Most holy Apostle Saint Jude, friend of Jesus, I place myself in your care at this difficult time. Help me know that I need not face my troubles alone. Please join me in my need, asking God to send me: consolation in my sorrow, courage in my fear, and healing in the midst of my suffering. Ask our loving Lord to fill me with the grace to accept whatever may lie ahead for me and my loved ones….
This plea to Saint Jude to intercede during times of desolation and despair resonates with me, especially now. I think we need a virtual army of intercessors, led by this patron saint of desperate causes, to help us through our own current “difficult time.” I suspect we could all use some consolation and courage and healing. What is perhaps the most difficult for me, though, is asking for “the grace to accept whatever may lie ahead for … my loved ones.” It’s easier to accept what may lie ahead for me, a grandmother who has lived a full life, harder by far to imagine easy acceptance of what lies ahead for my young grandchildren if our nation continues its spiral into fires and floods, racism and COVID, autocracy and violence.
And yet, in the deepest part of my heart, I know that God’s grace will be there, no matter what happens. “What” may not be what I want. After all, surely slavery and exile were not what our Hebrew forebears wanted. And while we may now feel like aliens in our own land, remember God’s words to those in exile in Babylon: “Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat what they produce.” Don’t despair; live the life you have, where you are. Tend each other. Keep on keeping on.
That “keeping on” part is hard right now. Professor Aisha Ahmad from the University of Toronto names this time in our locked-down lives as “hitting the wall.” She writes, “The six month mark in any sustained crisis is always difficult. We have all adjusted to this ‘new normal,’ but might now feel like we’re running out of steam. Yet, at best, we are only 1/3 the way through this marathon. How can we keep going?”
My eight-year-old granddaughter has hit that wall. She lives in a hybrid reality with two days at school and three days in an alternate program that oversees remote learning so that both her parents can work. She loves her two days at school, but the other three mornings are a struggle just to get her out of bed and into the car with her kindergarten sister. And because my husband and I are in the high-risk group of old folks, we are unable to help as we have in past years. (A friend recently reminded me that Jesus never said, ‘blessed are the useful,’ but it’s still hard to live so close and feel so useless.)
I turn again to Jude. When I first googled him to find out what little there is to know about him, the first entries to come up were about St. Jude’s Hospital, which took me back to my eight years as a pediatric hospice chaplain, work that brought me face to face with lost causes. For a family to access the pediatric hospice program, they had to have reached the point of knowing that their child could not survive. They never, ever accepted this, as in “consenting” to it, but they acknowledged the inevitability of death. So much of what I did was simply listen to the parents in their grief, their despair, their wondering, “How can we go on?” The very fact that they did go on, that they continue to live good and gracious lives beyond such devastating loss, awakens in me gratitude for their witness — and a profound awareness that right now, however unhappy any of my grandchildren might be, they are still alive.
These photos — one I’ve already shared from early spring, the other from last weekend — attest to their survival. (I like to think of that shaft of light as a blessing on them as they navigate this hard, hard time.)
Despite being in the midst of political chaos, systemic racism, and a pandemic that continues to ravage the country, all is not lost, though much may be. These obscure saints, Saint Simon and Saint Jude, about whom so little is actually known, call us into prayer with them, into hope even in desperate times, and into an awareness of God’s abiding presence through it all. As Jude writes in the opening of his letter, “May mercy, peace, and love be yours in abundance.”
Even here. Even now.
Sarah Arnold says
Mary Lee, this piece is so timely and helpful. It helps me feel more at peace about my own grandchildren who live in greater virus hotspots then we have in Maine. It’s beautifully written and I thank you so much. I also benefitted from your sermon on Sunday. You are a gift to us.
Harry Alford says
Thank you 🙏