St. Brigid’s Blessing

“Do not be afraid; just have faith”

Life has the job of preparing us for death: and it knows its job well. We only have to listen to life, watch it well, and follow it. It explains death to us little by little or in one fell swoop, depending on the day. Sometimes without doing us any harm at all, at other times tearing us apart with grief. Sometimes by underlining the small deaths that we endure each day, at others by laying out in death those whom we love more than our own selves.

We learn about death as we comb our hair in the morning and find that our hair is getting thin; when the tooth that has been aching for a long while leaves us. When our skin wrinkles at the corners of our eyes; when we can say as we tell some trifling story: “Two years ago, twenty or thirty years ago.” When each year they come with flowers to wish us a happy birthday; flowers which are slightly suggestive of the cemetery and that celebrate one less year to go.

We learn about death at each reunion with those who preserve our childhood and among whom we remain children, or when our memory starts to slip away from us and our mobility is not what it was; these parts of our nature death invades early. We learn about death each time we are torn definitively from our loved ones. For even though our faith, our hope of reunion, and even our love for them affirm our joy—the joy of knowing that they have gone home—we ourselves remain, with our blood protesting and our flesh torn and hurt.

Life is our teacher when it comes to death—we who know we have experienced human repentance. By becoming familiar with death we learn to become familiar with life. It’s like making a conversion to the dimension of the eternal, as when we look at the negatives of a film to get the picture. We have to open the eye of faith in those circumstances where our own eyes fail us. When we look at our garden we are not stunned to see the yellowing of a blade of grass, so let’s be sufficiently interested in eternity so that all that we love may already be transferred into the calm of eternity. In this way we will learn to die to death and so to live authentically.

Venerable Madeleine Delbrêl

Madeleine Delbrêl († 1964) was a French laywoman and writer devoted to caring for the poor and to evangelizing culture. / From The Joy of Believing, Ralph Wright, o.s.b., Tr. © 1993, Éditions Médiaspaul, Sherbrooke, QC. Used with permission.