In Every Age

Written on: August 12, 2019

In every age we can say it was the best of times and the worst of times! On this feast of St. Lawrence the readings seem to reflect that sentiment.

I entered my congregation in the late 1960’s. it seemed to be a dark time in our country:

  • The Vietnam war was going on; drugs were on the rise;
  • Nuclear fears were heightened;
  • Riots were happening on college campuses;
  • Vatican II had just initiated massive changes in the church unsettling many people’s safe predictable lives;
  • The women’s movement was burgeoning;
  • The sexual revolution was growing and challenging the norms of society.
  • It was a turbulent time.

The group of women I entered with ranged in age from 17-33! We were women of our age. We sang its songs and celebrated the breaths of fresh air and newness coming into the church as a result of Vatican II.

As Postulants, we got in trouble for singing songs like the Sounds of Silence by Simon and Garfunkel with their sad and dark lyrics, but they were the songs of our generation:

Hello darkness my old friend
I’ve come to talk with you again
Because a vision softly creeping
Left its seeds while I was sleeping
And the vision that was planted in my brain
Still remains
Within the sounds of silence”

An exasperated novice director asked if we didn’t know any happy songs! A challenge! But we did find one and because we liked to sing we learned it in 4-part harmony and with gestures to go with it!

“God loves a cheerful giver
Give it all you’ve got,
He loves to hear you laughing
when you’re in an awkward spot.
When the odds add up against you,
It’s time to stop and sing,
Praise God, to praise him is a joyous thing.”

The verses featured Peter, Jonah and Job who found themselves in awkward spots but were blessed by their endurance and fidelity.

Today we could add a verse about Lawrence, deacon and martyr, whose feast we celebrate. He was the archdeacon of Rome, responsible for the temporal goods of the church. The Emperor had had the Pope beheaded and Lawrence was told that his life would be spared if he turned over the wealth of the church! He agreed to do so, and promptly set about distributing the wealth to the poor. When asked to give an account of the treasure, he pointed to the people and said these are the church’s treasures. That sealed his fate.

The soldiers carrying out the will of the Emperor, were startled by Lawrence’s humor, when he said, “I’m done on this side, turn me over.”* A gruesome death for sure! But his choosing humor joy and fidelity during his hardship helped others see the light of Christ in him.

He was a witness to the reality that while wealth is a gift, a financial blessing from God, it is nothing unless it leads to generosity. He gave generously and fully and radiated joy. He certainly reflected the joy of the gospel, that Pope Frances encourages us all to do in our living and our dying’s!

Wherever you are on your life journey, or your retreat journey, perhaps some lessons are here.

  • We all get overwhelmed by sadness and darkness at times in our lives; look for the helpers around you for assistance;
  • We can forget the enduring presence of God in our lives and the joy that is a hallmark of that presence; Just stop, look and listen for it;
  • We can feel like we are being grilled by others at home or work; it will pass; you may need to act to make a change but it is temporary; and oh yes, don’t forget to breathe!!
  • We experience losses and transitions that throw us into tizzies and we think we won’t be able to recover; you have and you will! Take time to remember how you came through difficult times before.
  • We do not like to be in pain; pain never arrives alone. It always brings strength and resilience. Maybe not right away, but in time.
  • We often want to choose our crosses but they come unbidden: we grow stronger by choosing to carry them as best we can.

We need to stop regularly and take a long, loving, look at our lives and our relationship with God. That’s what retreat is all about—a pause in time, to catch our breath, to rediscover and reclaim that all important connection to ourselves and our God and to remember and savor the enduring love of God in every age!

*Church legend. This phrase attributed to St. Lawrence was most likely meant to show that he retained a positive attitude strengthened by his faith in God.

Sister Mary Elizabeth is currently ministering as a Retreat Director. This summer she has been in Cape May, NJ at St. Mary by the Sea Retreat House of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Philadelphia and also in Madison, CT at Mercy By The Sea Retreat House. She is available for personal Spiritual Direction in the Philadelphia area throughout the year. (She is pictured here with one of the children she met at Nazareth Home for God’s Children in Ghana.)

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