The question of legacy. It’s one that is typically asked only of those who are well known, such as a president or prime minister. But it is something each one of us should be pondering for our own lives as well. As the month of the Holy Rosary rapidly approaches, let’s take careful stock of where our lives are headed. This world and all that goes with it is passing away, and we need to act accordingly (cf. 1 John 2:17, 1 Corinthians 7:31).
Where are our priorities? The NFL? Dance lessons? The latest in partisan politics? Our Twitter or Instagram following? Bickering, rather than praying and fasting, about problems in the Church?
For those living in a bubble and not already well aware, a profound lack of peace currently reigns over this world. There is strife, chaos, bitterness, hatred everywhere. And, by some measures, it is only getting worse. At the time of this writing, on one major news outlet’s website, “Middle East on brink as Pompeo condemns defiant Iran over bombing.” I don’t want to sound melodramatic, but it is not out of the realm of possibility for World War III to erupt at any time.
Focus on Christ
Needless to say, these are very serious circumstances and very sobering times in which to be living. And yet…
Rather than despair, rather than wring our hands and curse the darkness, it’s past time to recall who wins this war in the end (see Revelation 21). And it’s past time for us to start acting like it – to light not merely a candle but a torch.
We need to take our cue from Christ who, among other things, invited Peter to stay carefully focused on Him, rather than on trying to make the winds and waves go away. He is the one who said to His followers, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.” (John 14:27)
This is not merely a pious thought, intended to instill “warm, fuzzy” feelings.
Fr. Desmond Ohankwere of Houston understands this exhortation’s very concrete and real-life meaning after a recent harrowing experience. The priest was walking near his church and praying the Rosary when he was assailed by a group of men who attempted to shoot him three separate times at point-blank range. But the criminals heard empty clicks each time they pulled the trigger.
As illustrated starkly by this experience, the Lord’s promise to us is not that we will not ever suffer if we fully dedicate our lives to Him. It’s just that we have absolutely nothing to worry about in the end when we immerse ourselves in Him. Because the more we do so, the more He orders our steps – to the point where, if He sees fit, even miraculous interventions like happened to the Houston priest are not out of the question.
The Church’s heart must burn with love
One of the devil’s many temptations is to try to get us to think that the prayers we offer for peace in the world – or anything else for that matter – do not amount to anything significant. Certainly, in humility, we should recognize our nothingness before God. But it’s precisely humility that needs to drive us forward in prayer, recognizing, as with the feeding of the five thousand, that our call is not, as Mother Theresa would say, to be “successful”, but only to be faithful to what God wants of us. Jesus told the apostles, in the feeding, to give Him what they had. He would take care of the rest. Such is our call to prayer and conversion – to do the best we can with what we’ve got and, in humility, to let God worry about the outcome.
As tempting as it can be to scream louder about politics, to assert more forcefully to family or co-workers the truths of the Church, to become more militant and vocal in the presence of great strife and general disorder and immorality, the world is expecting the opposite from us: inner peace; authenticity; true concern for the wellbeing of others. Those who are lost are looking for something to sink their teeth into, for fruit to feed on, rather than hollow preaching. How full is your basket. How much fruit is available for others to sustain themselves on?
To be very clear, our lives will only bear abundant spiritual fruit with a solid, steady, humble, persistent spiritual life – at the core of which must be love. To break holiness down to “just love” per se, might be a little bit simplistic. But as the Catechism notes:
If the Church was a body composed of different members, it couldn’t lack the noblest of all; it must have a Heart, and a Heart BURNING WITH LOVE. and I realized that this love alone was the true motive force which enabled the other members of the Church to act; if it ceased to function, the Apostles would forget to preach the gospel, the Martyrs would refuse to shed their blood. LOVE, IN FACT, IS THE VOCATION WHICH INCLUDES ALL OTHERS; IT’S A UNIVERSE OF ITS OWN, COMPRISING ALL TIME AND SPACE – IT’S ETERNAL! (Emphasis in the original.)
Torchbearers of the Queen
1 Corinthians 14:1 teaches, “You must want love more than anything else.” This is beautiful and true – but also much easier said than done. If it’s true love we’re talking about, not mere sentimentality, then we have a lot of work to do. But it will all be very worth it in the end.
Love is the firm disposition to see to the good of another – no matter what the cost. That takes intentional practice, patience, and persistence. And it’s something that, if we’re fully mature, we’ll do strictly for its own sake, just because it’s the right thing to do.
But most of us haven’t arrived at full maturity yet and thus can’t help but wonder at times, with Peter, what might be in it for us if we do respond to the call to conversion, to deep charity (cf. Mark 10:28). One answer can be found in the apparitions of Our Lady and St. Michael to Sr. Mary Ephrem in the 1950’s. Sister describes her last visits from the archangel in this way:
St. Michael came to me one evening shortly after Our Lady’s visit, holding an immense flaming torch. He held it towards me saying: “My little sister, you must carry this torch through the world.” He came again the next night in the same manner. The next day I was interiorly enlightened during Mass. It was made known to me that those, particularly the youth, who are willing wholeheartedly to follow Our Lady in her great battle against evil would bear the special title of “Torchbearers of the Queen.” This torch, of course, is Divine Love, for it is Love alone that will conquer hate and all that hate brings with it.
What powerful imagery!
Scripture says that, in the last days, the love in many hearts will grow cold (Matthew 24:12). It also describes God as an “all-consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:29). Jesus said He came to light a fire on the earth and wished it were already burning! (Luke 12:49) He is talking about a fire inside of you. Will you stay the course with me? Will you gather all the flammable materials you can (prayer, fasting, confession, worship of the Eucharist, humility and the other virtues) to help the whole world burst into divine flames?
We all know how this war turns out in the end – God wins. But the world’s immediate future, and the question of who wins with Him (or loses), and to what extent, rests firmly in the hands of our individual “yes” and “no”. What do you say, dear reader? In terms of legacy, do you have any interest in being known for all eternity as “Torchbearer of the Queen”?