A Brief Day in Our Lives - A reflection by Fred Schaeffer, OFS
Father Benedict Groeschel, C.F.R., 1933-2014, in one of the videos shown on his website, speaks of the "brief day of our lives." In context, he prays that "we ask only that we may ask God to guide us to spend those brief days in our lives." There is no time in God's realm. He IS. He IS now and forever. Our human reckoning of time has ceased for him. Our lives are but a brief day in the meaning of time. It is mysterious and it is awesome.
Much in the Catholic Faith is awesome and some of the thoughts of Saint Bonaventure, and other Doctors of the Church, in their writings, bring back the awesome and the mysterious. I had a discussion some time ago with a woman who lamented the change from Latin into English of the Sacrifice of the Mass. She claimed, no matter where I am (presumably on vacation in a foreign country), at least I can understand what is going on because the Mass is the same everywhere. But when you really examine this statement, you begin to realize that she really didn't understand Latin... she remembered the sounds of that language. Not the precise meaning. Which was the whole point of changing the Mass to the language of the people, so they would understand the precise meanings of the liturgical aspects of Holy Mass. And she spoke of the "holiness and awe" that one felt in a Church.
I think the "holiness and awe" is something we bring to the Mass, by possessing an interior calmness and piety, as we desire in our hearts to participate in and with the Mass. What happened here? Where did the piety disappear to? Are we taking liturgy and rubrics far too seriously? Although the "form of the Mass" is important, that's not what we come to watch for when we attend Holy Mass. We are there to praise God, adore Jesus for giving up the opportunity to sit down with Him at the table, where He breaks the Bread, and we Eat and Drink from His Sacred Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity.
In our Parish Church, the Music Director makes an effort to use the somewhat traditional Catholic choir music rather than all this new-fangled music. She does this, I believe, first at the request of the Pastor, but also to use music the person in the pew knows. We would like the congregation to participate in the singing, rather than just sitting back and listening to it. The choir's purpose is not "perform" - instead, it is there to animate the people in Church to take an active part in the Sacrifice of the Mass.
Saint Francis asks us to live the Gospel as we move among each other, and to use words if necessary. But living the Gospel is no easy task. It takes daily conversion of sin, daily re-direction of viewpoint, a renewal of piety. He did not suggest that we look pious... that would be like the Pharisees. They often had this look of piety, but it was all lip service, it was all an act. They didn't mean it inside. In order for us Franciscans to be effective for Jesus, we have to be genuine. Our piety must be truthful and honest. The awe and holiness we want to feel must be real and must come from a deep belief in Our Lord Jesus Christ, a great admiration for and prayerful relationship with the Blessed Virgin Mary and with all the Saints and Blesseds we pray to for intercession.
Also, besides Mary, Saint Francis, Anthony, Bonaventure and all Franciscan Saints and Blesseds, our best intercessors are our deceased parents, siblings, others in our family who have gone before us. We praised them on earth. We certainly should continue to pray to them, not in the same way as we pray to Jesus but to ask for their intercession. They are in heaven, thus closer to Jesus.
Many years ago, I gave Holy Communion to a 98-year woman, who was preparing to die. How one can prepare for this I do not know. Having known her for several months, I had no doubt that she would go straight into God's Arms. When we are younger, however, we can prepare for that day. A day no one knows when it shall happen. We all know that we will die, but no one knows when. Sometimes the very sick seem to get this feeling that it will be very soon. But when we are younger, we can prepare. We can repent and attempt to live better. Not better in the material sense but in the spiritual sense. We try very hard to love God with perfection. That can only be accomplished when we're promising not to sin anymore. With dogged determination this is possible. After making a good confession it is even more possible.
Our lives are brief. What is 80 or 90 years compared to all eternity? Just a flyspeck of time, in our total awareness of God. I pray for my readers that you will take the little time you have seriously. So that one day, we shall all meet in Heaven, where there is only happiness, wholesomeness, and awe. Amen.
Fred Schaeffer, OFS (2019)
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