I work with the elderly sometimes. They have so much experience and wisdom. I wish I had had that experience when I was starting out in life. Maybe things might have been different. We attend many institutions of higher learning, and we think we have all the answers. We read one book and poof – we know it all. My dad can do math in his head so quickly, I usually put my calculator on my iPhone away when he is around. At the same time, when I work with the elderly, they sometimes revert to speaking about past mistakes. “I wish I had…” is a common sentence from some of them. I wonder how to console them in these moments of frustration. I also wonder if I will be speaking that way when I am older. We need to remember what the great St. Catherine of Siena said, “Everything comes from love. All is ordained for the salvation of man. God does nothing without this goal in mind.”
For me, I need to be reminded in every moment, in every decision and even every fear that I am being taken care of. The Lord does not abandon his children despite what society tells us every day. Being faithful to daily mass, listening to the readings and silent reflection is a large part of my Catholic faith. However, I am not at mass every moment of the day. I do need to work. My day is filled with decisions, distractions and yes, even mistakes. “Holiness does not consist of never making mistakes or never sinning. Holiness grows with the capacity for conversion, repentance, willingness to begin again, and above all with the capacity for reconciliation and forgiveness.” – Pope Benedict XVI
Hindsight really is 20/20 vision. But we do not live in the past, we live in the present of the Lord’s love for us. I have made the mistake often of trusting the wrong people. They have not brought me closer to Christ but only further away. In God’s mercy, he gently reminds us that he needs to be first in our lives. A friend recently needed a ride to another city since they were without a car, and they asked and of course I said yes. But since it was a weekend, I needed to organize the day so I could get to mass both days. The response from that friend was, “Why bother? Do you really need to get to mass?” My reaction was only that I needed to be at mass – period. We attach ourselves to Christ – he is our anchor, or do we only pay lip service to what we hear in the psalms regularly? I visit the Carmelite nuns near my home often. They have helped me so much and they always remind me that God is in charge.
I remember when I had various offers of employment once I left university. I had to decide which one to take. My grandmother told me to accept the first one which is a blessing. I did but that did not come without worry and regret. I do not work there anymore obviously but I do need to look ahead to future possibilities. I can only do that with Christ. He is answer. St. Rose of Lima said, “Apart from the Cross, there is no other ladder by which we may get to heaven.” Our daily lives are filled with sorrow, but they are filled with joy.
One phrase in English is difficult for me to say and hear. ‘I should have,’ is not so easy because it is loaded with regret. But the Lord makes crooked paths straight. I look at the example of St. Gianna Molla. She had to make a choice for her unborn child and her life. She was so unselfish that she made the decision with joy and peace. How I could envy that ability to decide in such serious circumstances. It is something I pray for. “As to the past, let us entrust it God’s mercy and the future to divine providence. Our task is to live holy the present moment,” said St. Gianna Molla. It is this type of faith that we all need, and the Church is determined to help us find examples that are recent so that we can continue to grow. The simplicity of the saints is so important for our daily lives as Catholics. What is it about us that we do not want to struggle? Of course, we do not but that is not our choice to make. Challenges are placed in front of us and must respond. Our response calls for faith, humility, and love. Hate, revenge, and hostility are not answers for the Catholic.
When I talk to my parents, they often reflect about their lives. It is important to support parents. We never know how long we will have them in our lives. But we cannot let regret overwhelm us. St Theresa of Avila said, “Oh my Lord! How true it is that whoever works for you is paid in troubles! And what a precious price to those who love you if we understand its value.”
I wonder if we do understand what the Lord sends our way. I am always trying to seek clarity. God’s ways are not ours for sure, but I am not so sure that trying to understand his ways at every moment is the right answer. We need to be comfortable with mystery. Trying to control every aspect our lives is not possible. Our lives are full of projects and schemes. We are never happy unless we get what we want.
Quite possibly, the virtues that the Church reminds us of daily need to be meditated upon. “There is no saint without a past, no sinner without a future,” said St. Augustine. The Church, in all its wisdom and experience, offers us so much more than the world around us. Society gives us platitudes, but the Church gives us hope. I would rather have hope. When I was making plans for my studies at university, I was quite indecisive and maybe that is not so uncommon. However, the effect of each decision brings us to a new road. Quite possibly, God has other plans for us. It is important to keep our gaze on Him. To whom shall we go asked the apostles when Christ wanted to know if they would abandon him. I do not want that question asked to me.
“Let us especially regret the smallest amount of time that we waste or fail to use in loving God.” St. John of the Cross. We need to not waste our time with regret and wondering what could or might have happened better. What happened might not have been our plan, but I am confident in the Lord’s greatness and wisdom. He will use whatever possible to draw us closer to Him. God’s omnipotence and love transcends all the hate in the world. I can only end with the words of an obscure holy man. “When it is all over, you will not regret having suffered: rather, you will regret having suffered so little and suffered that little so badly.” Blessed Sebastian Valfre