A few months ago, I wrote an article dealing with blaming yourself as a Catholic parent whose children have veered off course. In it, I told the story of a man who spent an afternoon in a famous museum. The man walked around and observed the paintings of Raphael and the sculptures of Michelangelo. After spending four hours in the museum—unimpressed by anything—he decided he had seen enough. On his way out, he told the museum curator, “I’m leaving. I haven’t seen anything good here today.”
Donning a facial expression of sadness, pathos, and a tinge of anger, the curator responded, “My good man, this art was not on trial. You were!”
I probably received more comments about this article than any other over the years. Several people approached me to tell me how much this meant to them. I knew that people needed to hear it, but I underestimated how much they needed to hear it. It’s sad to think that so many parents have been tormented over the years, blaming themselves for their children’s mistakes and failings. And I wanted to take this opportunity to add an addendum to the story.
Obviously, walking through a museum is allegorical to being shown the Faith, and rejecting it. But I want you parents to remember something. This trip through the museum is not a one-time event: it happens every day.
In my own life, I remember going to the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, when I was about twelve years old. I saw the masterpieces, but I was more interested in eating lunch or doing something else that I considered fun. However, my story didn’t end when I was twelve. Thirty years later, I went back to this same museum, and stood and stared in wonder, recognizing now that I was in the presence of breathtaking beauty.
My spiritual life has gone pretty much the same way. I see something today that I didn’t see yesterday, and by the grace and mercy of God, I’ll see more tomorrow.
Maybe the story should continue, and go like this.
As the man started to walk out of the museum, the curator ran out to the road to stop him. The curator put his arm on the man’s shoulder, smiled, and said:
“I’m sorry that you didn’t see the beauty in the museum today. Some people see it right away, and each day they come here, they find something wonderful that they missed the day before. For others, it takes much longer. But tomorrow is a new day, and we open bright and early. I’ll be very happy to see you then.”
In many ways, whether or not we hear Him, that is what God tells us every day.
Why doesn’t God grant us all flashes of spiritual insight? Why does He seem to let some people stray more than others? Why doesn’t everyone see the beauty, the compassion, and the mercy of God?
I have a theory, and it goes like this.
To use a chess analogy, salvation is about the “endgame.” Catholic spirituality recognizes this. Jesus instituted a sacrament for the dying, and we pray for a happy death. Every time we say a Hail Mary, we’re asking for Mary’s prayers “at the hour of our death.” The final moments are emphasized because we will be greatly tempted at the end of our lives. In the final moments, the devil will tempt us with the idea that what he offers is greater than what God offers.
We’re not sure how we will be tempted, but God is omniscient. He has always known exactly how the devil will tempt us in our final moment.
We also know that God brings good out of evil. Maybe the good is that those who have strayed from the Faith already know about the empty promises of the devil. Those who have once fallen away have experienced the hell of a life without friendship with God. Maybe they will realize that their attraction for sin has held their happiness in check their whole lives, but now they can choose happiness.
In this final moment, when they are forced to make a decision between good and evil, they will bring out their Queen. And the prayers of the “Hail Mary” will be answered.
We have every reason to hope in the mercy of God for ourselves and for our children. We have every reason to believe that the fruits of His mercy will be seen today, tomorrow, and forever.
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