Numb to the Sorrow Before Easter?

March 26, AD 2016 3 Comments


A year and a half ago, I started taking long walks every day with my dog, Benny. (The other German shepherd, Pongo, does not like walks because she wants to stay close to the children. Benny is attached to me.) I needed to exercise to lose the weight I had gained after the fifth miscarriage. So while the walks were glorious, the reason for needing to do it was somber.

I also decided to use that time to pray more regularly, and I began each walk with the Rosary. The Glorious Mysteries lifted me. The Joyful Mysteries cheered me. The Luminous Mysteries enlightened me. But I dreaded Tuesdays and Fridays. I found I could pray the Agony in the Garden decade without much trouble, but when I started praying the Scourging at the Pillar, I could hardly think of the beatings so violently spilling blood from the body of Christ. My mind wandered. I rushed through the prayers. Okay, on the third Hail Mary, whew, now to the fourth, fifth, sixth, almost done… I felt like if I tried too hard to think of it, I would in some way be causing it, which of course, is kind of the point. I could not face the humiliation of the Crowning with the Thorns, the burden of the Carrying of the Cross, and by the Crucifixion of Our Lord, I was just glad to be almost done so I could get on with my walk, the prayers behind me, the happier mysteries awaiting me. I feared acknowledging real sorrow.

I had to make myself slow down and pray attentively. Every Tuesday and Friday, I faced the Sorrowful Mysteries, even though I did not want to. And then one day, I realized I had gone too far. Because the Crucifixion had become so familiar, I prayed it without much emotion one way or the other. I had become numb—numb like the way you become numb from watching too many horror films. I remember thinking, This isn’t what a closer relationship with Christ is supposed to mean.

The thing about regular prayer is that you are forced to work through these thoughts honestly. I realized this Good Friday when we attended the Stations of the Cross and watched The Passion of the Christ, that “numb” is not the right word. It is a closeness, an insight, an acceptance. Prayer has allowed me to become more familiar with life itself, more attuned to the gift of each day. I started praying for all my children after each Rosary, the ones I have raised, their spouses and my grandchildren, the ones I am still raising, my Godson, my students, my friends. I include in that list the babies I never held, and now I have formed a daily relationship with them. I pray for them like I pray for the others.

I find that I am not as horrified by the Sorrowful Mysteries as I once was because my faith has matured. I am not as horrified by death and suffering because I have deeply accepted that Christ is our Hero.

Funny how that works, isn’t it? When people ask me how a scientist can become a person of faith, THIS is stuff I want to tell them. I understood things about life that I could not see before. I tested the truths of faith in the laboratory of my life, even when it was hard and even when I did not understand, and found them to be true.

I became Catholic precisely because I experimented and arrived at a sound—a Glorious, a Joyful, a Luminous, and yes, even a Sorrowful—conclusion. Praying the Rosary daily is like experiencing Christmas and Easter over and over again, and the gift is everlasting life. Am I am deadened to Christmas and Easter? Oh no! I am more intensely living through them all year long. I feel like I know how to live.

Happy Easter!

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  • Debbie

    Stacy, I experience the same feeling of being almost too sorrowful to even get through the Scourging at the Pillar. Thanks for sharing you beautiful heart in this story.

  • Elijah fan

    Our literature is strangely almost silent about the increased suffering of the baptized compared to the Old Testament Jews when they were obedient versus when we are obedient. God promised them in return for obedience things we Christians hope for but are not promised anymore. Example: Exodus 23:26 ” no woman in your land will be barren or miscarry; and I will give you a full span of life”. Do you see immediately the increased danger of post Christ centuries over the Old Testament centuries? One can see it immediately in this promise to the Jews IF they obeyed. We are promised a cross and they were not. St. Theresa of Lisieux died young and millions of Catholic moms have miscarried.
    We however are given sanctifying grace (Jn.1:17) and they were not (but some like Job excelled with actual grace). For balance, they were also promised natural, great punishments if they were not obedient…like stoning if they committed certain mortal sins….and e.g….: Exodus 20:5. ” I, the LORD, your God, am a jealous God, inflicting punishment for their ancestors’ wickedness on the children of those who hate me, down to the third and fourth generation…” I believe this latter verse is why the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD included the unborn as Christ said it would in addition to many young people too young to have rejected Christ in 33 AD. Between 600,000 and 1.1 million people were killed in that predicted-by-Christ event and He said it would be due to Jerusalem not knowing the things that were meant for their peace…ergo a Divine punishment regardless of the motives of the Romans. Catholic literature is very silent on those numbers which we glean from Tacitus and Josephus. We don’t readily face as a Church the greatness of God’s punishments.

    In short our faith is primarily towards spiritual promises as we carry the cross. I would add this thought though to you in particular. The rosary is in no sense mandatory on Catholics…not even in a circuitous way. I am not saying to stop doing it forever. But God allows you that option whether for a season or permanently.

  • Thanks for sharing on the basis of faith.