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pietaI have just endured the worst week of my life.

While the personal nature of what is happening still demands that I remain non-specific about the problem, it is fair to say that my wife and I have experienced more turmoil, upheaval, division, betrayal, and hurt than we would have previously thought possible. The subsequent emotional roller coaster lurching through each day’s required activities, threatening to derail…everything. But as with all such trials, there’s nothing for it but to keep going. Even if every time I think I’ve got a handle on it, another “aftershock” arrives, threatening to shatter the fragile serenity I’ve begun piecing together.

I’ll be honest: In these recent days, I have failed more than I’ve succeeded at following my own advice about not getting angry. At times, the rage feels better than the sorrow, if only because it is less paralyzing. It activates. It motivates.

It also destroys. I must keep reminding myself that it is not good to destroy, no matter how satisfying it feels in the moment.

And I do keep attempting to pull myself away from the train wreck. I am trying to perform the duties of my state in life as normally as possible. Still, I keep coming back to the keyboard and staring at the screen, thinking I’m going to work, only to feel completely stuck. I keep trying to find a way to offer something to all of you when all I can really do is endure the numbness of shock. I look internally, to the place where my writing comes from, and I find either a mess of knots or just…emptiness. Like Bilbo Baggins would say, I feel like butter scraped over too much bread.

On top of the crisis that is unfolding in our midst, my family and I are in the process of a major move. As such, there is nothing even resembling stability in our lives. Things are in boxes or being sold or given away. There is no comfort in familiarity as shelves and rooms are emptied. We are spending more time apart than together. Everything is in a state of flux as we weather the proverbial tempest that we have found ourselves caught up in. Everything is changing. The surreality of it all feels like a fever dream.

And the enemy is gleefully exploiting every opportunity this affords.

I spent most of the long weekend hunkered down, doing as little as possible. Thanks to the support of good family and good friends, my wife and I both found some unexpected consolation these past few days. And as the situation we’re dealing with crossed some invisible but unmistakable line in the sand, we found ourselves preparing to move beyond it, to cut our losses and steel ourselves for a future that would be very different than even our very recent past. I woke up this morning determined to take charge again. To refuse to let myself be beaten by this cross that has been given to us. But as I sat down to write, another phone call came, and with it, again, the swell of fury, the fist-pounding frustration of powerlessness to change what should not be.

Free will is a hell of a thing.

It amazes me, sometimes, that God gave us such a gift. That He loves us so much that He gave us total autonomy. That He loves us so much, He allows us to choose Hell. Think about it: if you saw your son or daughter walking right off the edge of a cliff, wouldn’t you run to them, pulling them back to safety? Wouldn’t you physically, bodily, remove them from harm?

God does not treat His children this way. He speaks to them, softly but with authority. He reaches out His hand to them. He tells them to stop walking. Still, He never forces them to stop.

As a parent, I find this staggeringly difficult to comprehend. I can only assume that His rationale is something like this: the only love that’s worth anything is a love that is truly, completely, freely given. Either you will choose Me or you won’t, but the choice is yours. And then He lets us make that choice. He isn’t bluffing.

Can you imagine?

As I’ve caught sight of certain news stories in passing over the past week, I find myself also reaching the inescapable conclusion that on a spiritual level, most Catholics — those who care about their faith, anyway — are enduring something quite similar to what I am experiencing in my own life. I certainly feel that, as I look from the chaos of my existence toward the Church, I find no solace there. Instead, I see only strange, ugly, and unfamiliar things. False doctrines, troubling portents, and a never-ending torrent of thoughts, words, and ideas from the highest reaches of the Church that do not comfort or reassure, but instead endanger the faithful.

