Project Canterbury

Locust Street Letters

By Frank Lawrence Vernon

Philadelphia: St. Mark's Church, Locust Street.




Last Sunday we were considering the use that we may make of solitude as a means of gaining intimate discipleship with Our Lord. This Sunday we shall consider the use we may make of human relationships in attaining the same end.

The woman of Cana is an example. Her sick daughter was her first and only concern. She had only one desire. She had only one duty. Her desire was to obtain help for her child. Her duty was to watch over her child. Her waking hours were all anxious hours. Her resting hours must have been uncertain and always alertly anxious.

She lived in the constant companionship of her child. It was in this constant companionship and maternal solicitude that she found Our Lord. Her agony of mind led her to him. We cannot imagine her finding Him in any other way. Solitude was not for her.

Last week while I was writing you about the uses of solitude, I did not forget the very large proportion of people whose lives are so ordered as to make solitude a luxury rarely within reach, and even then sometimes to be refused by the dictates of duty and the demands of relationships. Under such circumstances how is life to be lived?

The woman of Cana answers the question and gives us the example. Wherever duty leads us there we shall find Our Lord. Wherever we are needed there we shall find the power to serve those who need us. The woman of Cana made her discovery on a crowded road, surrounded by unsympathetic observers who were disturbed by her entreaties.

What was most crushing was her disappointment in the response of the Person on Whom she had set her hopes. For her, it would seem, there was no restful solitude, and no strengthening companionship. What could she do? She could persevere in selfless supplication. She could support her effort by the power of the humility which is the product of self-forgetting devotion.

She had one prayer which prevailed over every discouragement. She had a faith which won the approbation of Our Lord, "0 woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt." And her daughter was made whole from that very hour. And the grateful mother gained a knowledge of Our Lord and a power of intercession which would make the road on which the miracle happened a holy place for her; no less holy than the Desert might have been if the providence of God had led her in that direction.

The experience of most of us has given us some knowledge and a little practise of solitude. Retreats, a rule of prayer, a habit of frequently visiting a church for private devotion, have all served to give us a working knowledge of the technique of devotional solitude. Experience has taught us to appreciate and profit by these practises. Experience also has taught us that it is not easy to adjust ourselves to the distractions and trials which unfailingly await us when we return to our ordinary life in the world.

It is not easy to keep the spirit of interior quiet when we take our accustomed place in the crowd. We have tried to do this over and over again, and over and over again we have failed.

What we need to learn is how to live an interior life in the crowd, after the brief times of solitude are over. Our Lord used His hours of solitude. But He used His hours with the crowd. His return from solitude was always marked by mighty works, for which solitude had prepared Him.

The miracle recorded in today's Gospel gives us an example. The secret of interior quiet in a crowd is to be mindful of the wants of those who are living with us. By losing our life for them we recapture the life which we found in solitude.

In solitude we learn to love God. In the crowd we learn to love our neighbor. In both we find and keep the peace of God.

Affectionately in Our Lord,

Project Canterbury