The Memorial of the Passion of John the Baptist
Today is the Memorial of the Passion of John the Baptist, when we try to put ourselves with John in Herod’s prison, before he was beheaded, and imagine what he was thinking and imagine what he was feeling: fear, maybe, and despair, and yet the fierce faith and the fierce joy, too, we always associate with John, in his proclaiming of the reality of Jesus.
How quietly hard faith can be sometimes, day to day.
A friend of mine has been struggling a little lately. She has this feeling of futility, as if nothing she’s ever done really matters. And I thought of these two passages from the diaries of Dorothy Day, the great American Catholic and founder of the Catholic Workers Movement.
Day is always so realistic to me, and yet so encouraging, for just that reason.
Today I thought of a title for my book, “The Duty of Delight.” I was thinking, how as one gets older, we are tempted to sadness, knowing life as it is here on earth, the suffering, the Cross. And how we must overcome it daily, growing in love, and the joy which goes with loving.
This is from February 24, 1961, when Day was 64.
And this is from seven years later, Easter Sunday, April 14, 1968, when she was 71
Always when I awaken in the morning it is to a half-dead condition, a groaning in every bone, a lifelessness, a foretaste of death, a sense of “quiet terror,” which hangs over us all. A sense of the futility of life and the worthlessness of all our efforts. . . .
I turn desperately to prayer. “O God make haste to help me.” And those magnificent psalms, and the prayer of the church, prayers which thousands, tens of thousands, are saying each morning all over the world, and I am saved.
This consciousness of salvation comes to me afresh each day. I am turned around, away from the contemplation of the world of sin and death to the reality of God. . . .
Through this turning away, “all the way to heaven is heaven” to me, as St. Catherine of Siena said. The sun has risen, the air is warmed, the birds are singing outside . . . .
All the way to heaven is heaven, and this is where John the Baptist is and this is where he’s going and where he knows he’s going, even in prison, even in what may have been his sadness and despair. This is the move, the turning around, we all called to make, every day of our lives, and the move that with grace we can always make, to turn from the world to God, and so to see God in the world, where he has always been.