last.
CHRISTINE VALENTINE-OWSIK is Legatus magazine’s editor.