One fine day, bouncing along the potholes of a boulevard in New York, the driver of the car in which I was a passenger proclaimed in increasingly shrill tones as we passed a cloistered convent: What a waste of life!! What good do those nuns do? They’re not helping anyone! They’re not doing any good just sitting around all day praying! And a few other less salient comments I have no desire to spell out on these pages.
He was very righteous and very angry.
What he was righteous and angry about I have no idea. But according to him, he was taking the moral high ground for advocating doing good works. Not, I might add, *his* doing good works, but that’s what he thought those lazy nuns should be doing.
I managed a weak defense of the nuns, but I didn’t put much energy into it. Not because I couldn’t think of anything, rather I was pretty sure my words would be lost in the ether of his bloviating.
I could have said something about the good work these praying nuns do by increasing the holiness quotient of the greater New York region, but that would have been met with the kind of words I’m pretty sure you are not supposed to use in the hearing of nuns, so I didn’t.
I could have proposed for his pondering the good they were doing in praying for the protection of us, all of us, Christians, non-Christians and even ‘re-covering’ Catholics as he called himself. But, that, I knew, would have been met with derisive laughter, and his questioning of my intelligence, so I didn’t.
I was already rather nervous about us crashing into a tree because of the speed we were traveling over those ragged potholes, so I let the subject go as a public service. A three car pile-up on Springfield Boulevard over his unreasonable anger at the career choices of a group of women would have served no good purpose and would have given the nuns more work praying for our souls slipping the bonds of our mangled bodies on their front door.
I would have liked to explain that those nuns, and all the pray-ers of the world are everyday engaged in a muscular battle between good and evil, between hope and despair, between light and dark.
It is a muscular robust battle that takes real strength and grace to persevere in prayer. Even for those fortunate souls gifted with consolations of prayer, the sweet light, a drop of ecstasy in the company of Our Lord, the physical/emotional/intellectual stirring of the Holy Spirit when you turn toward God in the apprehension of the Imminent, your open soul is liable to attack from the dark forces which want you to remain just the way you are, comfortably uncomfortable in your darkness and ignorance.
This is the life work of those nuns tucked away in that convent.
They keep the lights on.
With every act of sin, the world gets a little dimmer, a little darker. Sin casts a dark veil over the world, layer upon layer. And if we, in our free will, do not do battle with the darkness, if we do not align ourselves with Christ and pray, the veils get thicker, the light dimmer.
Joining in that spiritual warfare are all the people praying around their kitchen tables or with their children and grandchildren, all the volunteers who start each day on their knees or fingering their Rosaries, because they know from whence their strength comes.
We have the choice to crowd out our yearning to be one with God through noise. Through anger or self-pity or greed or gluttony and any of the other death dealing sins.
I wish I could have spoken to him of the Communion of Saints, all those souls for generations beyond counting whose prayers and love paved the way for us, passed down the faith, whose cooperation with God kept the world spinning long enough for us to get to birth and enjoy the beauties of the magnificent world God has created for us.
But I didn’t speak to him of these things. I didn’t, because the evidence he presented to me showed me that in his free will, he refused to understand.
However, I can pray for him. So, that is what I will do.