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Posted March 01, 2013 in New Millennium:
Standing at the Crossroads

by Fr. David May.

My fascination with words got the better of me yesterday in poustinia, and I found myself meditating for a time on the word "crossroads."

I looked it up in the dictionary, and as I prayed about it, the third definition, a symbolic one, struck me as having particular application in the life of Catholics today: crossroads, "a crucial point, especially where a decision must be made." (Source: Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 11th edition)

Take, for example, the recent American election. For Catholic voters, it was a crossroads, a moment of decision about which candidate they thought would be better suited to govern the country for the next four years.

It was interesting to note that well over 50% of Catholic voters chose President Obama, despite repeated warnings from the U.S. bishops about the serious moral questions raised in voting for a pro-abortion candidate. This president, moreover, is in favor of gay "marriage," and has promulgated what is called "the HHS Mandate."*

Evidently, however, for many Catholics, other issues weighed in more heavily than these—whether it was the economy, immigration, concern for the poor (but not the unborn!), foreign policy, or dislike of/disagreement with the other candidate. Perhaps distrust of the hierarchy itself played a role in the decision of some.

At the time of that election, many U.S. Catholics came to a crossroads and chose a certain path. Where will it take us? Time will tell.

In these matters as in others, we all come at various points in our lives to a crossroads where we have to choose which path we will follow.

Each choice has its consequences. And these will play themselves out in our lives until we come to yet another crossroads, and then another, and another.

What the dictionary does not discuss is another aspect of crossroads which is entirely a matter of faith: Christ himself, the crucified God, is at each crossroads in life, and it is he whom we choose or reject each time. This is a sobering thought or a consoling one, depending on how you look at it.

Often, the crossroads in our lives are very personal. They concern decisions we make in our everyday lives.

Take, for example, dealing with the diagnosis of a chronic sickness. This is something that is not going to go away—something that, in time, will get worse. Will I become bitter and resentful over my fate?

Even if I need to wrestle with this, where will I find the strength and inspiration to transcend it? There is Christ my Lord, crucified for me, crucified with me, inviting me to share some portion of his own journey and offering.

The choice is mine, but it is his presence which sustains me in my deciding and makes the right choice possible.

And what about the realization that one has been wounded by the vicissitudes of life (say, a traumatic childhood), and that whatever good therapy can do, whatever wonders prayer might work, the effects of these events influence one’s whole life and must be dealt with, lived with, constantly?

In this, though healing occurs, the Cross casts its shadow daily and defines one’s existence day after day. What will I do in the face of such knowledge?

At this crossroads, too, Christ remains, offering mercy to the one crucified with him, a mercy that makes whole but that usually does not erase every scar. But if I accept these wounds and offer them together with his offering, they become pathways to prayer and compassion for others.

Then there is the matter of aging societies. In Madonna House, we are certainly not immune to this experience, even if the Lord in his mercy continues to send us vocations.

Will we become discouraged at the discovery that we cannot do all that we once did apostolically? Will we become so fixated on the trials and limitations of aging that we no longer listen in depth to the questions of youth?

Certainly Catherine Doherty did not follow this path. She was interested in and interesting to the young and their seeking right up to near the end of her long life.

In our families, in society generally, how will we look upon the aged, and will we turn to Christ sharing with us this crossroads as well? What graces is he offering us of compassion for the elderly and at the same time, vision for the young?

And will the Church, at least in the West, succumb to a kind of self-absorption, or will she pour herself out in a steady, clear stream of love and service to the end? Does not her Lord stand with her in this place, too, himself become a stream of divine life pouring out as blood and water?

Both young and old together can be renewed at such a source.

We live in a time when personal decisions at life’s crossroads must increasingly be made in the context of those issues which society itself is constantly redefining.

For many today, for example, an embryo is a "thing" to be manipulated and used in research. For us, it is a child of infinite value eternally beloved by God.

I know someone who would like to join a society dedicated to dealing with and eventually eliminating a chronic illness suffered by many, but he cannot do so because this group is in favor of embryonic stem-cell research as part of its seeking for a cure.

At the crossroads of every decision stands Christ, our crucified Lord, showing us not only our infinite value, but a path to choose as his disciples.

And when he comes again, will he find faith on earth?

* According to the HHS Mandate, companies and institutions (including, with few exceptions, religious ones) employing fifty or more people are required to pay for coverage of birth control, abortion-inducing drugs, and sterilization in the health insurance of their employees. This mandate has not yet gone into effect for religious institutions, and it is being fought in the courts and in other ways as well.

 
 

 

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