Friday, January 1, 2010
I make it a point never to make New Year's resolutions concerning diet and exercise. In fact, that's a resolution in and of itself. But there is a greater one, that I have tried to resolve upon, but am still praying for the disposition to will it. I asked for it last year, and this year I ask for it again.

Previously published on 31/12/2007 at

Even as we rejoice on the feast of the Holy Family, we are asked to reflect on what is often called the second sorrow of Mary. For the only human that has ever loved God perfectly, sorrow came swiftly on the wings of her joy. It touched her first at the prophecy of Simeon: ‘“And thy own heart a sword shall pierce, that the thoughts of many may be laid bare.”’ (Luke 2: 35), and again, when Joseph roused her from sleep to say they must flee for the Christ Child’s Life:

And after the Magi were departed, behold an angel of the Lord appeared in sleep to Joseph, saying: Arise, and take the Child and his mother, and fly into Egypt : and be there until I shall tell thee. For it will come to pass that Herod will seek the Child to destroy Him. Who arose, and took the child and his mother by night, and retired into Egypt: and he was there until the death of Herod: That it might be fulfilled which the Lord spoke by the prophet, saying: Out of Egypt have I called My Son. (Matt 2: 13-15)

This world constantly presses one to choose between spiritual and corporeal good, but it is hardest to see this burden forced on those one loves. A mother does not wish her child either to suffer or to do evil, and she is most pained when her beloved must choose between the two. In Second Maccabaeus (7: 1-30), a mother had to watch as her seven sons chose between the Law of Moses and their lives, before she followed them in death. Many Faithful mothers had to endure the same under the Roman persecution.

Yet, even in ages of peace, one cannot escape sacrifice. In one of the storybooks I read to my eleven-year old, Korean English students, the explosion of the space shuttle, Challenger, was briefly mentioned, and all the children wanted to know how the tragedy happened. Having slightly explained the ‘how’ of the tragedy, I pointed out the dangers of all discoveries or explorations, technical, medical, etc.

‘Each time an astronaut goes on a shuttle, he must say to himself: “I might die.” He knows this.’ Seeing their expressions I had to ask, ‘Do you think you would ever choose a job like this?’ Adamant negatives echoed about the room, until my eye fell on Alice, one of the particularly sweet and intelligent students.

‘What do you think Alice ?’ She raised her head, which had been thoughtfully bent, and said firmly, ‘Yes, I would. Because even I die, my work helps future peoples to live a better life.’ Tears ran down my face, and my heart swelled in admiration. In a way, all my students are my babies, whom I would wish always to protect. Looking into Alice ’s earnest face, I saw a soul—precious to me—that would allow her mortal life to be extinguished for the sake of the good. That night I prayed she would never have to make this sacrifice, but that she would always be willing to. A fearful intention to lay at the feet of God.

I always thought it odd that the fourth joyful mystery of the rosary, the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple, was also the first true sorrow of Mary. How fittingly it is called a ‘mystery’, for the enigma called the heart rejoiced in Joseph and Mary at the third recognition of the Child, but it was joined with the bitterest truth. The lesson accompanying the mystery is also fitting: I desire a spirit of sacrifice.


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Warsaw, Poland
Domine, spero quia mundum vicisti. Lord, I trust that Thou hast overcome the world. Panie, ufam, żeś pokonał świat.
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