Moments of Love with Mary
– The Spiritual Letter Box –
The Anguish of Young People -1
I write to implore your invaluable help. I would like to ask a few questions that my mother cannot answer. (1) Besides, coming from her, I do not always accept what she says, because she does not always have the exact words, and I must always guess. Whereas, in your Letter Box, I notice that the answers are always precise.
(2) Since I entered high school, everything has suddenly changed. Last year, when I went to the Presentation of Mary school, there were a few Sisters and this provided a little more discipline. But this year, it is really serious. (I do not know if you understand what I mean by “serious”…) But it is terrible to live in this school with no discipline, no respect, etc. (3) I speak of my situation: I, who believe and try as best I can to be faithful to God. It is so difficult! What must I do to carry on? I no longer have the courage for anything, that is, to pray, to go to Mass, to go to confession, etc. For quite some time, I felt the presence of God near me, then He was absent for such a long time, but I think He is returning little by little. (4) It was not that I doubted then, but I wanted to fashion my own God, (5) my personal religion. What I want the most in the world is to be independent. (6) I want to live my own life, have freedom of opinion.
(7) What my mother tells me seems ridiculous to me at times. I find her ridiculous with all these things, but at the same time, I admire her. I would like to be like her, but I am afraid because I know that she has suffered… (8) and I am terribly afraid of suffering. For myself, I do not accept to suffer! (9) And the question that always comes back to my mind is this: “Why suffer? Why must a person suffer to reach this God? And why does one want to reach this God?” The other young people of my age don’t seem so unhappy, and they have dropped everything!
(10) Why do I have faith, while others have it only more or less? They do not commit themselves to anything and have no remorse because they do not know what is good and what is bad. (11) As for me, I know it because I have this mother who knows so many things and does not stop telling me about them. I can no longer put up with that, and it leads me to rebel. There are so many questions being tossed about in my head. I have found several answers, but they are not complete…, they are not solid.
(12) Thus, regarding my question “why suffer?”, well, I found the answer: “To suffer for God is to love, and this is the way we prepare our heaven.” (13) But there is another question: “If God is almighty, why does He not take away evil from the earth and why does He not give us everything instead of making us suffer?” There again, an answer came to me: “God leaves the evil so that we can choose to love Him. If He had given us everything, He would receive our indifference. We would be robots. We have an intelligence and we can decide whether to love or not to love God.” Life is unfair and it is because of God. Why choose us to suffer?
(14) I know a girl who has everything she wants. She is rich, beautiful; she has the love of a family that is very close. This family belongs to the Mormon religion; she is certain of her religion and very sincere with herself. She likes her work and life. She is an artist and her records pay her thousands of dollars. Let no one tell me that she has suffered; I will not believe it for one second. It is not her fault if she was born in this family of Mormons. I have studied this religion a little and it makes sense. She thinks that she is on the right road. I would gladly change places with her. This is why I say that life is unfair. How can one explain sickness, tuberculosis, etc.? (15) Why are there volcanoes that destroy cities in a few minutes? Was Pompeii a damned city? There are so many earthquakes everywhere, is it because so much evil is committed? (16) If I were raped – and this can happen to any good girl – could I have an abortion instead of giving birth to a child that would be unhappy? Why does not God stop all these disasters?
(17) Why does one have to go to Mass? I answer: “In order to prove one’s faith,” but there are other ways to prove one’s faith without going to church. Those who practice the most are not the most holy! (18) And how can one know what is good and what is bad, with the priests we have now. We cannot blame those who sin… To sin involuntarily?…!!! I cannot understand that. (19) Why must people be married before having any relations? Why would it be wrong to have pre-marital relations? It is good to give oneself to the other; this is love, is it not?… Give pleasure to the other and receive pleasure from the other… Is that really selfishness? Those who get married so often get a divorce a short time after because they do not know each other enough before their marriage. So if “free unions” were allowed before marriage, people would know each other as they are, and there would not be so many broken marriages! Answer these questions. I am mixed up since we have been receiving courses in sexology. We are left with freedom to think, freedom of opinion, but my opinion is wavering. If you told me what is good and what is bad, if you gave me good reasons to follow the Second Vatican Council, well, I think, I would stand firm.
