“One day a novice in Rome came to me. She was crying. I asked her, “What is the matter?” She had just come back from a family and said, “Mother, I have never seen such suffering. They had nothing in the house. There was this terrible sickness, the terrible cancer, and I could do nothing….
She was a young sister, scarcely three years in our congregation, but it was painful for her to see the suffering of the others.
Joy is prayer, Joy is strength. Joy is love. Joy is a net of love by which you can catch souls… He gives most who gives with joy…A joyful heart is the normal result of a heart burning with love. Never let anything so fill you with sorrow as to make you forget the joy of Christ risen.
This I tell my sisters. This I tell you.” Mother Theresa, private files Nancy Baird
“There are three ways in which a man expresses his deep sorrow: the man on the lowest level cries; the man on the second level is silent; the man on the highest level knows how to turn his sorrow into song.” Ascribed to Rabbi Solomon of Radomsk, in Syah Sarfe Kodesh, 166-67.
William Blake once said, that in regards to all his art, and his writing, that he was only the secretary. The real authors were in eternity.
Haydn said about his oratorio “The Creation”: “I didn’t write that. Everything comes from up there.”
Isaiah 53:3 “He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.”
Lam 3:28-33 “He sitteth alone and keepeth silence, because he hath born it upon him. He putteth his mouth in the dust; if so be there may be hope. He giveth his cheek to him that smitheth him: he is filled full with reproach. For the Lord will not cast off for ever: but though he cause grief, yet will he have compassion according to the multitude of his mercies. For he doth not afflict willingly, nor grieve the children of men.”
“The Uses of Adversity”
The author tells the story of her mother, who inherits a beautiful, old house, and its beautiful old furniture. It is the house that she grew up in, a few years after the first World War. Her mother has five children, the author of the story is the youngest of the five.
Everything is good and then comes the Great Depression. The family didn’t fare too badly – their house was paid for and the dad has a job, although not much money is coming in and they lost all their savings. But most of their schoolmates’ families were “on relief” and struggling.
One day her mother starts selling the furniture off, and every time another piece goes out the door, reassures her children:
“We know very well what that table looks and feels like. We don’t even have to close our eyes to see it still sitting there. You don’t lose something you love if you remember it. Our table isn’t lost, it’s just not here now.”
So, of course, because of her, the children are not afraid.
Her mother never replaced the furniture. At 97, after going blind, her mother dies in the beautiful but old house she had lived in for 75 years.
On the morning of the funeral, the author is surprised to see a crowd at the house. Her mother was old, and her friends were long dead. She goes up to one, who introduces himself as an elementary-school classmate of hers. She thanks him for coming, but he says:
“I am here out of gratitude. In the Depression, your family had little, but mine had nothing. For three years your mother fed us.” He points to 3 men talking quietly: “I suspect they are here for the same reason.”
For 3 years she sold their furniture to feed these people. Her neighbors. Condensed from: Philomena C. Friedman, “The Uses of Adversity”, House Beautiful, January 1996, 15.
“Give me enough time in this place and I will surely make a beautiful thing.” Annie Dillard, Mornings Like This, 2.
“The best is yet to be, the last of life, for which the first was made.” Rabbi Ben Ezra”, Robert Browning.