“We love always too little and too late”. These words resound in my head this afternoon. A verse of Jan Twardowski, a catholic priest and polish poet, a line of a poem which begins with: “Let us hurry to love people, they go away so fast”. An affirmation that sounds for me like a reproach, nostalgia, even regretting and pain. As an invitation to love, to start our work urgently.
Some of you may instantly think that it is something understandable, or even logical, to talk about these feelings. Given that we are close to dates in which we remember those who have precede us in the journey towards eternal homeland. The saints, but also the “simple” dead, all souls. It could be. Or maybe, I just remembered deaths suffered by so many people, harvest of pandemic of Covid19.
It seems natural to turn our gaze to the topic of losses that we suffer during lifetime. Griefs, elaborated or no, after losing someone beloved, some illusion, some job… So many things or realities that from one moment to another stop forming part of our life. I imagine that you also, in any moment of your life, have suffered loss, unexpected or which arrival was anticipated. Because of this I share, trusting it may help.
Not so long time ago, a person beloved for me shared painful news that always arrives unexpected. She was feeling bad, dying of a sickness that maybe in other circumstances, or with more mens, could be overcome. But right now only a miracle could change the script her life was writing. Apart from feelings of anger, impotence that I experience, there are desires of staying at her side in moments when she is slowly leaving; to make her enjoy whatever the present moment brings; to make her laugh, feel warm and accompanied…
Having heard so many instructions, I find myself improvising in this occasion, just like in others. I search for ways of making her enjoy the moment, and at the same time I am learning that every detail has a great value if it’s given wholeheartedly. “I search in services occasion of pleasing you”, Palau would say. It seems the burden is getting lighter. My question and uneasiness: How to make her laugh without making situation banal? When someone at my side is suffering, does it make me suffer? How to react?
How many persons known to us live this reality, and it doesn’t affect us! Somehow, maybe. We are continuously bombarded by news about painful events, death, suffering, and it seems that we are getting used, immune, anesthetized our empathy, unable to be shaken facing the pain of our neighbor, that begins to be more a stranger than a neighbor.
And now it as happening, and it is painful, and it makes me question myself. Facing this perspective of struggle and emotions; a grief made reality in the life of both of us, a special “memento mori” bursts forth from me. And the most I feel invited for is to review the quality and promptness of my love for the Church, God and neighbor. It is an invitation to make an exam of my relationships with the Church, God and neighbor, Church of brothers and sisters, with whom I have met in my lifetime. And more, listening to the voice of recent teaching of Encyclical „Fratelli Tutti”, that invites to progress in fraternity, to look upon all my fraternal relationships (or not) with each one f them. To become myself a neighbor of others.
And it becomes an emergency for me to examine my conscience: how do I love? What do I understand by fraternal relation? What do they mean and what do they mean not? This things like being brothers, accepted with our richness and miseries. Living in trust, security; caring for one another, but in freedom, in relationship, without asphyxiating nor suffocating. And spread this ambience of family, of closeness.
The love of Christ, is urging me to love? To have details with others? With all other, because he is for me the body of Christ, together with God, is his Church. Yes, God and neighbor. Sometimes we deceive ourselves thinking that we can love God alone…
What is my relationship with the one next to me? I allow myself to be affected by his life, his pain, his joys… I feel even invited to participate in them. Of course it is easier with someone amable, good. But, what if not? Do I make effort to see my beloved, the Church, in the face and life of a migrant, marginalized, rejected of society? Love is deeds, said Saint Therese. Not good reasons, not ideas or theories. Do I suffer with their suffering? Do I care?
How do I live in relationship with persons who come to harm me, who doesn’t have pleasant nature or is always driving me crazy? In this I feel I need help of the Holy Spirit, so He may love in me, inspire me with gestures of tenderness, love, or at least non-violence, desire of good, of blessing.
Have you ever asked yourself why tombstones in cemeteries are almost all remembering „beloved spouses and parents” or „beloved mother, grandmother”, but nevertheless we don’t cease saying daily bad things about our neighbor?
