The year of Grace 2022, and the art of caring too much
Dear friends and family,
Recently I happened to come across the question as to whether it is possible to care too much.
I had never thought about it.
We can often ask ourselves if we care enough, but not if we care too much.
We may not care enough about helping to solve a major problem, if we fear our suggestion might be flatly rejected or ridiculed.
We might not care enough to say, “I love you,” if we are afraid of being snubbed, rejected or hurt.
We might not care enough to say, “he did it,” when we try to address a terrible wrong but are afraid of retaliation.
Even less do we care enough to say, “I did it,” when we would prefer not to feel ashamed.
We might not care enough to run into a fire to save a child, if we are afraid of being burned.
I may not care enough to hear the opinion of someone else, out of fear that it might change my opinion, and cause the disorientation and confusion that are normal in the evolution of understanding.
The limits to our caring are in direct proportion to our risks of being hurt, one way or another.
We may avoid bees for fear of being stung.
But then we will never know sweet, golden honey.
We may avoid thorns for their painful pricks,
but then we will never know the beauty of the pristine rose.
In Christian teaching, Jesus praises the widow whose contribution to the poor jeopardized her financial security.
Jesus praises the one who will lay down their life to save another.
Jesus obliges that our care reach into the lives and hearts of even our enemies.
According to this teaching, it’s pretty hard to care too much.
With the many problems we are facing in our world, what is required of each of us is the courage to change, to encounter each challenge and each other without fierceness, but rather with inner peace.
We must live out the solutions to our many problems by caring more, and not less- and certainly avoiding not caring at all.
To deeply care about everything that is happening, and to risk the wounds that getting involved often cause, is the only way to build the best future together.
We need a fresh start at absolutely everything.
Christians around the world are just now beginning a new year of grace.
As an alternative to marking a year’s passing by well-defined days and months, the Christian calendar marks the passing of the year by mysteries, the reliving of the major revelations of grace.
Seen through this prism, the Year of Grace 2022 will start on November 27 at sunset.
Central to the mystery is that the year of grace starts in darkness.
At the vigil mass, a solitary advent candle will be lit against all darkness,
as a pledge of growing light, and the coming of the True Light.
The quiet darkness of a Church is one thing,
but the fierce darkness of evil is quite something else.
Yet they are both very dark.
When either darkness settles thick upon us and around us, the darkness robs us of all colors and forms, within and without.
There is confusion, and the terror of chaos.
We can rightly have the impression that both darkness and evil are all pervasive.
As a deliberate protest against this chaos, a candle can be lit.
A small ray of light can be released.
A wax candle on a wreath, a word of truth spoken with kindness, or a ray of hope released in the heart.
While rescuing one of our kidnapped friends recently, and freeing her from the evil of human bondage, I shared once again the experience that too many families must suffer, when trying to free their loved ones from the hands of criminals.
After entering the territory of heavily armed bandits in order to retrieve Micheline, on a dark road in a deserted place, seeing many masked men with large weapons, I started to feel inwardly lost and powerless.
I looked at the darkness all around. Even the moral darkness is palpable.
The darkness was pervasive, and seemingly infinite, and the sky was as black as pitch because of thick clouds.
But I still could see one prominent, lone star.
I was not sure how things were going to end up for me, for Raphael, and for Micheline- but I realized I had a fundamental choice to make to keep myself centered.
I could focus on the darkness, or I could focus on the star.
This choice makes all the difference in the world.
It is not about denying the darkness.
It is about making the star central to how we understand,
and to how we intentionally orient ourselves to the powers of heaven.
Nothing is easy in the world today. What a huge challenge for young people.
So easy to get lost and to turn to harmful comforts.
Here in Haiti, you well know all the recent history.
Bandits and crime are all pervasive,
Port-au-Prince is now the kidnapping capital of the world, hunger is rampant,
the President was brutally killed, and the government has very few elected members,
there was another major earthquake three months ago,
there are thousands of internal refugees from violence,
we are in our third wave of Covid, and have been dealing with major shortages of oxygen, diesel and gasoline to keep our hospitals powered and functioning.
It can seem like on an already moonless night, deep and dark clouds roll in,
covering even the last lone star.
But when this happens, then we have the next surprise of Grace.
When you cannot see the star anymore, it will sing to you.
“Then sped my thoughts to keep
that first Christmas of all
When the shepherds watching
by their folds ere the dawn
Heard music in the fields
and marveling could not tell
Whether it were angels
or the bright stars singing.”
(Robert Bridges, Christmas Eve 1913)
Similar to this deep intuition, Jesus warns those who are trying to silence his disciples that even if they could silence them, the rocks and stones themselves would start to sing. (Luke 19:40)
With these thoughts, we are pretty much assured we can’t lose when we are on the side of goodness.
At least we can’t lose what is most important – what is deepest and truest about life, about ourselves.
The same Robert Bridges quoted above, a poet of deep faith, says this in a poem called The Affliction of Richard:
Though I must fear to lose,
And drown my joy in care,
With all its thorns I choose
The path of love and prayer.
What does it mean to drown your joy in care?
Brigitte is as excellent a person as she is an excellent eye surgeon. She has cared for many children we have sent to her over many years, with a terrible cancer of the eye. The name of the cancer is as terrible as the cancer itself: rhabdomyosarcoma.
The only way to save the child is to remove the eye.
Can you imagine removing a child’s eye?
Brigitte told me once when she removes a child’s cancerous eye, she needs two days to recover, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
Brigitte obviously cares too much. Her joy drowns in the caring, in the awful removal of an eye.
But a child lives (there is a star), and still can see with the other eye (another star), and then a beautiful glass eye is made to fill the void (another star still, even if lesser)- and we are all better off for the many people around the world who, like Brigitte, accept to suffer because they care, and see their joy restored after accepting the suffering that was, in fact, saving.
In our many programs in Haiti, we are doing our best to deal with the many challenges here, as you are where you live.
But our farms have folded, our guest house forced to close, we have had to suspend burying the destitute dead, we have two teachers who lost their lives to bandits, we have lost a large number of staff who have fled to live in other countries, and fundraising is way down, even as urgency spirals to new heights.
Our main efforts at this tough time are for very vulnerable people, including refugees and earthquake victims, and keeping our institutions going.
We are helping full throttle at grass roots levels.
Every year Forbes magazine lists about 170 countries according to how easy or difficult it is for any enterprise to survive there.
Haiti always ranks as one of the most challenging countries in the world, in which to succeed in any business or enterprise.
We know this by our lived experience, and yet, we are dedicated. We have grit. We care.
Our motto is “If not me, who? If not now, when?”
Even though it seems we are starting all over again on many levels, since things have fallen so low over the past years, we are ready and willing.
St. Paul assures us, where there are problems, sin and evil, the Grace of God is more abundant still. (Romans 5:20)
Thank you for continuing to believe in us, and especially in the people we serve. Your generous help has kept us going strong.
We wish you many blessings in this new liturgical year of grace.
Grace is at the threshold once again, the key to the door is to care all the more.
Let’s agree to care more, not less, and to let Grace enter.
You can start tonight, by looking at the closest star.
Fr. Rick Frechette CP DO