(20) I am a sincere girl, I do not wish to hide behind a false devotion, behind opinions that are not sincere. I do not want to think that I am privileged because of the things I understand or say, when in fact, I do not execute them because I lack courage or I am afraid to suffer.
(21) Example: I think of the “beatitudes”: “Blessed are the pure of heart for they shall see God.” The pure of heart are detached from everything… well, for myself, I do not put this teaching into practice, or at least, not very much. (22) It is written in the Gospel: “Whoever claims to love me but does not love his brother, is a liar.” I don’t like my father at all, I wish he were DEAD. So I don’t like God since I don’t like my father. Should I pass as a liar by saying that I like him? What would be the use of lying since God knows everything? I really want to love God, but again I say: I am afraid. Who will take this fear away from me? What can I do? I desire so much to continue on the right road. (23) There is another thing that I ask of God: it is the awareness of His presence. The more I pray to God, the less I hear Him and the more I am going downhill. Why?
I leave you on this point, hoping that you will answer me.
Here are a few sentences of a prayer that encourages me a lot: (24)
“It is getting late and death is near.
I fear the darkness, the temptations, the crosses, the sorrows.
How I need you, O my Jesus, in this night of exile.”
X… 14 years old
I read your letter attentively, trying to understand the confusion that reigns in your life, in order to help you find some answers to the numerous questions that haunt your mind.
You will see that I numbered each essential point; thus it will be easier to find the adequate answers.
1. Psychological Crisis
At present you are going through a difficult phase, a crisis that comes upon young people of your age at one moment or another. Here, your personality wants to assert itself. Your filial affection towards your mother experiences ups and downs because a certain independence is developing in you – and this is normal. However, this independence must not lead you to judge too quickly… it is common for young people to act like this. There are so many details that you still do not know.
“With your mother, you do not always accept,” you say. Another person would advise you the same way, and you would appreciate that person’s advice. So we have here a psychological crisis which at times sets the daughter against her mother, and at times the son against his father.
While you go through this crisis, you must not wound the one who has been so good to you. Be prudent in your words and actions towards her. Try to understand what she cannot say, maybe because of great fatigue, because of the trials she must endure silently, or else, because of a lack of time or knowledge to express herself. Do not judge her. Be good to her and wait. Time passes. You will be happy one day to have checked some words that you could regret, for the events of life open our eyes and show us that our parents want our happiness and our good, while our exuberant youth would invite us to look for them elsewhere, in an independence that can lead us into all kinds of disillusionment.
2. Desire for Independence
You received a good education in your family, strengthened at school for many years, where the respect of authority was sacred.
Here you are now in a milieu altogether different. This is where your desire for independence can be put to a good purpose, that of keeping yourself upright, respectful of yourself and others, dignified, sincere, in spite of the distressing examples displayed before you.
3. Strength of Character
It seems to be difficult to be faithful to God when everything appears to be crumbling around you and when you run the risk of being caught up in the whirlwind.
This situation must prompt you to measure your strength, because it is through difficulties that the character is wrought and the will strengthened. But your efforts must rely, above all, upon a superior force: trust in God – “whether you feel His presence or not” – and have recourse to Mary who promised to assist all those who consecrate themselves to Her.
Your growth in the interior life has already made you discover many things. This awareness of the presence of God or of His absence proves that you have been made sensitive to the beauty of the spiritual life by this divine presence that you have relished, and of which, afterwards, you have had the sentiment of being deprived. It is a normal progress in the life of the soul. But, to go further, one must not allow oneself to become lax by abandoning all forms of prayer or all calls to act according to one’s faith.
