I recently went to mass at a Convent of the order of St. Clare in Sintra, Portugal. We talked to one of the nuns briefly after mass, whom we had met on a youth group visit years before. I asked her how many convents of her order there are in Portugal, thinking there were only two and was amazed at how many she started listing off.
It is so encouraging, I told her, to think of all the convents spread throughout Portugal with people dedicating their entire lives to just praying for us. This nun’s entire day was centered around prayer and her whole life would be spent in a closed convent doing the same thing, day after day. While talking to us, she was missing Vespers prayer, but she assured us she would pray it by herself after we were done.
Even if it were just the convents of Poor Clares, it would be encouraging to think of all those lives spent praying for us. However, there are other orders and convents hidden away here and there that I have never even heard of.
Evil is Louder
I told this nun that I don’t like watching the news because I don’t think it’s a correct portrayal of reality. It’s made to sell and to entertain, in the worst way possible. If you watch the news you get the impression the world is full of only terrible, tragic events and only murderous, evil people. You won’t find out about convents spread throughout the country, with people who dedicate their entire lives in self-sacrifice.
This nun agreed entirely with me and said, “Evil has more publicity, it’s true. We don’t know why, but it’s certainly louder. But Our Lady has her own army. She promised us her Immaculate Heart would triumph and we know when God tells her the time is right she will crush the devil with her heel.”
When I go to 7:30 a.m. mass, it encourages me to see the “regulars”, who inconspicuously offer their day up there and receive Jesus to share with others, also in an inconspicuous and discreet way, at their workplaces and homes. It encourages me to see the simple Franciscan priests who celebrate mass there. They arrive in their hoodies and sandals and pray, sometimes in their cars, before mass. I used to think the “real Catholics” were the martyrs in the Middle East, the most famous saints who dramatically impacted the Church or my favorite Catholic speakers from the United States who really know what they are talking about and how to start prestigious projects.
Now I realize the “real Catholics” are these Franciscan priests, who will probably die without a cause for canonization or without anyone really noticing much. And the real Catholics are these “regulars”, who discreetly proclaim the Kingdom of God without anyone noticing much either. God notices and he is counting on me as one of those “real Catholics”, which is quite a call to responsibility. “Life is like a cash register, in that every account, every thought, every deed, like every sale, is registered and recorded”, said the Venerable Fulton Sheen.
Miserable People are More Numerous
Why is evil so loud? Why are there more people filled with hate and misery, more lobbies, politicians and celebrities pushing for unjust and immoral laws? Why are there fewer people working for the Kingdom of God than otherwise?
“To comfort you, let Me tell you that there are souls living in the world who love Me dearly… Their number is very small. They are a defense or the world before the justice of the Heavenly Father and a means of obtaining mercy for the world. The love and sacrifice of these souls sustain the world in existence.” Diary of Saint Faustina, n 367
We don’t know, as my nun friend admitted. The Bible tells us from beginning to end that God speaks in the quiet breeze, appears to humble and lowly people, comes in poverty and in anonymity, that His ways are not our ways, that whoever wants to be great must be small.
God also respects our freedom. I once heard Jennifer Fulwiler talking to author Vinny Flynn about his book The 7 Secrets of the Eucharist. Jennifer asked him if so few people believe in the miracle of transubstantiation, in which the bread and wine visibly remain the same but in substance transform into the body and blood of Christ, why doesn’t God do something about it? Why aren’t their fireworks at every moment of transubstantiation to help people believe?
One possible answer, which was given by the author, is that then we would be obligated to believe. It wouldn’t respect our freedom to believe or not.
The Good News is Whispered
God our Father is always searching for us, always knocking at our door, always a step ahead of us in His search for us than we are in our search for Him. The Bible also tells us this from beginning to end. However, we only realize that he has been calling us when we turn to him and listen for that call. God hides from us so that we can exercise our free will and we can run away and eat pigs’ food like the prodigal son if we want to. He makes Himself small so that we won’t be terrified of his omnipotence. He becomes flesh in our day-to-day lives and in our world in a way that we can only see Him if we want to. Otherwise, we can just say “crucify him” like everyone else.
God has good news for us, and he works miracles in our lives and every day. “Whoever has ears ought to hear” (Matthew 11:15).