The desktop background on my computer is Adolphe William Bouguereau’s Pietà. I work with two monitors, so the one on the right, when not in use, displays this masterpiece, always just within my line of sight. I have found, in the few months that I have had it there, that beyond its apparent beauty, it is a deeply personal and moving work. It changes in meaning, somehow, depending on the mental and emotional state of the viewer. As Our Blessed Mother tenderly holds the dead body of Our Lord, she looks not at Him, but up and to her right, eyes brimming with tears, mouth turned down and chin drawn up, the unmistakable countenance of grief. And whatever my given disposition on any particular day, somehow her expression speaks to me.

If I have sinned, I find that Mary looks at me accusatorily: “You! You have done this to my Son!”

If I am prayerful, she is imploring: “Make reparation for sins. Make His death known. Help Him save souls.”

If I am grieving, she grieves with me: “Know that I know your pain, and more.”

There are times, honestly, when I simply can’t bear to look at her. I find that I am unworthy of her love – the unconditional and never-failing love of a true mother. Love that is not always soft and gentle, but sometimes fierce, protective, or demanding, and always with our best interests at heart.

Mary is a gift of unspeakable worth. She is God’s secret weapon. I have at times in my life grown angry with God. I have at times rejected the trials He has asked me to endure, or have longed for His guidance and grace when I felt bereft and abandoned by Him. But Mary is different. Quiet but firm, Mary is always there. She comforts, she protects, and when necessary, she admonishes. But she never leaves our side, and it is, I submit to you, impossible to ever be angry with her. And since she always and only wants what Our Lord wants, she softens the sharp edges of His justice, allowing you to entrust yourself completely to her when it seems too difficult to go to Him.

I am reminded, as I reflect on these things, that I must go to her more. That I must shrug off the malaise that has draped itself over me like a shroud, and pray more. That I must surrender my powerlessness to He who has all power, and to she to whom He has entrusted the care of His children. She is the mother of the Church and our mother. She is praying and interceding for us always.

I implore your prayers for me and my family. It is my petition that we may find the help we need to move beyond this moment of darkness and doubt, and to trust God entirely, and find joy once again in all the blessings that we have been given.

And if you’d like to say a prayer that I can get this ship (1P5) running at full steam again, I’d be much obliged. We have a lot of work to do in the next few months, and I don’t want to get any further behind.

Thank you. I promise that in return, I’ll give you my best effort.

38 thoughts on “Pietà”

  1. Whatever the trials you are going through now, Steve, know that you and your family have been added to my daily Rosary intentions. Our Lady never fails us, nor does she abandon her children.

    For what it is worth, as one who has endured suffering, unjust hardship, and a sense of utter hopeless, I realize now that were it not for these burdens, I would never have returned to the Church, nor would I have realized just how desperately I need Christ and His Blessed Mother to sustain me and my family. I pray that your suffering, painful as it may be, may serve some greater purpose and help you to continue to be one of the finest Catholic bloggers I have had the privilege to encounter.

    Regina sine labe originali concepta, ora pro nobis.

    • Yep. As there are, effectively, no more religious services of any kind in this town, every one of our churches remain closed, people tell me that it might be years before they are opened again, if they ever are, and I am at last wondering whether I should stay in this place that two weeks ago was a haven.

      • Satan is INDEED attacking and using multiple strategies at his disposal. He is, I do believe, attacking the most faithful with his most vicious assaults, as he wants to ‘disarm’ as much as possible, and he is moving at pretty much the speed of light now. One of his ‘strategies’ of course is to ‘isolate’ us, and one of the most effective ways of doing that is to ‘remove the Eucharist’. He is pretty much maneuvering multiple ways so that we are not much more than ‘sitting ducks’.

        The Rosary is THE WEAPON. Lately, I am really struggling to pray it daily, but so far so good, for the most part. What I used to pray in a half hour with joy is now taking me at least 45 minutes of non stop distractions and even fighting angry thoughts, but I think it helps to realize who exactly is holding me back. He is now using every possible means to destroy.

  2. Thank you all very much. I really don’t want it to sound like I’m throwing a pity party for myself. I just regret that I have produced so little work in the past couple weeks, and I thought I owed an explanation to all of our supporters.

