I am angry. The whole world seems to be crashing down, and I can do nothing to stop it. Earthquakes, fire, flood, famine and war are devastating the earth. Our federal government seems unable to work together for the good of our country. On a more personal level, a family member has been diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer, a friend’s newborn niece is facing life-threatening complications, and most painful in the physical sense is that my plantar fasciitis has flared up again.
In the face of all of this I am helpless, so I am angry. If I weren’t angry, I would cry. Being angry somehow seems more productive: I can scream, lash out, act. Crying seems passive and less productive, if less destructive.
Normally when I am this out of sorts a walk with my camera brings me back to my senses. I did go out on Sunday, but the trail I chose turned out to be a hot, barren track with nothing to see except pickleweed and greasewood. During the entire hour’s walk, I saw a grand total of six birds – all flying away and not one worth a photo.
I returned to the car sweaty and even more disgruntled than before.
I tried to pray, but with all the anger inside there was no room for God. On Saturday I attended the International Marian Festival, where hundreds of people publicly displayed their devotion to the Blessed Mother. It was beautiful to see young and old, women and men, people from so many of the diverse cultures that make up this Diocese of Salt Lake City worshiping together. On another day perhaps I could write an ode in honor of this gathering, but on that day ire blinded me to all except my own misery.
I woke today to the same despair, with the additional pressure of having too much to do and not enough time to do it. Despite the massive amount of work awaiting me, I spent the first 20 minutes with God. I don’t know why I gave him time this morning; I’ve been neglecting my relationship with him and he hasn’t sent a bolt of lightning – real or metaphorical – to shock me back to the need to humbly acknowledge his presence. (Although it’s possible that the book I’m reading for my class, Augustine’s Confessions, has functioned as a subliminal lightning bolt, because the saint praises God effusively enough for himself, the reader, and anyone else in the vicinity.)
After starting my day with God, I went to the office, where what at first appeared to be an insurmountable workload dissipated one task at a time, with such little effort that I was able to leave before suppertime. At home I worked a jigsaw puzzle while listening to a choral group sing praise to Mary. When the CD ended, I tackled my homework, and completed that in enough time before bed to write this column.
The world remains in a sorry state, my brother and the baby are still ill, and my foot continues to hurt, but somehow my anger about all this has faded, and although I do not have the peace God alone can give, I can at least believe I may in time be worthy of it.
One definition of sin is turning away from God. The anger roiling my soul kept me with my back to him. I don’t know how long I would have stayed that way, left to my own devices, but one of the images that gave me pause at the Marian festival was Mary, Queen of Peace. When she caught my eye I did not stop to pray, but perhaps she reached out to me, turning me in her gentle way back toward the Father. And it may not have been random chance that led a friend years ago to give me that particular CD – it’s not something I would buy for myself – but today the “Ave Maria” soothed the savage beast within me.
God works in mysterious ways; he gives food in due season. All glory and honor and praise to God; holy is his name. Amen.
Marie Mischel is editor of the Intermountain Catholic.