Over 650,000 US combat deaths since the start of the American Revolution two hundred thirty-three years ago. We honor the memory of their sacrifice tomorrow, those who lost their lives knowingly and unknowingly, willingly and unwillingly. Giving them a few minutes remembrance once or twice a year is not enough: We would honor them better by not squandering their lives in the first place.
At Mass today, on this feast of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ I was reminded of something I read last fall:
Only a repeated miracle of God from minute to minute keeps me from falling into hell. I am made out of earth and ashes and spittle and a little mud. I don’t know why I don’t vanish like smoke. I am astounded and terrified at the tenacious pride of life that sticks in me. It says something in the Breviary how God will confront you, and show you that he is not like you.
I walk around with temptation sticking in my stomach like a dagger, so bad I could vomit. Yet I hang by a thin thread of grace: when I go to take in my mouth the Blessed Sacrament, how can I do it without crawling on my face the length of the chapel? Every minute I am like a man condemned to death. If God wills, He can pardon me. If He does not will, I am executed. The knife falls. Every minute I am forced to plead for my life.
– Run to the Mountain: The Journals of Thomas Merton, Volume 1, 1939-1941.
No crawling on my face was involved today, though God knows it should have.
Last August I was musing about the start of the school year and all the possibilities it represents. The school year ends in a few weeks, in only a few months our oldest daughter will be applying to colleges and, before we know it, she will have gone on to the next stage of her life. With two younger daughters still to get through high school (one still in middle school), it will be a little while before we completely enter the next stage of our lives, but I can’t help wondering:
Where did the time go?
One of my most vivid memories of the day our oldest was born was sitting in the hospital room with her, waiting for my wife to be brought back upstairs from the operating room. For some time we just sat, me, somewhat sleep-deprived and dazed by all this, and our daughter, wrapped in a blanket in my arms, contentedly sucking on her hand. It was the first of many conversations we have had, though all she really did at that point was listen. Then, seventeen and a half years ago, the rest of life seemed so distant and indistinct. Now, the “rest of life” doesn’t seem so far away, yet what the future holds is still not clear. What is clear now is that those seventeen and a half years have seen more joy and happiness than anger, sorrow, or frustration, more promises kept than not, and that all of our daughters are well on their way to becoming people who will be able to deal with life on its terms. I suppose that, at least in part, is where the time went.