Spirituality for Today – August 2016 – Volume 21, Issue 1

Misery, Thy Name Is August

Rev. Raymond K. Petrucci

An photo of autumn in Maine.

Caribou, Maine is a mythological location for me. I have never been there and, most likely, I never will, but it represents a place where one can escape the oppressive heat and humidity of summer. As you might assume, I am a fan of the beautiful colors and bracing air of autumn and of the delights of the purifying cold and brilliant snows of winter. I realize that I have lost all but a small percentage of you. In deference to that small percentage of people, I read that Caribou can experience snowfall during any many month of the year – that's the place for me. Of course, this article is not about the Great White North or personal climate preferences, but is concerned about that which makes life uncomfortable and its remedy.

What is it that really makes life unbearable? Insecurity, fear, anxiety, despair, hopelessness, alienation, and purposelessness must rank among the highest causes that make life fruitless and tragic. These characteristics of life that are experienced to some degree by all of us must be felt, in my opinion, most acutely and most commonly by those who have no faith, no source of eternal salvation. Self-delusion can act as a drug to ease the pain of life's futility and barrenness. Eat, drink, and be merry eventually reaches an unsatisfactory conclusion. If drifting aimlessly through a cold, unfeeling universe constitutes the truth of human existence, then being alive on this earth reeks of meaninglessness and a hopeless charade. No wonder that suicide is on the rise.

Surely God would not have created such a being as man, with an ability to grasp the infinite, to exist only for a day. No, no man was made for immortality.

Abraham Lincoln

From the most primitive of times, human beings have had a deep sense of the spiritual. We are wired for worship; this cannot be an un-consequential reality. Concepts such as beauty, curiosity for knowledge, friendship, creativity, compassion, and love itself does not, in my view, lend itself to thriving in a faithless humanity. We, indeed, are least adapted to survive our entrance into the world. We have no protective fur, no instinctual ability to function in a manner adequate for survival nearly from the point of birth; we lack exceptional strength and skills to assess the healthful and harmful realities around us. No, we do not have many of the highly stylized gifts of the other creatures around us. What we do have is potential beyond any other living thing. We are gifted with a mind that learns to master the world around us and to create the necessities of survival and to put value on the entities in our world. We possess a heart that evokes sensibilities and feelings that make life a marvelous and purposeful reality. Most of all, we have a soul. This principle of our total being gives animation to every aspect of our life and bears the quality of existing beyond the temporal state of man. We, thus, are mortal and immortal at the same time. Perhaps, one may describe the soul as the spiritual energy of the body, a vehicle for the Holy Spirit to dwell in and make us its temple. The soul stamps the human being with eternity. The human being, therefore, possesses a greater significance than anything on earth and within the universe itself.

The truest end of life is to know the life that never ends.

William Penn

What makes life not only bearable, but also filled with meaning and hope? Believing that we are all children of God with a natural desire to return the love bestowed upon us by following the teachings of Christ, we have the power to live in this passing world with an awareness of an eternal life and that raises our ability to live a life worth living. If we happen to live a life of many years, we face the loss of many loved ones and we may change the places and circumstances within which we spend our years. The solid, unchanging realities are those based on the spiritual. Every time I enter a church and offer Mass, I am touched with the sense of continuity from youth to old age found in my warm relationship with the Eucharist. Faith in a loving God as the author of all existence, with man and woman as the apple of his eye, provides the experience of living with a destiny, both bright and fulfilling, so as to lift all thought and action to celestial heights. Once again, I shall face August with my mind on December. Once again, I shall uplift my mind, heart, and soul to the glorious One who brought me into existence, sustained me throughout my years, and has fixed my destiny. Lord, have mercy!