Those who drop everything, prayer, Mass, etc., seem, for a moment, not to have any worries, to be liberated from the sometimes exacting demands of an ideal that was simply glimpsed; but their laxity merely leads them further from the true happiness which they only seek more, the more they lose it.
Never worry if at some time you have doubts about the spiritual life. These doubts, strewn along our path at times, vivify the soul – that is if they are not a systematic rejection of the reality of the spiritual life. These involuntary doubts demand of the soul a greater capacity for passing through these phases of dryness, in order to arrive, afterwards, at the oasis of a profound interior joy with a renewed and purified love.
5. Personal Religion
We can never say that religion is our personal business, no more than we can have our own personal sun. Nor can one say, “My life is my business,” for our actions are never without spiritual or social repercussions. Without judging him, let us look at the actions of a person who is drawn into alcoholism or loose living in one form or another; does not that person cause a lot of suffering around him? So, our actions can promote, according to our choice, peace and joy for ourselves and others, or become a burden for others and a cause of remorse to ourselves.
6. Freedom… Independence
“You want to have freedom of opinion, you want to live your own life, be independent.” In that case, you are preparing the chain which will make you a slave, first of yourself and then of the situation you will provoke round about you.
This concern for independence would only imprison you more in the selfishness of “your own life”.
Wherever you are, there will always be people around you. Right away, that calls for selflessness. You cannot be independent from events, unforeseen events which occur anytime. You must build with basic elements, that is, be open to everything around you, be affable, because true happiness consists in promoting happiness.
7. Admiration for Your Mother
I understand so well your thought: “What my mother tells me seems ridiculous to me at times; but at the same time, I admire her.”
Your mother talks to you about spiritual beauty. She tells you about her interior joy in spite of the suffering she must bear. What a paradox, which seems all the more aberrant when all around you, you see the examples of a life that seems easy without any reference to the spiritual life. So your mother’s words appear ridiculous, and yet you admire her, and with good reason.
The Lord, in His teaching, seemed ridiculous to the people of His time when He said: “Whoever wants to be the greatest must make himself the smallest… Forgive seventy times seven times… Render good for evil…” And what about the beatitudes, etc.?
In an age when we have the occasion, more than ever, to practise this teaching, you understand your mother’s attitude, in spite of everything, and you admire her. Keep this admiration of your mother which she deserves, doing so in spite of the contrary thoughts that assail you because one day you will thank God for having given you such a mother.
8. Fear of Suffering
You say that “you are afraid to suffer, you do not accept suffering,” and yet, you are already suffering. Your letter proves it, dear child. But you suffer more from the fear of suffering. So you make a mountain out of fears, or out of troubles which you may never have.
Trust in life; it has also its good aspects, its pleasant things, its joys. This mother who suffers, do you not admire her because of her fidelity and hope, of her joy and confidence? So, joy is not incompatible with suffering.
9. Why Suffer?
“Why must a person suffer to reach God?” It is not precisely suffering that makes us reach God, it is love, true Love. Suffering can bring about an awakening in a person and favor a return to God. God is Love, Goodness, Holiness.
Through our baptism, a sacrament of light and a source of divine grace, the soul is called to rise towards God. “Wanting to attain God,” is to taste already on this earth a profound joy while waiting for the eternal felicity.
The more we live in conformity with divine laws, the more we experience peace, in spite of the trials which, one day or another, come to us with greater intensity. The more a soul desires to live close to God and taste the secret pleasant things He lavishes, the more it must consent to detachment. It is not suffering that makes the soul happy, but the benefits acquired by this suffering accepted with love. To refuse suffering is to reject the beneficent grace and the light attached to it.
10. “Why Do I in Particular Have Faith?”
You have faith because you were born from Catholic parents and you were baptized. This is the most beautiful inheritance a child can receive, because baptism binds him to the Mystical Body of Christ and offers him its promises. May you keep this rich treasure and make it bear fruit in order to “grow in age and wisdom before God”. Those who voluntarily lose this inestimable treasure, come one day to bitterly regret its loss.