  3. You do a good job here, Steve. I will pray for you and your family. The enemies (humans or demons) are always trying to disturb our peace. Sometimes you just have to brush it off (not easy though). Think about those living in the middle east who have lost their homes and families because of terrorism. Sometimes I think of my own problems but when I compare them to those who confront the terrorists my sufferings are tiny in comparison. There will always be jerks. That’s life! Pray for the wicked and the reprobates that disturb your peace. Hey, I’m not nice to people myself and I get angry quite easily too. Your life is an awesome adventure Steve and don’t you forget that. We’re in this Mystical Body of Christ together! I will pray that God will see you through!

  4. Uncanny the way you have just articulated your refuge in Holy Mary. During these disorienting times I too am finding her such a comfort with a profound sense of her understanding what we faithful Cathoics are facing at this moment in history.

    I will pray for you Steve and family during this time of upheaval. May your new dwelling be snake-free in the physical and spiritual sense.

  5. I will add you and yours to my daily rosary intentions, that you receive the gift of longanimity, yesterday’s meditation in the Novena for Our Nation.

    “Fruit of Longanimity: Extraordinary patience under provocation or trial. Also called long suffering. It is one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit. It includes forbearance, which adds to long suffering the implication of restraint in expressing one’s feelings or in demanding punishment or one’s due. Longanimity suggests toleration, moved by love and the desire for peace, of something painful that deserves to be rejected or opposed. (Fr. John Hardon, Modern Catholic Dictionary)”

    As posted at

  6. It seems as if the only thing now is to pray for the triumph of the Immaculate Heart. Then all these things will be sorted out. I will try to place you Steve and you Hilary and all our good friends in there and redouble my prayers. You are our friends even though we may never have met and may never meet in the future. You mean a great deal to us all.

  7. “Free will is a hell of a thing.”

    And after you wrote the paragraph eloquently explain why we have it, those words confirmed my initial thought:

    You used the wrong state of supernatural existence.

  8. Steve,

    I will pray for you as well. I think you are right when you said most Catholics who care about the Faith are getting hit. I’ve been been seeing stuff getting worse on every level for the past few months. You’re not alone. I think the enemy’s time is short and he knows it so him and his crew are hitting us hard as individuals as well as collectively while he can. We need to stay close to Our Lady and remember what God said to the enemy “Ipsa conteret caput tuum.”

    • Yes, most Catholic families who really care about the true faith are indeed getting hit. I know ours has been hit, and tempted beyond belief. Satan is giving his best shot at us, I’m afraid. We used to go to Confession once a month……..we seem to be there now every couple of weeks. My H joked the last time we were there: ‘Maybe we should just set up camp at the confessional door.’ I have just recently dug up my miraculous medal, which I am now wearing constantly, praying many times throughout the day, ‘Oh Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.’ She is helping tremendously. Steve is correct, ‘flee to your mother’!

      You and yours are in my prayers as well Steve. We seem to be all in this together.

  9. ……for my family it all started when I followed Cardinal Sarah’s recent endorsement of ad orientem worship with a letter to my bishop: a longstanding potential for a promotion (nearly three years in the waiting) continues to show no resolution, my eldest son’s first home purchase was held in a kind of perpetual limbo due to a bureaucratic loophole that just would not resolve itself, when he did finally take possession the key broke in the deadbolt and we were left standing, on a Sunday afternoon with his belongings in a parking lot, my daughter and I were in a terrible car accident which we walked away from but our car was written off, right before our entire family was to use said car for our annual fishing vacation, then the basement was flooded with three inches of raw sewage, I took the top of a baby tow off in the middle of the night rushing to my youngest son’s latest night terror, my wife washed something of value down the sink so I had to dismantle the plumbing, my eldest son had the first really bad asthma attack in years and had to be taken to hospital…all in the space of two or three weeks, and those are just the memorable things. I want to hide in a darkened room…with some wine and chocolate.

