From Here to Eternity
The Secret Diary of Elisabeth Leseur (Week 5 of 12)
People in the world do not realize that one can be very detached from all human things and live a keen spiritual life, and yet find sweetness in the interests, occupations, and joys of life. However, it is only when one has rooted oneself in eternity that one can let one’s humble little barque float, upon the surface of the waves and rejoice fully in the view from earthly rivers. Storms no longer frighten one; the clear sky makes one more bold. The sun is always shining behind the clouds; the light, for all its beauty, does not conceal the eternal and splendid light that guides us to port and waits for us there. – The Secret Diary of Elisabeth Leseur, p. 102 (Resolutions: 1906-1912, December 31, 1910)
Sometimes we just need to get back to the basics. I am currently reading a 400+ page book by Mother Mary Loyola called First Communion. This book is part of a Sacrament Preparation series first published in 1896 and it provides solid catechesis for children and adults alike. This weekend, I read a passage that spoke directly to the above quote. It is simple, but thought-provoking, so I thought I’d share it with you:
An English Bishop once found himself in a railway carriage with a lady, who had plenty to say to her fellow-travelers. She was a clever lady, whose conversation showed that her mind was well stored with information on many subjects. She spoke of plants and animals; of the laws by which this world is governed; of the heavenly bodies, their nature and movements, and of many other things. The Bishop listened quietly from his corner, waiting for an opportunity of putting in his word. It came at last. “Madam,” he said, “I have followed with much interest all you have been saying. You have spoken, and spoken well, of the end for which so many things in this grand creation have been made. Can you tell us now for what you were made?” She was thunderstruck at so extraordinary a question. What was she made for? For some moments she remained silent and thoughtful, her countenance betraying her discomfort. Then she said, in gentler tones than the company had heard hitherto, “I confess, sir, that this thought has never occurred to me before.” There was no time for anything further. The train stopped for an instant to set the Bishop down at his destination, and then went whistling on its way. He watched it till it was out of sight. One of God’s creatures was there, who had never thought till now why she had been sent into this world, who had busied herself about everything but the one thing necessary, who had found everything in this wonderful world interesting except her own immortal soul. What would become of her? Would the words that had startled her for a moment be forgotten directly, or would they sink into her heart and make her think at last, although so late, of Eternity and of her salvation?
“What a stupid woman,” some of you are saying. “Why, anyone could have answered the Bishop’s question, it was quite easy.” Wait a bit. Suppose, instead of asking how this poor lady could be so stupid, we ask ourselves: Which is more stupid – never to have thought of Eternity before, or, having heard about it ever since we can remember, believing firmly that it is coming, and coming fast, and that everything depends on our being ready for it – to be taking no pains, or very little pains, to get ready? Is this what I have been doing? What have I done up to now, what am I doing now, which shows that I understand perfectly that I was made for Eternity and am making my life a preparation for it?
Oh, that wonderful thought of Eternity – never, never, never to come to an end! If we remembered it, could we help getting ready for it? The Saints remembered it, and got ready. The chief thought of all the Saints is – to save my soul – to do nothing that will harm it – to do everything that will help it. “What is this for Eternity?” was a question St. Aloysius often asked himself, and he fast became a Saint. “What shall I think of this when I come to die?” St. Ignatius used to say: “How will it look at the Judgement?”
It was the thought of Eternity that made the Saints so afraid of sin, the only thing that could deprive them of God and eternal happiness. The martyrs feared it so much that they bore cruel torments and a dreadful death rather than commit sin. Multitudes of men, women and children have feared it so much as to be resolved never to commit a willful sin for the love or fear of anything whatsoever.
In the early ages of the Church, there were numbers of men and women so determined to save their souls and secure a happy Eternity, that, fearing the concerns of this life might take up all their thoughts and make them forget the life to come, they left their home and country, and went to live far away from the cares and the comforts of the world. The deserts of Egypt and Palestine were filled with these holy solitaries, living for one thing only, the one thing necessary – to serve God and get ready for Eternity.
The Church knows that the greater number of her children are not called to leave the world in order to serve God faithfully and save their souls. But she warns all without exception against setting their hearts upon the things of this world, and bids them pray so to pass through the good things of time as not to lose those of Eternity (p. 4-6).
Week 6: April 9, 1911 – End of February 20, 1913 (p. 106-133)
1. Do you have a difficult time focusing on Eternity? If so, why do you think that is, and what do you think you can do about it?
2. Feel free to comment on anything from this past week!
Read more: Previous Book Club Posts
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