Exhausted Holy Fools

A friend, who returns home time and time again exhausted in spirit and body from her work in the soup kitchen, writes:  “I’m happy.  In a very sad kind of way.  I am happy with the poor-exhausted.  It makes no sense.  Like all of His paradoxes, it only makes love, not sense.”

Who are they who choose love over what makes sense?  To whom does this kind of sacrifice, to the point of complete spiritual, emotional and physical exhaustion, bring profound joy?  To the Holy Fools.  We all know them in our own lives.  We know them also from history – St. Francis, Mother Teresa, Dorothy Day, and our beloved Catherine Doherty, to name but a few.  My friend would deny being in the same category as these, yet even if the scope of the work is not as broad, the calling is the same; the kenosis is the same; the exhaustion is the same.  Catherine Doherty writes:

Sitting at the very edge of the pine forest in the eventide, I look down.  Suddenly I am not there at all!  I am where my heart has always been; I am with the poor.  A love, a joy, a simple, childlike joy fills my heart and I tell myself, “I am descending the holy mountain to go to the poor.”

I was tired beyond my own understanding, and, I think, beyond the understanding of many.  I knew that the people chosen by God to bring his message to the world were always tired.  But I did not know how tired.  Did you ever feel this numbing, crushing tiredness that takes hold of you and seems to crush you into powder?  There you are, lying on the road, a little handful of powder.

Don’t you understand, don’t we all understand, that we must begin to share?  We must!  It is not a question of tithing.  It is a question of sharing, because unless we share, we will become atomic dust.

And from the winds came the familiar voice, “Now you know how tired I was when I hung on the Cross.  But love overcomes tiredness.  Mine did.”

From:  “Urodivoi.  Holy Fools.  The Prophetic Call of a Modern Fool for Christ”, by Catherine Doherty.

13 thoughts on “Exhausted Holy Fools

  1. The second paragraph honours your friend and is well said. I am serving again in a soup kitchen but only once a week for about two hours, washing pots and pans and dishes and bowls. I arrive in my shirt and tie, hastily throw an apron over my head and set to work. When I’m done I head out of the ongoing activity and slip back into the “real world” which always seems somehow less real. I am nothing, nothing like him or the other people you have mentioned, including your friend, but I think of the words of St. Jose Maria Escriva, “To do and disappear.” May the Lord bless your friend, well in fact, I am sure He already is…

  2. Gabrielle, I’m so glad I’m in the US where I can immediately go out and buy this book (and others, like Mother Theresa’s). Thanks for sharing, and thanks to your friend for inspiring you.

  3. To have met someone like you describe is a blessing indeed, for such people, I have no doubt, are sent into our lives to reveal a goodness beyond the merely human, a reflection or an aspect of the divine – the in-dwelling Trinity.
    I really must do what Pia’s going to do and get Catherine’s book.

  4. I have some idea of how your friend feels, G, and this is why it astounds me to think of how long His Mother and those you mentioned above, lasted in their labors of love. I woke up thinking of my mother today, and we might wonder the same of all our mothers – how did they last as long as they did?? – and I thought the silliest thing: My mother was real. But by that, I mean, there wasn’t any duplicity in her. What you saw was what you got. And what you got was a tired unto death woman. She was tired beyond tired..

    There was tremendous suffering, too, of every kind in her life, poverty, tragedy, illness. She took care of my grandmother at home almost singlehandedly, and helped raise my cousin from 6 mos. old on up.. She watched out for one brother in particular who often lived with us.. she was forever bringing something, even if just herself and I, to another. In the interim, in the middles of nights, she protected me from a drunken madman, and occasionally went and nursed him back to health.. and likely saved my life in countless bouts of asthma, before asthma meds were so good. Sometimes I think she trembled to death.

