If you have ever had a suffering child, you will relate to the fatherly reflections of Tom Sullivan on today's "Silent Canticle" blog. (I have posted a picture of Tom and Gabriel there.)
When the "monster" you are battling is so big and uncontrollable, it can be very easy to lose heart and surrender to despair or self-pity. In our darkest moments, we may even begin to question the very existence of a benevolent God. (Thankfully, God never returns that particular favor by leaving us to our own devices.) In Ephesians 2, the Apostle Paul tells us to
Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.... taking the shield of faith, with which you can quench all the flaming darts of the evil one.
The shield is possibly the most versatile of all the pieces of armor. A Roman shield was a monstrous piece of equipment, nearly as tall as a solder, and much wider. The idea was that as they approached the walls of a city, and had firey arrows raining down on them, the soldiers could march in a "huddled" formation, shields raised, to deflect the missiles not only from themselves but from their neighbors as well (who were then free to fight if attacked from the side). And finally, if a soldier fell, he could be transported on that shield by his comrades.
When we are under attack, we need the support of our friends and loved ones (both those alongside us, and those already in heaven) to shield us, and possibly even to carry us at times. We need not fight each battle alone, for we have our comrades to fight alongside us. We may not always be able to see them in the din of the battle, but we can trust they are present.
Today I would like to offer a prayer for those who are battling "monsters from without." Sickness. Brokenness. Unemployment. Threat of violence. Poverty. Thoughts of despair, even suicide. Look up: the shields are in place all around you. You are not alone, and you need not worry about a month, a week, or even a day from now. Focus on the present. That is where the grace of God is found.
Dear Heavenly Father,
Thank you for your faithfulness, and for the love that we can never outrun or outwrestle. You love us more than we can imagine, and are working behind the scenes to turn every moment of pain and weakness into something beautiful. Give us grace, just for today, to trust that you are near even when we cannot feel you. And send us the comrades we need to win the battle. Amen.
Mary, Mother of Sorrows, pray for us.
St. Michael, heavenly warrior, pray for us.