Thursday, 3 December 2015

Two years on from that "bright and clear day"

Ali in 2005
In the approach to the second anniversary of Ali's death on 3 December 2013 my thoughts have inevitably turned to those last momentous days of her life.

I have already written a little about Ali's death.   Ali wanted to live on account of the people she loved in her life.  But she loved God and wanted to be with Him too.  In her final weeks, days and hours the phrase she said over and over again was "I want to go home."

At some point from 2007 (as indicated by the publication details in the book) Ali read the long diary "Divine Mercy in My Soul" written by the Polish nun, Sister Faustina Kowalska (1905-1938), who was canonised in the year 2000, the first saint of the new millennium.  I recently looked at Ali's copy of the book and saw that she had highlighted a number of passages.

Ali hadn't highlighted the passages as an academic might, to emphasise some new thoughts and ideas that she was learning. Over the course of nearly 25 years Ali had taught me so much and as I read the passages it was almost as though I were hearing her voice, expressing many of the ideas I had heard from her own lips.  It seemed to me that she was highlighting the thoughts that most resonated with her own.

One of the passages highlighted by Ali referred to St Faustina's eager desire for the last day - the "bright and clear day" - of her life.  Having lived with Ali for so many years, and having been present during those final days,  I have no doubt that Ali shared the sentiment expressed by St Faustina:
"O bright and clear day on which all my dreams will be fulfilled: O day so eagerly desired, the last day of my life! I look forward with joy to the last stroke the Divine Artist will trace on my soul, which will give my soul a unique beauty that will distinguish me from the beauty of other souls."[para 825]
A couple of weeks ago I mentioned to Dr Anthony McCarthy, Ali's much regarded SPUC colleague and friend, that to me Ali's death still seems very recent.  I was struck by his reply, in which he said: "I suspect Alison's light shone so bright it will always seem rather recent than distant."

Some people light up the world in an exceptional way.  Sometimes we just know that particular people are extraordinary even if we don't know precisely what is extraordinary about them.  I was in the privileged position of knowing better than anyone how authentically extraordinary Ali was.  It will inevitably take some time for Ali's extraordinariness to be explained and appreciated fully - just as it took some time for the extraordinariness of St Faustina to be explained and appreciated.

For now, let the words of St Faustina, highlighted by Ali, be a way of letting the light of these two extraordinary women continue to shine.

Ali at St Faustina's shrine in Lagiewniki, Krakow
in September 2007

Below are many of the passages from St Faustina's Diary that were highlighted by Ali.  The number after each passage refers to the paragraph number given in the Diary:

"O Jesus, I will let no one surpass me in loving You!"  [227]

"To suffer without complaining, to bring comfort to others and to drown my own sufferings in the most Sacred Heart of Jesus!" [224]

"O Christ, may delights, honor and glory be Yours, and suffering mine.  I will not lag one step behind as I follow You, though thorns wound my feet."  [70]

"O my Jesus, You alone know the longings and the sufferings of my heart.  I am glad I can suffer for You, however little."  [73]

"For Jesus, one can bear anything."  [88]

"From the moment I came to love suffering, it ceased to be a suffering for me.  Suffering is the daily food of my soul."  [275]

[The words of Jesus to St Faustina]  "My child, you please Me most by suffering.  In your physical as well as your mental sufferings, My daughter, do not seek sympathy from creatures.  I want the fragrance of your suffering to be pure and unadulterated.....The more you will come to love suffering, My daughter, the purer your love for Me will be." [279]

[The words of Jesus to St Faustina]  "I want to see you always as a little child." [290]

"...for it is precisely when I suffer much that my joy is greater; and when I suffer less, my joy also is less."  [303]

"Suffering is the greatest treasure on earth; it purifies the soul. In suffering we learn who is our true friend." [342]

"True love is measured by the thermometer of suffering. Jesus, I thank you for the little daily crosses....for the upsetting of all my plans."  [343]

"Suffering is the most harmonious melody of all."  [385]

[The words of Jesus to St Faustina]  "My daughter, suffering will be a sign to you that I am with you."  [669]

"Amid the greatest torments, I fix the gaze of my soul upon Christ Crucified;  I do not expect help from people but place my trust in God.  In His unfathomable mercy lies all my hope."

"Death destroys nothing that is good."  [694]

[The words of Jesus to St Faustina]  "Mankind will not have peace until it turns to the Fount of my Mercy."

"I will do everything within my power to save souls, and I will do it with prayer and suffering." [735]

"Set a guard over my lips, so that the fragrance of my sufferings may be known and pleasing to You alone." [831]

"I know very well that people will not understand me; that is why my sacrifice will be purer in Your eyes." [957]

"I have been ill for four months, but I do not recall having wasted so much as a minute of it."  [1062]

"This grace from God was given to me precisely because I was the weakest of all people; this is why the Almighty has surrounded me with His special mercy." [1099]

"I do not know how to live without God, but I also feel that God, absolutely self-sufficient though He is, cannot be happy without me." [1120]

"Should You give me health and strength, be blessed;  should You confine me to a bed of pain for my whole life, be blessed,  Should you give only failures and disappointments in life, be blessed.....Should You leave me in darkness and all kinds of torments, be blessed."  [1264]

"Now I understand why there are so few saints;  it is because so few souls are deeply humble."  [1306]

"Lord, reduce me to nothingness in my own eyes that I may find grace in Yours."  [1436]

"I wish to speak of one more thing that I have experienced: when God gives neither death nor health, and [when] this lasts for many years, people become accustomed to this and consider the person as not being ill.  Then there begins a whole series of silent sufferings.  Only God knows how many sacrifices the soul makes."  [1509]

[The words of Jesus to St Faustina]  "My pupil, have great love for those who cause you suffering. Do good to those who hate you.....It is not always within your power to control your feelings. You will recognize that you have love if, after having experienced annoyance and contradiction, you do not lose your peace, but pray for those who have made you suffer and wish them well." [1628]

[The words of Jesus to St Faustina]  "Be always merciful as I am merciful.  Love everyone out of love for Me, even your greatest enemies, so that My mercy may be fully reflected in your heart." [1695]

[The words of Jesus to St Faustina] "My daughter, know that if I allow you to feel and have a more profound knowledge of My sufferings, that is a grace from Me.  But when your mind is dimmed and your sufferings are great, it is then that you take an active part in My Passion, and I am conforming you more fully to Myself.  It is your task to submit yourself to My will at such times, more than at others." [1697]

"O God, who are happiness in Your very self and have no need of creatures to make You happy, because of Yourself You are the fullness of love; yet out of Your fathomless mercy You call creatures into being and grant them a share in Your eternal happiness and in Your life, that divine indwelling life which You live, One God in Three Persons."  [1741]

[The words of Jesus to St Faustina] "consider My Sorrowful Passion in all its immensity. Consider it as if it had been undertaken for your sake alone." [1761]

"If the angels were capable of envy, they would envy us for two things: one is the receiving of Holy Communion and the other is suffering." [1804]