    One day while I was near 20, she looked at me with that utter exhaustion and said, “I always feel I wasn’t there enough for you, JustMe. I have always had to do so much, because there wasn’t anyone who would do it.. I’m sorry. If it ever made you look to others for something, I just want you to know I’m sorry.” :’-) I’m so glad that I could look at her with the shock I felt and say, “Ma!! That thought has never crossed my mind.” Well, then it did.. yeah, there was some validity, even if not her fault. So I determined to be very present in my kids’ lives, and they, to hear them speak of it now, brought themselves up, lol. I apparently was quite a hindrance. Ah, I give up.

    Yes, we must share. Everything. Burdens, joy, food, space, and hope. Hope is the thing with feathers.. yes. But hope in Hope Himself. “In a little while, you don’t see Me; in a little while, you will see Me.”

    That book sounds marvelous!

  5. Sometimes our minds ‘chatter’ too much with too much information we burn ourselves out. This is not Divine Fire but mere over-tiredness of mind, body and spirit.

    When you light a fire to warm yourself you dont then run here there and everywhere, how would you become warm? NO! You sit by the fire and allow it’s heat to penetrate into your skin and fill your body with warmth. You sit still.

    Still the mind and you will hear God🙂.

    Peace, JOY & Merry Christmas to you:)

    Marie

  6. JT — It’s from a marvelous little Emiy Dickinson poem:
    Hope is the thing with feathers
    That perches in the soul,
    And sings the tune–without the words,
    And never stops at all,

    And sweetest in the gale is heard;
    And sore must be the storm
    That could abash the little bird
    That kept so many warm.

    I’ve heard it in the chillest land,
    And on the strangest sea;
    Yet, never, in extremity,
    It asked a crumb of me.

    Today I am reminded of the power of hope. Many days that is so, actually, but I subscribe to a Yahoo news alert “Catholic Church,” and today there were at least two items that set me chirping: Tony Blair has been received into the Church (upon which 10 Downing St. is understandably mum), and now a third (Vatican-approved!) Bishop was installed in China. WooHOO! Things are always looking up. Wonders are always possible. Miracles of prayer happen and are called many things. The glass is half full, and hope is indeed the thing with feathers.

  7. this reminds me of a quote from frederick buechner on vocation…he says, “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” so fitting for those serving in a soup kitchen and literally feeding the hungry, but i see it too in my life and those of others…that as we meet our “calling”, it doesn’t have to make sense and yet it makes perfect sense.

    thank you for sharing your friend and catherine doherty’s words with us.

    peace.

  8. Marie, this is odd, but I’ve always had a thing against fires, ever since I knew what Peter felt like as he warmed himself before one while he, too, denied even knowing the Man. That is what we do at times–deny the very knowledge of Him, if we allow our Gestas’ or Sanhedrin to ridicule or dismiss Him, to save not our neck, but the peace of the moment. Crazy.

    I run to (and from!) fire to fire, but bottomline, the Tabernacle is all blaze and blazing hearth. It is our Nazareth-Bethlehem.

    Lucy! That Buechner quote was in my mind yesterday, tho’ not in his words — in Bozo’s, actually

  9. lol, sorry.. that got cut off, ’cause Bozo tried to draw a Bozo emoticon face, but let me finish it now:

    I am so happy to see it said so beautifully! Yes! Thank you!

  10. Thank you all so, so much for your thoughtful comments here, while I’ve been off galavanting and waiting in lineups (only nearly passed out twice; quite good).

    I believe that one of the true blessings is actually discovering the joy within the suffering, because that would mean one was so united with Christ, wouldn’t it.

    For anyone interested in purchasing Catherine Doherty’s books, you can do so online – just click on Madonna House in my sidebar and you’ll see what’s available. I’ve been thinking, though, and I guess I’ll think out loud here – I know the Madonna House Apostolate has no extra money, but I’d like to explore how Catherine’s books could be better distributed abroad. I know the cost of getting books over to Italy and down to Australia, for example, must be prohibitive, but ever since Marie/Ginny mentioned to me that they loved her books but that they were few and far between in Australia, it’s been bothering me. I wish I could do something to help, but I don’t know exactly what.

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