“The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. …” . This is probably the most famous quote from Henry David Thoreau. The quote comes from the first chapter `Economy` in the book Walden. It is not unusual to read a misquotation of this. Some believe the misquote comes from Oliver Wendell Holmes’s The Voiceless. Here we find: “….Alas for those that never sing, But die with all their music in them.” The combined thoughts will often be attributed to Thoreau.: “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.” Frankly, the erroneous misquote has more meaning to me.
Now, suddenly finding myself in old age – not without a vain detour to recapture the feelings of youth – I find that my anxieties have changed from “What will I do”, and “What will I be”. My anxieties for the bottom of this last quarter are more like: “What have I become”. This very serious introspection I try to answer with prayer.
For many years now, Sunday Mass is the one hour of the week that I know for sure that I am at the place where I should be and doing what I should do……. PRAYING. At times, I have gone to Church for joy and pleasure, and in those superficial times I have forfeited and been diverted from the opportunity to improve myself in the eyes of God. As the saying goes, “Church is a place to comfort the inflected and inflict the comfortable”. God’s Church is a place for serious reverent worship, hard prayer, and listening for the whisper of God’s Will. God’s Church is not a place for having a hand clapping, foot stomping good old time. Church is a place to confess sins. Church, during the Mass, is a place to gain strength by receiving the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ.
The comfort from knowing I am doing right by going to Church is outweighed by the discomfort of prayerful introspection, for this thought process confronts me with my weaknesses and regrets. I am forced to resolve to work at becoming a better person. This change is always painful. It can be most discouraging to sacrifice, confess, and amend my life to become a more perfect person when knowing I’ll never be even close to perfection. The most I can hope for is to be less imperfect. One might say that this is desperation.
Community then is a most important aspect of a prayerful life. For praying in community, we get to know and understand our fellow travelers in life. Each and every one is combating personal weaknesses, erroneous thinking, and always Satan. We learn that everybody is having a life of quiet desperation. Everyone in that community has his/her own “Crosses to bear”. Helping one another to carry our crosses makes the burden easier and helps us to focus better on how we have hurt God as opposed to how we have been hurt.
People, even with the best of intentions, make mistakes. People will, because of this, sometimes, let us down. Prayer to God is important as He will never let us down or abandon us. We should have more faith in our fellow travelers, we must have more Faith in God.