The Reality of Everyday Life
Lately, most "Franciscan Reflections" have dealt with God's Love, Catholic traditions, and the sunnier topics of life. I try to write upbeat things in order to lift up my sister and brother Franciscans and/or address everyone else with a little Evangelization. I am not trying to convert anyone, but I am trying to gently direct your attention to Our Lord, prayer (our conversations with Him), the Blessed Virgin, St. Francis, and the angels and saints we look up to and try to emulate (follow their example) to serve God in a way beneficial to ourselves and other people.
There are, however, many people who face the reality of everyday life, who aren't in the mood to read my reflections even though (people tell me) it is inspired by the Holy Spirit. You'd be surprised if I said that most people have lots of problems in everyday life. Some people know how to accept and deal with their problems, and then there are others, who haven't the faintest idea how to cope. To those I'd say, accept Jesus Christ as your personal friend, for He is! He loves you more than I can express in words, don't ever forget that.
I spent my childhood (from birth to my 14th year) in the Netherlands, as previously mentioned. I would like to write about this, as it relates to this reflection. Some people tell me it is better to forget about all these unpleasant things, but the fact is that I can't. I think of them almost every day, and I thank God that I am still around to tell about that time. I know several people who experienced "heavy stuff" in their lives who are less than happy to be around, that can be quite a burden to them, to their spouses, and if we encounter such people, we ought to try to help without seeming too inquisitive. That can be a tall order. But with God's help, we can, and must help those who are burdened down by what seems impossible situations.
Let's see, in Holland (the Netherlands), World War II began on May 10, 1940. I was born in August of that year, in Nijmegen on the east side of Holland (near Arnhem). It lasted until May 5, 1945, when the Germans surrendered. Those were five extremely long years. Most of that time, my family and I spent living in a coal cellar beneath the house I grew up in. That house is still there, although it was badly damaged from bombing, etc. The heart of Nijmegen was utterly destroyed on February 22, 1944, about half past one in the afternoon. At that time, we were startled by a bombardment, executed by American bombers. Why did they do this? They were trying to bomb industrial targets in the western part of Germany but ended up short of their intended target. Many people died in this bombardment. To the best of my recollection, it was shortly before this bombardment that my parents decided to move temporarily to a family on the edge of town. Thank God they did so. The memories of that time remain vivid enough to give me enough problems now that it was necessary to seek medical help.
As if that wasn't enough, I had a concentration camp experience (lasting about two weeks) when I was real young, in 1942. People tell us that children do not remember much before the age of three and a half. Unfortunately, I remember much too much from a childhood that no one should have had to experience. For the most part, I have not revealed this chapter of my life because I do not wish to draw peoples' sympathy. I always thought that these things were best forgotten, but that really isn't true, the professionals tell us. During this 1942 experience, it became clear afterwards, that my Mother and I were extremely blessed to have been released at all. Perhaps it is that realization that I was spared that keeps me loving God to the extent that I do, because I know from my life's experiences that I matter to Him. He wanted me to survive. That's a strong incentive for me to make the best of my life, and to tell others how great our God really is!
There are more than three million veterans on the U.S. Veterans Administration's Service-connected rolls and another 413,000-plus veterans non-Service connected†, as of September 2010. When current military actions are over with, there will be even more people who fought for their country, added to these rolls. These veterans are suffering a lot with experiences they remember for probably the rest of their lives. My experiences seem mild compared to those of some I have talked with.
But the reality of everyday life doesn't stop there. There are more people who are hurt, who are suffering and who sometimes have no help to mitigate that amount of suffering. These are folks who grew up in the inner-city slums, and many who are now in their senior years who do not have the wherewithal to support themselves. There is real hardship out there. That is where we can reach out and offer a helping hand. St. Francis of Assisi, whose Rule we follow, knew something about poverty, about living frugally, about making due with little, but many people who are now in a money-jam have no idea how to live on very little and when they are suddenly confronted with the reality in their lives, they can use a helping hand.
How does one help others? People's problems are too complicated to be "sugar-coated". You know, there are people who give a quick solution they have no business of giving, because they don't know what they are talking about. About all you can do is pray for people whose hurt seems too deep to help by ordinary means. Also, I have found out, that in dealing with other people, I loathe folks who endlessly beat around the bush. Maybe that's a trait I got from my Mom, she was very direct, and very to the point, often to point of annoyance when it did not suit me. (but I love her for it!) Neither of my parents is still alive; both went to their Heavenly rewards many years ago. I often think of them, of the courage they had when times were tough.
How blessed I am for having grown up in a family that was not dysfunctional. When Dad passed on, my parents had just celebrated their 25th Wedding anniversary. That, my sisters and brothers is another side of today's reality, so many, many people are hurting because they never knew what a family bond was. Their lives went awry because their parents' lives were a mess. We all know marriages that clearly were not made in Heaven ... and we should pray for all people who carry that burden through life, parents and offspring alike.
There are also, many, many people who have had brothers or sisters who were aborted by misguided parents. We cannot bring the children back, but we can offer a great deal of help to those who caused or lived with all this grief in their lives. There are so many people in this world who are hurting in one way or another, probably many more than whose life is placid and joyful. Please ask Our Lord Jesus to help you through all your problems and tribulations in life. When asked, I will pray for you, of course.
May God bless you and make your day at least more joyful than in the past. The past cannot be changed anymore; the future hasn't happened yet, it is important to take life one day at a time. Begin with today. Praise God!
Fred Schaeffer, OFS
July 7, 2011 rev. Aug.2018
(†) U.S. Veterans and Dependents on Benefits Rolls as of September 2010 (VA website)
Secular Franciscan Order
Ordo Franciscanus Sæcularis
Divine Mercy Fraternity
Vero Beach, FL
Term expires: 2/10/2022
Fred Schaeffer, OFS
Helen Caldarone, OFS
Mary "Jean" McGovern, OFS
Jack Reddy, OFS
Donna Haro, OFS
Joanne Giordano, OFS
Fred Schaeffer, OFS
Five Franciscan Martyrs