I spoke of the love of God, of his tenderness, his mercy, his love for us. I spoke of faith, of hope, of love. I spoke of the miracles he had performed. Do you know something? My voice, which was fairly powerful, seemed to be absorbed into a huge ball of cotton like that used in hospitals, and it died there.
For I was talking to people who were not listening. They were utterly and completely indifferent to what I said. They passed me by without even turning their heads. I felt scalding tears fall on my face, and called out to God, “Lord, have mercy!” A quiet and peace–filled voice answered, “That is who I am—the Lord of mercy.”
I understood at that moment, with a sort of lightning understanding, why we of Madonna House exist. We exist to show the face of Christ through all the fogs, through all the storms, through all the rains and hurricanes. We exist, if need be, to be martyred. Because only martyrs, bloodied martyrs, can penetrate that fog, can with their two hands lift off from people the weight of gold and silver that was suffocating them.
Catherine de Hueck Doherty, Urodivoi
Reflection – Well, this speaks to my heart, anyhow. I don’t know if it does to anyone else’s. Of course, I can just as easily be among the crowd who pass by heedless and uninterested, as much as be the one preaching the Gospel.
There is something very strange, though, in our humanity, that Catherine touches here most painfully. We are not really that interested in the Good News. We are not that interested in God. We should be—this is our life, our death, and our hope of life in death—but we are not.
Not most of us, not most of the time, not as interested as we should be. It is easy in this to blame the sins and poor example of Christians who say one thing and act another, the scandal of hypocrisy in the Church, especially in its leadership. And there is certainly some truth in that.
But the reality of human indifference to God goes deeper than that, I would maintain. There is a capacity in human beings for a simple deadening of the spiritual impulse, a smothering, a suffocating of that which is the true life of the soul. We can kill the life of the spirit in ourselves—this is the true and only tragedy of our humanity.
Catherine specifies ‘gold and silver’ as the weight that does this suffocating work. For sure this is so—the Lord Himself has no shortage of warnings to us of the dangers of greed and avarice—but this hoarding of possessions is itself merely a symptom of the deeper malady. And that deeper malady is the persistent choice of self over God, self over neighbor, self over all. ‘I am third’, we say in Madonna House, and hopefully try to live. God is first, my neighbor is second, I am third.
Pride inverts this so that I am first, and God and my neighbor vie for second and third place (we don’t really care, since I am first, and that’s what matters). It is this which is the true root of all spiritual death, which manifests itself most painfully in this dead, dull indifference to God and to the things of God.
Well, what are we to do, we who do believe, who do care, who do want God to be victorious in the world and in ourselves (even if we ourselves struggle to some degree with this spiritual malady)? That is really what this whole book Urodivoi is about, and why I think it is one of Catherine’s greatest books, largely forgotten and unread as it is.
To weep, to cry out, to love, and to keep going, keep preaching, keep shining the face of Christ, the love of God, the Gospel of Jesus, no matter what. Foolishly, uselessly, without seeming to make any impression or have anything to show for it. Keep doing it, keep on the course, keep giving a damn even if nobody else seems to, keep hanging on to Jesus, to Mary, to the Father, keep pouring out our prayers and our love, and begging for the grace of fidelity and perseverance in all this.
This is the only way the Gospel is proclaimed in the world, the only way that those who have ears to hear will hear it, the only way that the horrible fog of apathy and indifference can be pierced through by the luminous light of faith, hope, and love. The only way our lives make a difference, bring love into the world more profoundly.
Of course we do all this while ourselves contending against our own pride and sin and indifference, and this is part of the painful struggle of life. It is not only other people who are suffocating, but we ourselves may be weighed down by self and greed and pride this day. So we have to preach the Gospel anyway, cry out anyway, love anyway, always knowing ourselves to be the first ones needing to hear it, needing to repent and believe, but not letting that stop us from being his evangelists in the world.