Closer Than Ever

As soon as I resolve to be a more consistent writer, I go out of town for four days and forget my computer’s power cord, without which it is useless, since it has a battery with the lifespan of…oh, I dunno, a chocolate cupcake at a 1-year-old’s birthday party. Possibly less. But the wedding was tremendously wondrous, in fact the most beautiful I have ever been to. (This is not a slight to the other weddings I’ve seen, merely a reflection of the fact that my tastes happen to be much more similar to this particular bride than any of the other brides whose weddings I have attended. So, don’t be jelz.)

I finished “Come Rack! Come Rope!” and I…*sigh*…I don’t know. It was beautiful. Heartbreakingly beautiful.

I want to read it again already.

So I’m doing the next best thing, going back and reading all my highlights.

I could write posts and posts about this book. We’ll start with this one. First, let me set the stage a little, while trying not to give anything major away (since I really hope at least one or two somebodys are reading it now):

Remember, Elizabethan England, Catholics are underground, priests are being banished the first time they’re caught and killed the second. One of the main characters, a woman who organizes a great part of the underground, receives a letter summoning a priest to an extremely dangerous place to bring the Last Rites to a Catholic who’s been condemned to death. The priest being summoned is one who is particularly close to her, one she has gone to great lengths to protect, and when she receives the letter, she considers for a moment destroying it and not telling the priest he’s being called to a deathbed that will almost certainly end in death for him as well. As she considers this, she remembers how her own mother died without a priest:

“Then, in a great surge, her own heart rose up, and she understood what she was doing. As in a vision, she saw her own mother crying out for the priest that never came; and she understood that horror of darkness that falls on one who, knowing what the priest can do, knowing the infinite consolations which Christ gives, is deprived, when physical death approaches, of that tremendous strength and comfort. Indeed, she recognized to the full that when a priest cannot be had, God will save and forgive without him; yet what would be the heartlessness , to say nothing of the guilt, of one that would keep him away? For what, except that this strength and comfort might be at the service of Christ’s flock, had her own life been spent? It was expressly for this that she had lived on in England when peace might be hers elsewhere; and now that her own life was touched, should she fail?…The blindness passed like a dream, and her soul rose up again on a wave of pain and exultation….
‘Wait,’ she said. ‘I will go and awaken him, and bid him come down.'”

I know, I have goosebumps too.

Okay, first – this makes me want to pray even more than I already have for “a happy death.” Or, in other words, a provided death – one where we are able to receive the Last Rites, one where we do not die alone in sin.

We ask for it in every Hail Mary, “Pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death…”

St. Joseph, who died in the arms of Our Lord and Our Lady, is the patron of a happy death.

One of the promises of Our Lady to those who wear the Scapular is that they will not die an unprovided death.

It’s the intention of the 4th Glorious Mystery, the Assumption of Our Lady, to ask for a holy death.

And believe me, when I read this part, I thought, I really need to pay more attention to this asking for a holy death.

Next, this entire book really increased my love and enthusiasm for the saints. If you knew me before, you might be wondering how that is EVEN possible, but trust me, it is. When I was between 7 and 9 years old, I think I read our little Ignatius Press St. Edmund Campion book about five times. At least. And when he turned up in this book, I felt like I was running into an old friend.

It reminded me of a conversation I had once with one of my dearest friends, Gina. (Actually, the one whose wedding I was just at!)

Gina and I were reflecting on the fact that I tend to be drawn towards saints who are notΒ like me: pranking, joking, smoking male saints. Check it out:

Blessed Miguel Pro in disguise. Smoking.

Blessed Pier Giorgio, skiing. And smoking.Β 
They actually airbrushed the pipe out for his beautification picture. No, really, they did.

P.S. I hate pranks, I’m frequently accused of being too serious, I loathe smoking and I am definitely not male.

Gina herself has a special love for the Blessed Mother and St. Therese of Lisieux, among others, but personally I don’t think they’re very different from her at all. Then we realized: we don’t have any siblings like the saints we are most drawn to.

I have lots of sisters, and only one younger brother, who neither pranks very often (smart move on his part) nor smokes. And he is definitely my younger brother and not my elder, as I have always felt my Pier Giorgio to be.

Gina has one older brother, and no sisters.

Our conclusion: God completes our families with His saints, showing us that His Body, His Family extend past the walls of our own homes or our own blood relations. In His saints we find those who faced the struggles we have, fought the battles we have, felt the sting of defeat in certain moments and yet won the final triumph. As I read earlier today, “A saint is a sinner who did not give up.” Once when I was discussing why I’m Catholic with someone, a small part of my answer was that without the Church, I would lose my dearest friends. The saints are the friends who are with me always. Which reminds me of another part of the book I’ve been obsessing over here:

“He was nearer to her heart, in one manner, though utterly removed, in another. It was as when a friend was dead: his familiar presence is gone; but now that one physical barrier is vanished, his presence is there, closer than ever, though in another fashion…”

That is the saints. Closer now to Christ than they were in this life, and so closer to us, though in another fashion.

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