Pat Probst - lino cut print of a pealing belling

The Sound of the Bells

by Fr. Pat McNulty, deceased MH priest

I can remember as a small child standing alone in the backyard weeping as I heard the bells from the monastery a few miles away, the bells which sounded the Angelus. Way back then I did not know why I was weeping. I think I am beginning to know.

I think those childhood tears were my first experience of the liturgy of longing: “Thy Kingdom come!”

What do we long for in our longing for the Kingdom? In some sense we all long for the same thing. But, do you know what I have always longed for? Sounds dumb, but I have always longed to be a saint.

Oh, not the canonized kind. The closest I will ever get to that is being shot out of one! But a saint in the sense that Catherine Doherty teaches us: Just one foot in front of the other, and “Love. Love, love, love, never counting the cost.”

That childhood desire has never left me, but I begin to wonder if the Kingdom will ever pierce the hardness of hearts the likes of mine. But if the Kingdom can pierce my heart, then it can pierce any heart anywhere. And that is my longing.

Perhaps if the desire to be a saint weeps forth from my poor heart, it can be like “the dew that rains down the Just One (cf. Isasih 45:8). Perhaps as long as I can weep for what is not, then my heart will not give up on what has been promised.

Fr. Wild once said in a homily that our greatest sadness will be to have died without being a saint. I sometimes fear that sadness is already mine. Perhaps all I have left is that I want to want to be a saint.

It’s not enough, Lord, but it seems like that’s all I have. And so I wrap that poor gift with my tears and shamefully lay it at Your Incarnate feet, there with Our Lady, St. Joseph, and all the angels, hoping against hope that it will grow (w)holy one day. And that all my brothers and sisters [in Madonna House] will become saints!

Excerpted from an Advent-Christmas letter to Madonna House when Fr. Pat was an associate priest living in a poustinia house in Fort Wayne, Indiana.