Catholic Transcript Magazine of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford Connecticut

Sunday, February 25, 2018

It had been a miserable day that evolved into a miserable week and, for all I knew, it would be a miserable month. I was praying desperately that the year wouldn’t end miserably.

It certainly wasn’t the best of times, but I was convinced it was the worst of times. Problems at work, arguments at home, allergies and stress tests, and who knows what other tests the doctor threw in without telling me? Sleepless nights, anxiety, tension, depression; and then, at 7:30 Mass in New Hampshire on a cold Sunday morning, the lector read an antiphon that proclaimed: "In all things, give thanks, for this is the will of God for you."

What? I wanted to jump up from the pew and rush down the aisle in that small, crowded church, and yell, "You must have read that wrong! I couldn’t have heard you correctly!"

Just to make sure she wasn’t playing games with the congregation, I opened the missalette, and, after some fumbling, I found the correct page and read, "In all things, give thanks, for this is the will of God for you."

Clearly, there was no denying that the woman had gotten it right. The only thing I could conclude was that this particular admonition didn’t apply to me because I was the exception to the rule. Furthermore, there was no way I could give thanks for what I was going through, and what especially troubled me was the thought this could be "the will of God."

I reread the antiphon just to make sure I understood the meaning. There was no mistaking the intention. I sat back in the pew and didn’t listen to a word of the homily because I had a lot of thinking to do.

How could what I was going through be the will of God for me? Was he working in conjunction with my boss, my detractors, my kids and even the dog? Who knew? Stranger things have happened. Was the accumulation of events and crises and trials over the past month some sort of spiritual gauntlet I had to run in order to make it into the upper levels of purgatory?

I know life isn’t supposed to be a bowl of cherries and that there’s always adversity; but when I get stranded in those dark pathways, my typical response is to blame God rather than to ask him for help.

I seldom do the right thing, which is to let go and let God, because I always want to be the one behind the steering wheel. As a result, I usually end up getting into crash after crash. My spiritual collision record is pretty bad, and that doesn’t even include the dozens of sideswipes I’ve caused. Since I’m not very good at doing the steering, the best course of action would be to get out of the driver’s seat and let God take over.

And while I’m sure God doesn’t want us to suffer, he seems to allow suffering for reasons that will never be entirely clear to us in this lifetime. The nuns always told us to "offer it up" and said that instead of whining and complaining about the trials in life, we could be saving souls and helping a lot of people who desperately needed help. As glib as that suggestion sometimes seems, I’m convinced there’s truth to it.

So, I decided to offer up my trials, but I had a bit of a problem giving thanks for them, as the antiphon suggested. That was a hard concept to swallow.

I really didn’t want to give thanks for people who were making my life miserable; but in the end, I prayed for help and I got it. All the problems weren’t taken away, but the load was lightened.

Just when I was hanging on by my fingertips and thought I’d fall into an abyss of despair, I got the strength I needed for that day. Who knows what tomorrow will bring? I asked for help, I offered it up, I tried to see the will of God in everything, and then, I gulped hard and gave thanks.

J.F. Pisani is a writer who lives with his family in the New Haven area.