The daughter of rich parents can also ask herself: “Why do I in particular have this inheritance, when other companions are so poor?” If she is not concerned with making this treasure bear fruit, and allows herself all the pleasures, she will be bitterly sorry on the day she will lose everything.
However, what a difference between this earthly inheritance which is of profit for the hereafter only if it is used to do good, and the richness of the deposit of faith that makes us heirs of eternal Life if we use it to do good.
Here, your aggressiveness towards your mother proves that you are already turning away from her teaching. That is because there is conflict in you. The same words uttered by your mother to your brother or sister who is beyond or has not yet reached the age of this crisis, would be accepted with gratitude. In your condition, your rebellion is normal, but you must control within yourself this quick reaction which could lead you astray. Knowing this, you must be prudent. Above all, do not grieve your mother who loves you to the point of wanting to spare you all the disillusionment that overtakes those who want to live their life in independence, according to their personal ideas.
12. “The Answer”
The light you received is good. “To suffer for God is to love, and this is the way we prepare our heaven.”
13. Almighty God
Through His marvelous creation, God has shown man that He is Almighty. He showed us how far His love can go by giving us His only-begotten Son who came to give a meaning to suffering, a redeeming power.
Man, in his pride, provokes evil through hatred and wars. God has traced out a plan of love for each human being. If this plan of love were not sabotaged by men’s foolishness, life on this earth would be much more pleasant.
But good and evil exist side by side. The freedom given to man often leads him to perdition. God owes us nothing, but He gives us much. It suffices that we accept His conditions, His laws. It is normal that He act this way in order to reward those who will be able to prove their love to Him. If God gave us everything on earth without exacting anything in return, we would become terribly selfish, like certain children to whom their parents grant everything.
It is not God who wants evil, and it is not evil that forces us to love Him. It is with our intelligence that we understand the goodness of God, and it is with our heart that we are able to love Him.
Therefore, life is not unfair, because if we can take advantage of all that is offered to us, whether it is pleasant or not, to gain some merit, we taste the joys of the soul which surpass all the happiness the earth can offer.
God is not the cause of our suffering, but He encourages us to rise above ourselves, as His Son has taught us. Why would He spare us when He sacrificed His only-begotten Son for our eternal happiness?
14. Another Religion
I understand your thinking in making the comparison between two families of different religions. Religion is not the barometer of an easy life or of the difficulties in these families. Trials and joys are the lot of all human beings. If there are years that are easy to live, there are others that exact courage and tenacity.
We cannot judge a life by singling out a few years of happiness on the part of one, and a few years of trial on the part of the other. Above all, do not believe that trials come only in Catholic families! However, with Christ and His teaching, we experience security, a means of asceticism which helps us reach summits of love. What counts is to make the best of what is presented to us, as did the little Thérèse of the Child Jesus. She did not try to transform her Community in order to have an easy life, but tried to change herself, make herself perfect through her contact, at times difficult, with her Sisters within a poor Community.
Suffering from tuberculosis, she carried on with her life of intimacy with the Lord whom she loved to the point of dying of love. Is that not wonderful? She sanctified herself through the little things of everyday life.
She did “all the ordinary things of life in an extraordinary way” because she loved. This is true love, the love that is giving which transforms one’s life.
15. Phenomena of Nature
The catastrophes you mention are phenomena of nature. One must not connect the idea of chastisement to all the calamities that occur and destroy cities where people of all conditions lived. Trial is not necessarily a chastisement.
If one were to ask God to put an end to these disasters, one would also have to implore Him to put an end to the sun that burns the desert, to put an end to the lightning that kills man sometimes, etc. Then, why not ask man to stop building airplanes because some of them crash, or to stop building boats because some sink, etc.
Instead, why not look at the beautiful sun that shines, the rain that makes the plants grow and the flowers bloom. Why not dwell on the joy of living in fraternal charity which still exists, believe me.