Palau, in Struggle 20, marks a high grade of love: „When there is true love, all steps are taken, and no medicines are left untried; all resources are used, and even one’s own life is exposed”.
The ancient ones had their „memento mori”. „Remember you will die”, that was coming together with the invitation for conversion, for valuing more the „future world” and despise what is from this earth. We generally tend to think in horizontal, in earthly things. But not to appreciate it as a gift from God to enjoy nor to make love visible with our gestures.
We are getting involved by our hurry; these marathon of efficiency, of what is intelectual, productive, competitive. And life passes by. It escapes from our fingers that are trying to grab the most and the best of it. Our rush can win over us, can dry our soul, can kill our sensibility, and leave us sterile machines of factory.
We lose time, many times, in what is futile and meaningless. We carry responsibilities and exigencies, we search for utility of persons (sic!) and we don’t enjoy anything anymore. We forget to stop and see what really has value and what is at stake, what is worth of dedicating our time and, at the end, to give life. In hat and in whom do we spend our time, strength, love and our all. And to choose consciously where to invert this capital.
It’s time to see that every moment has value of eternity. That with my time and presence I can make palpable God in the life of those who I encounter. That although I have many things to do, I am not essential in this word because of what I do. I am because of how I love. Because yes, it is a question of priorities. And because of that, in the middle of pain of expected lost, it is my turn and it makes me rethink what is important and what is not. For what I should fight and and what things just to let go.
It is time to practice in my life this integral ecology that we talk about: to let go of our rush, efficiency above all, to search for harmony, to return to living according to the dream of God for our lives. Because any abuse generates a chain of abuses. And if I don’t respect my necessities, it will be difficult to respect those of others. I will continue contributing to the culture of death, to creating evil in society.
It is time for love. So not to regret. Love, love, love. In the smallest things, without pretending any grandeur. In tenderness, in listening, in details. To anyone who would approach me or whom I would approach… To love myself and love my brother. With a healthy kind of love, liberating, free, good. Discarding abuse exercised over myself, over others and nature.
The sentence of Twardowski becomes a kind of „memento mori” that points out that „we love always too little and too late”. A „momento mori” that sounds like „Late have I loved you” of Saint Augustine, or like palautian „I did not know her, and I searched for her, but behind the veils I was looking at her glorious in the empire; and believing that only there I could see her, I desired my life to finish soon sacrificed and consecrated to her love” (MR 10,14). An invitation to live life to the fullest, to live it well. It reminds me that the only important thing is love. As if we were told, the palautians: your beloved is here, in this reality in which you are involved, love her, give her your time, your efforts, your tenderness.
Let us not waste our time in trivialities. Let us love. With passion, determination, humility. Let us enter in relationships so we won’t regret when our hour arrives or when it will be time to say goodbye to a friend, beloved, brother… Regret because we „love always too little and too late”.
And let us not believe, like Francisco Palau in one moment of his life, that only in the heaven we can see her and dreaming that life will finish soon to enjoy the encounter with the Church. If God became a man because of us, let us also become humans because of ours. Close, of flesh and bone, present, alive, committed. Simple like him.
For those who would like to submerge in a poem of mentions polish priest, it goes attached.
Elżbieta Katarzyna Róża Strach, cmt
LET US HURRY
Let us love people now they leave us fast
The shoes remain empty and the phone rings on
What’s unimportant drags on like a cow
The meaningful sudden taks us by surprise
The silence that follows so normal
It’s hideous like chastity born most simply from despair
When we think of someone who’s been taken from us.
Don’t be sure you have time for there’s no assurance
As all good fortune security deadens the senses
It comes simultaneously like pathos and humour
Like two passions not as strong as one
They leave fast grow silent like a thrush in July
Like a sound somewhat clumsy or a polite bow
To truly see they close their eyes
Though to be born is more of risk than to die
We love still too little and always too late.
Don’t write of it too often but write once and for all
And you’ll become like dolphin both gentle and strong.
Let us love people now they leave us so fast
And the ones who don’t leave won’t always return
And you never know while speaking of love
If the first one is last or the last one is first.