Father William McKee, CssR

It’s quite probable that every person who lives suffers from depression sometime in his or her life.   It’s as common as breathing air. Permit me to tell you about one time I suffered from it.

I was doing desobriga in the Amazon Valley, out of our hometown of Coari.  Desobriga is traveling by a motorboat to tiny villages and homes in and out of the jungle to bring Jesus to the people as best we can.  We preach, teach catechism to the kids, do baptisms, weddings, say Mass, have processions.  The whole works.  

It was on such a trip one time that everything seemed to go badly.  I did not seem to get much cooperation from the people or be able to evoke any holy responses from many of them.   

Then I hit a village where I was completely rejected.  The people did not seem to be at all interested. Which was very strange.  I asked the head man where I could gather the kids for catechism. He said nowhere. I asked where I could say Mass and again he said “nowhere.” I walked around the village and no one seemed friendly.  They were, in fact, hostile.  Then, when I looked closely at the faces of the people I noticed certain hardness and then something that Fr. John Zeller had told us in Novitiate came to mind.  "Baptism makes a physical difference in the faces of the baptized.   A kind of softness."  

I went down to my boat and spent the night there. But woke up about midnight to the savage beatings of drums. I asked the boat boy, really a big man, to go up the hill and see what was going on. He came back in about an hour and said: “Let’s get out of here.  Fast”. 

He started the engine.  He told me that the people were doing some kind of devil worship. They had the naked body of a teenage girl stretched out between two tree stumps and a pot of boiling hot chicken blood on her stomach.  She was unconscious.  She was the altar and the pot was the chalice.  The whole thing was a mockery of the Mass.  The people were circling around the girl and drinking cachaca: which is a kind of rum drink, 140% alcohol.  Then, he said, men and women were going off into the bushes and doing things.

So, we went off and two days later were at my next stop.  I was totally dejected, depressed, and resolved that this would be the last trip I would ever make.  The people at the next stop were normal and friendly but that did not change my mood.  So I did my thing that night, taught catechism, preached, had confessions.  The people were responsive.  But then came time for Mass the next morning. I was setting up for Mass and three teenage girls came up to me. They asked, “Padre, can we have a high Mass?” I was absolutely stunned. I said: “You know how to sing a High Mass?” They said yes and showed me some papers with the Latin High Mass on them.  I asked where did they get them.   They said: from the nuns in Coari.  They taught us.   So I started Mass and they sang.  The Kyrie, Sanctus, Agnus Dei and then the hymn; O Virgem Maria, and O Virgin Mary.  As I was listening to this, I was thinking that the Sistine choir in Rome could not do a better job.   It was utterly beautiful. And of course, it changed all my bad thoughts and resolutions.

I tell this little story because it so exemplifies the old principle that God sometimes works in strange ways. I am sure that you have similar stories and have drawn the same conclusions.

There is much in life that we cannot figure out.  Why do some young people die?  Why we get serious illnesses?  Why do tsunamis and hurricanes destroy thousands of lives?  We are helped greatly when we try to answer these problems by a principle that been around for a long time: LIFE IS NOT A PROBLEM TO BE SOLVED BUT A MYSTERY TO BE LIVED.  

I have no doubt that you can look back on your life and see some mysteries.   I was struck by a story that’s been around a long time.  One night two little boys showed up at a parish rectory and asked the pastor to come and give the Sacraments to their dying grandmother.  They took him to the house and disappeared.  After the pastor had done his holy work, the grandmother asked him how did he know that she needed help.  He said: Your grandsons came and got me.  She started to cry.   He asked why she was crying.  She said:  I had only two grandsons and they were killed in an auto accident a year ago.

One of the saving factors that helps us live more joyfully in this world of pain and sorrow is the fact that God is one with us.   God is one with us – not as a tenant, nor a guest, nor a visitor – but as a co-being.  God is One with us.  We can cast all our cares on Him.  “Cast all your cares on Him.  Because he cares for us.”  I Peter 5:7 This union of course, comes through the glory of the Eucharist and will be a source of great joy if we open our arms and our hearts totally to Jesus’ presence.  Coping with life, as you well know, is not always an easy proposition.  But, there is great help in the conviction that God and I are one and no one can take Him away from us.  GOD AND I ARE ONE.   Some people have gone through bloody and painful martyrdoms in order not to lose Him.  When we go to bed at night and get up in the morning, we can rejoice in that beautiful, consoling fact: God and I are one.

In the responsorial psalm the other day at Mass the response was: “THE LORD TAKES DELIGHT IN HIS PEOPLE.”  Well, we are his people.  Therefore the Lord takes delight in us. Yes, in us, weak and imperfect though we may be.  We are God’s people.  No doubt about it.   A second reason for rejoicing when we go to bed at night and rise in the morning.  The Lord takes delight in His people.   

This union with God comes principally through the Mass and through prayer.   It’s very easy for us mortal, weak human beings to let the Mass become something we take for granted, a matter of habit, a routine spiritual exercise and not pay sufficient attention to its sublimity and glory and what is happening in it and through it.  

It is almost unbelievable that the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, and that God wants us to be one with Him.  Maybe this is unbelievable but certainly true. We have God’s word on it.  God must see some thing beautiful and good within us that we do not see ourselves.  

Who would believe it if the Son of God, Second Person of the Holy Trinity had not said it and had made it very clear at the Last Supper.  It’s equally incredible that God would do this – become one with us.

A question has often been asked throughout the centuries: “Why?” Why would God want to become one with us?  Are we so great and noble and holy that He would want to become One with us? The answer of course is No.  He wants to become one with us simply because He loves us and LOVE WANTS UNION.  True love has always been UNCONDITIONAL.  God doesn’t love us because we are saints.  He loves us because we are His children.  Even more than a mother who loves her children does our good Lord love us.

Let’s say a big ‘thank-you’ to our Divine Savior, our Most Holy Redeemer for this gift, for this unity, for this glory, that He shares with us. 

God is one with us.


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