The more the woman becomes “the object” of man, the more she is exposed to rapes or assaults of all kinds. The young girl who is raped is not responsible for that act. But if there is conception and she undergoes an abortion, then it is she who bears the weight or the responsibility of her consent. Besides, there is no proof that the child would be unhappy. So many children who have not known their parents, have lived happily in homes where they were welcomed with so much love. “We could not love this child any more if he were our own!” the new parents repeat with profound joy. And when these children come to marriage, the same cry of love for their parents bursts forth.
17. To Prove One’s Faith
We must go to Mass because we love God. Mass and Communion are the supreme source of grace. The soul, like the body, must be fed in order to live. It is true that those who practise the most are not always the holiest, though this is not a matter easy to judge; but at least they are taking the means to become holy. The assistance at Mass is also a testimony of our faith.
18. The Priests
It is true that confusion reigns today in the teaching of religion.
Our young people are very intelligent, very developed. You are right in saying that you cannot understand “how a person can commit a sin involuntarily nowadays”.
19. Pre-marital Relations
Those who perform the conjugal act before marriage falsify the meaning of true love.
Conjugal love was elevated to the dignity of a sacrament. The graces attached to it are exceptional and bind two souls, first of all, and then two bodies for the purpose of procreation, in a wonderful harmony if the husband and wife follow the same path.
Man is, first of all, “spirit”, that is, he must guide himself with his intelligence, a sound reason and a right judgment. He must not be led by his instincts; on the contrary, he must check his instincts, which would make him like the brute, in order to keep his dignity of man which makes him respect God’s salutary laws.
Some try to save marriage by falsifying its true grandeur, which is to respect each other, not only during courtship, but in marriage as well.
It is not trial marriages and pre-marital relations that ensure the success of marriage; on the contrary, they mark the beginning of innumerable difficulties. Faithfulness to God in His laws, the reciprocal fidelity of the husband and wife, in sptie of the efforts that this implies, are the criteria of a happy life. If there is reciprocal respect during the courtship, faithfulness between husband and wife will be observed better in the conjugal life.
Success in marriage depends upon the basic principles which Christian morality clearly sets forth. If everything goes well at the level of the spirit, if two souls follow the same path, sustain each other in trials and deny themselves, if necessary, the true love that begins at the level of the heart easily blossoms in the carnal love wanted by God in marriage.
To reverse these values, is to put a check on true love and invite, in advance, problems of all kinds. You see, then, my dear girl, that “giving pleasure to the other” in “free love” would more easily lead to separation or divorce.
At first, the intelligence promotes the knowledge of the other, then the heart permits the giving of self, true love. It is a true, genuine, love which exacts, at times, the renouncement of carnal love in order to maintain human dignity in full bloom.
Keep your beautiful sincerity. You did well to write your thoughts this way, to relate this confusion in your life, to search for enlightenment. Carry on like this in order to safeguard your psychological, spiritual and emotional equilibrium which is being terribly shaken by contradictory teachings.
Remember that if you want to live with God, you must choose the ascending road which demands efforts; whereas laxity leads to a vertiginous descent towards ephemeral pleasures that torment and deceive, an ending which is sometimes tragic, so different from that which promotes pure, overflowing, fulfilling and lasting joy.
You are young. It is very certain that you cannot put into practice all the elements that make up the beatitudes. It is an ideal to attain. We do not arrive at perfection right from the beginning. You need to make progress slowly. So do not judge yourself too severely, otherwise your courage will fail you. God is so good! He gathers in the least effort you put forth, an effort that is all the more meritorious because you are afraid to suffer.
God is Love; you know that. Live every minute that goes by in true love and you will be surprised with the result. Do not let your thoughts dwell too much on what tomorrow will be, because God gives grace for the present moment. Little by little you will understand more, delve more deeply and learn self-abandonment in order to live in peace, relaxation, and unshakeable confidence in Him.
22. Hatred or Love
“You think you detest your father, you would prefer him dead.” This one sentence says everything… I understand, then, your suffering and that of your mother.