  10. You are exactly correct. Many Catholics are experiencing terrible trials, too. Praying for you and your family. Will donate next payday, too.

  11. Read the following in Divine Intimacy this week,

    ”God does not ask us to succeed but to continually renew our efforts, although the results may not be apparent. “In due time,” that is, when God wills and in the way that pleases Him, we shall reap the fruit, provided we “fail not.” (fail not equalling perseverance. You keep getting up again, and again, and again no matter what.)


    ‘He who will persevere unto the end is not he who will never fall, but he who after every fall will humble himself and rise again, relying on the infinite strength of God’

    Also highly recommend this series of sermons:

    Here’s the map spoken about in the sermons:

    Just moved ourselves. Moving while 24 weeks pregnant with number 8, no fun at all.

    Will be praying for your family!! Don’t worry too much about 1p5. Family first!
    God bless you and your family!

  12. May God give you strength and consolation. Your blog is wonderful and I visit often and link to some of your posts. The devil really is after Catholic families today who are trying to live up to the doctrines. In the last two weeks two of my little granddaughters in one family broke their arms and their two-year-old brother took a head-over heels tumble down the stairs. Thank God he was not hurt. I credit his guardian angel. Other things as well. I told my daughter to say the St. Michael prayer often because this is all just too much for coincidence.

  13. We’ve got your back Steve.

    Felt in my spirit you were under assault.

    This life is for real and every challenge we have to honestly carry with others.

    Your honesty is helping many of us fathers.

    Keep on!

  14. My prayers are with you. Thank you for the blogs which I have been sharing. May Jesus lead you as you write and may you move your family to to a better home.

  15. As others here have said, you do excellent work. For my days, you have become one of the anchors in Catholic reading on the web. I’m adding you to my daily Rosary intentions, along with your family. Whatever your troubles are, I will pray for you.

  16. Your post resonates greatly. I too have wondered about free will and how much trouble it’s gotten me into. Prayers winging your way for you and your family. And that pieta? I learned only last year that Bouguereau painted that right after the loss of his wife and infant son. Amazing no?

  17. Steve, I do not know your current trial, but our family has endured a huge trial for 6 years and I know how tough it can get. These are what have helped us greatly: (not the Amazon version it’s missing helpful conversaitions at the end)–it is a great help to those suffering great trials and feeling hopelessness.
    Also the Novena Mary, Undoer of Knots:
    has really helped us.
    When things get heavy…tell yourself: “Jesus I trust in Thee (three times)” and “This too, shall pass.”
    You and your family will be in our prayers. Be humble. Be like Christ and endure all worldly trials and focus on God’s will. Heaven is the goal.

  18. Your vocation as husband and father must come first.
    Take whatever time is needed to fulfill these duties as best you can, during this time.
    Your readers, including this one, trust you.

    Your work may not seem as productive to you, right now, but perhaps your work is productive in more of a spiritual nature, helping you to grow more faithful, in these times of trials that our Lord has permitted. Stand strong.

    My prayers are with you and your family.

  19. Sacred Heart of Jesus, I place all my trust in Thee.
    Simple, straightforward, can be said 1 hundred times per day as you go about your day. No kneeling, no clasped hands, no burning a candle, no fingering of beads.
    Take it easy. You don’t need to knock yourself out. God doesn’t expect you to solve the Church’s problems by yourself.
    P.S. I love this Pieta’ too.

  20. This past November. Normalcy started returning this February.

    I shut everything else down. Lots of prayer and many sleepless nights. Every bit of attention I could give her. I lost 50 pounds. Lots of Rosary in tears and particularly “Arise Lord and show Thy Holy Face. Let Thy enemies be scattered and let them that hate flee before Thy Holy Face.” That brought something palpable.

    You know the rest.

    God Bless you!


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