The Family and the Cross ~ Rev. Msgr. Irving A. Deblanc


This is a beautiful meditation for Lent and well worth your time!

by Rev. Msgr. Irving A. Deblanc, 1950’s

Ask mothers and fathers if they would like to become saints. Many apologetically answer, “Would that I had the time! I am too busy rearing the children, keeping house, making ends meet.”

This recalls the days when some considered sanctity a luxury for the rich, who in being able to afford servants, could spend long hours in church and in prayer: they were often considered to be the holy ones.

Pope Benedict XV defined holiness as doing the will of God according to one’s state of life. In the state of grace and with the right intention, married people can become saints doing their everyday home work.

They often gain more graces with a dish cloth than with a Rosary, as one may sometime gain more graces getting up in the middle of the night to care for a baby than spending an hour in church. It is a matter of doing the right thing at the right time. Yes, but even more, it is fulfilling a sacramental vocation.

This cannot be said in the same sense about being a lawyer, or a secretary, or a farmer. Marriage is a vocation; it is holy; it is a sacrament; it is a means of going to heaven.

It is interesting that only three of the sacraments are entitled ‘holy: Holy Eucharist, Holy Orders, Holy Matrimony – not that the others are not holy but these are specifically designated.

As a priest gets graces when he hears confessions, preaches, reads his breviary, so a couple under the right conditions is flooded with God’s graces when they love each other, nurse a baby, teach the children. This because they too are fulfilling their vocation.

It is because more and more people see marriage as a vocation that we can hope for more and more saints among those living family life.

In Peru four natives have already been canonized and one beatified in a hundred years. In the U.S.A. so far we still have had no natives canonized. I am afraid we are not even remotely thinking in the direction of trying to be worthy to be a canonized saint.

Married couples are sometimes unaware that suffering is one of their great home-made tools for sanctity. It is looked upon as an annoyance, but Christian marital love necessarily involves suffering, for the essence of unity is not so much to enjoy each other, but to suffer together.

Still joy and suffering are not two sides of a unity called love. What was once desire before marriage becomes offering after marriage.

Some have described love as having three aspects: the digestive, the reciprocal, and the oblative. It is in the oblative sense, this self-giving and suffering that a couple purifies love.

Without these elements, love would die, for passion can only promise; love can keep that promise.

To refuse the call of self-immolation is the sin of obduracy and a rejection of love. One is then of no use to God, to society, to each other, or to oneself. To say no to this human impulse is to corrupt all one touches. It is the cult of selfishness.

The Cross can teach us to love our neighbor; it can teach us compassion. Three-fourths of us, it is said, need it, but there is a strange, unhappy feeling that in too many souls this ingredient is left out.

The Cross is our main tool of sanctity at home. Christian love understands the Cross if it is seen in the context of Heaven.

For pagans the Cross is a scandal. It absorbs them like whirlpools in a river at flood height. Suffering, however, must draw men outside of themselves. It is a reminder of Divinity itself. Not good in itself, the Cross can be priceless as a means of grace.

The bell rings in the life of every one of us and all of us are someday called upon to suffer. The non-Christian tries to escape suffering and he becomes hard and selfish. He seeks comfort only and his spiritual energy dries up, but he must learn to suffer or it will destroy him.

The egotist detaches himself from spiritual reality and becomes a hollow being-an empty body. Like the statue of Buddha, he looks down only at his own stomach and does not see the needy around him.

Not all can see the value of suffering. Suffering is often so inward, so hard to articulate. It has been a special mystery to all, especially pagans. Their many explanations have never been satisfactory.

The Stoic saw in suffering a test of sheer courage; he was completely indifferent to it. The Epicurean saw his answer in pleasure, and the Dolorist tried to delude himself and saw evil as good and actually exulted in that which diminished him. Others saw in suffering only a mere punishment.

A good Catholic makes friends with pain. He holds God’s gifts close to himself but always with open hands. When God allows us sufferings it is not to do us harm but to gather us into His arms.

Suffering never gags a Christian; upon it he sharpens his teeth. Like a cargo stabilizing a ship against storms, so suffering stabilizes us against the storms of passion.

Humanity will ever question suffering, as Job did so dramatically and so officially. But Job gave an answer. Pagan philosophers never learned it. Christ gave the answer for all times: suffering calls less for a philosophy, more for a living of it as worthwhile.

So vast was this question, says Paul Claudel, the great convert to Catholicism, that the Word alone could answer it, but He did so not by an explanation, only by His presence. This presence helped Mary who stood beneath the first Red Cross crimsoned by the blood of her Son; it helped Veronica who so lovingly held a cool, moist compress to the throbbing, fevered brow of Christ; it helped Simon of Cyrene, who later gave his life to serve others; this same Simon must have seen the pallid face of Christ among the poor and on every crumpled pillow where a sick man’s head lay.

We learn with St. Francis de Sales that the love of Jesus begins in the Passion. We learn with Bishop Neumann of the deep beauty of the Litany of the Sacred Heart – a prayer he vowed to say every day.

With St. Alphonsus we become more conscious of the Cross. It is constantly in his writing. When he saw a nail, a rope, a thorn, he thought instantly and tenderly of the Passion. The Cross returns us to the nothingness that we are and yet it lifts us into eternity.

In many churches of the country a large, special cross is carried in church for the Stations. There is no corpus on the cross; each person is reminded that he must replace Christ on the cross. He must learn how to suffer and why he suffers. He must be an extension of Christ.

Christ has plunged Himself into humanity and wants us to make Him real today. He wants us to continue His Redemption, but this is done not by writing a good book, or organizing well, or by a great oration.

One is a Christian when he or she represents Christ, witnesses Christ. Deeply we surrender our will, not with a mere external offering like that of Cain, but with an internal – external oblation like that of Abel – like that of Christ. The external gift is a symbol of the internal giving. We represent Christ so perfectly that we become a mystery to those around us.

In the everyday romance of the world we pierce our valentines with an arrow. The Sacred Heart is the first, true Valentine sent by the Father. But His love is pictured by a heart and a cross rather than an arrow.

His heart is not only the symbol of love but the Cross of hope. The Cross is not the symbol of death; it is the symbol of life. The Stations do not end with a dead Christ in the tomb, but a glorious, living Christ on Easter Sunday, and always in our tabernacles.

He is every city’s most distinguished resident who invites His best friends constantly to take up your Cross and follow Me. The Cross is Christ’s way of identifying Himself and His own. Christians realize it is a gift, not a curse for with Dante ‘sorrow remarries us to God.

St. Francis de Sales on the company we keep: “Be very careful, therefore, dear reader, not to have any evil love, because you will in turn quickly become evil yourself.
Friendship is the most dangerous of all love. Why? Because other loves can exist without communication, exchange, closeness. But friendship is completely founded upon communication and exchange and cannot exist in practice without sharing in the qualities and defects of the friend loved.”

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