Think for a moment. If your father were subjected to torture, would you remain indifferent in spite of the sentiments you say you have for him?…I am sure that you would cry, that you would not be able to bear to see him suffer. So, your filial sentiment is not one of hatred, but rather, a keen, spontaneous reaction that you feel because of the life he leads or the suffering he causes at home.
Mark this well, my child: whatever your father’s way of life, you must excuse him. To nourish sentiments of rebellion and hatred towards him would only quicken your suffering. May your kindness towards him be your weapon of defence, as it was for Christ in all circumstances. And you will come to love those who make you suffer. To love is to live. To hate is to die because there is nothing beautiful left in this life for those who hate.
Choose to love because love is the balm that soothes all wounds. To love is to stamp life with beauty, freshness, hope, the reflection of peace, renewed confidence. To love is to experience happiness by giving it to others. Such is the way, the good road that you must follow.
23. The Gift of God’s Presence
“You have the impression of going downhill, of not being heard by the Lord when you pray,” because you put too much emphasis on feeling His presence. Think, above all, of prayer as an offering which binds the soul to God. On certain days everything is dryness and it is an effort to pray. At other times, the upsurge to God becomes easy, gentle and sweet. This is normal. It is like the rain and the sunshine which are so necessary for the earth. When prayer is dry, you make the offering to God; when it is easy, you receive. If you really want to love, you must consent to give, above all; but know that God does not let Himself be surpassed in generosity.
24. A Prayer
I notice, dear child, that your prayer constantly reminds you of crosses, sorrow, temptations, exile, etc.
God is our refuge. He seeks our happiness by encouraging us to have confidence. Hide yourself in His hand like this little bird He is protecting, and love Him, invoke Him while contemplating everything He has done for us. That will be a confident prayer of every moment, and your life will be transformed and will blossom out.
You are only fourteen years old and you have read a lot. That is to your credit. Do not hesitate to follow the teaching of the Church, of the Second Vatican Council. At the present time, the children of the Church are rebelling against all teaching given for their good. But the crisis will pass. Starting from this psychological conflict which sets you, momentarily, in opposition to your mother whom you admire, you will understand better the universal crisis raging against the Church. Its secular wisdom, which is the happy fruit of the Holy Spirit’s guidance, arouses, all the same, an admiration which will soon increase tenfold when the era of folly and contestations has wrought enough damage and caused enough suffering to calm overwrought spirits. The teaching of the Church will be the same and its children will return to the fold, happy to be welcomed by a real mother who forgives because she always teaches love.
* * *
This 14-year old student sent us her letter on February 4, 1975.
Since she would have received the answers to her numerous questions only in the Review of June, and since, fortunately, she thought of giving her name and address, she received at once encouragement and consolation.
Here is the letter of February 24, which followed this first one:
I was so happy to receive your answer that I wept over it.
Every time I reread it, I weep for joy, especially when you tell me “that I still have a bit of love for my father”.
Do you think that I could pass this letter around in my school while keeping, of course, its anonymity? I am sure that this letter would help many persons (professors and students). Maybe it would be very harmful to me instead? What do you think?
“ ‘One must be a child to go to heaven!’ ”
X…, 14 years old
Of course, you love your father, my little one. Continue to love him, in spite of his mistakes. It is not for us to judge. When this father is on the good road again, you will be happy that you remained attentive and respectful towards him. What counts is that sooner or later everything falls back into place. At that time, you will again shed tears of joy.
Those who have an easy life, those who do not experience the sorrow that you feel at times because of your father, will not experience either the very pure joys of renewal and of a return to God.
Go, my girl, towards God who calls you. Be good; you will never be sorry that you were good.
I will send you some reviews which you will be able to distribute discreetly here and there. Do good silently and leave to God the care of making the seed sprout.
Have courage and confidence always. Be happy!
(Review, “L’Armée de Marie”, volume IV, no. 9)