I’ve barely given St. Thomas much thought, despite worshipping for decades at a church named after him. The prayers to him that we sometimes recite as a congregation have never touched me before. He was just not someone who moved me. And that’s a little strange. He is commonly associated with his unfortunate moniker – Doubting Thomas – which should have made him my spiritual kin, as I too often struggle with doubts. Yet, I’ve never sought his company.
And I’m not sure he sought mine, either!
But then came Susan Skinner’s post, The Weight of St. Thomas. And her story of her dog and the Pay Attention to the Dogs message. I certainly paid attention because dogs have recently become a ‘stronger’ presence in my life as never before, leading me to wonder from 2 years back if dogs were to be some sort of sign for me, a warning sign. After Susan’s post, I went over our own latest experiences with dogs.
As I began to literally pay attention to the dogs, something began to reveal itself – but from the side of my consciousness.
The question I had asked myself very recently, of why Pope Francis had crushed the hopes of Vatican ordained Chinese Catholic bishops by ceding to the corrupt power of the Chinese Communist Party under whose power the church in China will now come.
The headline I had read just minutes before, Chinese Muslims Ordered To Hand Over All Copies Of The Quran Or Face Punishment.
Why China all of a sudden? I wondered.
Heaven remained silent. Won’t You tell me? I prodded once more.
The air would not stir. So, I returned once more to the dogs. What did they mean for me? Why was I sensing something there that I needed to understand and yet could not see?
The line in the next article I had picked at random, We were ordered to take down the Crosses on our churches, wrote a Chinese priest.
Banning of the faith.
Decimation of religion.
I didn’t know what God was asking of me. But we were going for Mass, to our parish of St. Thomas. I figured I’d ask Him then.
However, in church later, I completely forgot to ask God about dogs and China. Sitting in a pew, at a side we have never sat, after praying, I opened my battered copy of Diary of A Soul. I had been feeling empty all of that day and while I accepted it as consolation for Mother Mary, I didn’t feel there was any harm in knocking on heaven’s door. I said a quick prayer asking God to speak to me through St. Faustina and Jesus’ words to her. Give me something, Lord, I prayed.
… I have pressed my lips to the bitterness of the cup… ~ Entry 385, Diary of A Soul
I hastily shut the book. Yet, a soundless voice followed me into my heart, Drink of the cup of bitterness. I looked up the large Crucifix at the front of the church. I gazed awhile at the Divine Mercy image to the left of the church. Drink of the cup of bitterness, intoned that same voice.
At that very moment, I spied someone staring squarely at me. It was a statue outside the church, placed in the peaceful side gardens, seen now through the long glass windows, very far from my new place in this pew. For a few seconds, I wasn’t even sure who it was. And then, I knew.
Of course, it being the Church of St. Thomas, this shouldn’t have come as any surprise. It’s also a statue which I’ve seen so many times from my quick stops at the quiet parish gardens.
But at that moment, just before the start of Mass, St. Thomas had firmly placed my eyes on him.
After Mass, I forgot about St. Thomas for a while. Wanting to write out Mass intentions for a beloved soul who had just passed away, I moved to the side of the church closest to the statue of St. Thomas just a few feet away outside the church. Once I had slipped the Mass envelope into the Intentions box, I moved to leave. Genuflecting, I looked up and saw the words mounted on the wall behind the sanctuary, My Lord and my God. They had been there for some years.
But now, for the first time, I said the words aloud, My Lord and My God.
During the journey home, my thoughts happily darting from one earthly port to the other, a soundless voice broke through,
Thomas the Twin
I was mildly taken aback. I had forgotten about St. Thomas, what more, Thomas the Twin and Didymus. I suddenly realized that St Thomas was rapping insistently on the window of my consciousness.
Once home, I immediately looked up the saint to learn about him, and received my next surprise of the day.
My Lord and my God was attributed to none other than St. Thomas, who spoke them in shock and awe at the moment the eyes of his soul were opened to the miracle of Christ’s Resurrection.
It was clear that St. Thomas was not some random saint passing through the desert of my Lent. For some reason, St. Thomas wanted my eyes on him. Every time I turned my attention somewhere else, he seemed to be coming and tugging at my eyes.
Why? I asked yet again.
A whole night passed.
This morning, before he came, I went to him. I didn’t try to read up some more on this saint. I merely sat and waited for him to speak.
Two words from Susan’s post drifted in like a soft breeze,
In the hours after his beloved Jesus’ Crucifixion, Thomas had suffered immensely as his world crumbled. He who had been so sure of his belief in Jesus’ words, he who had been willing to follow Jesus to possible death in Bethany when the Jews were seeking to kill Him, was now broken and crushed at the death of the Jesus he had loved. All that Thomas had fought and worked for seemed to be for nothing.
Perhaps, in his deep anguish and grief, he even doubted God. If so, then, in those pain – wracked hours, Thomas had entered into the suffering of an atheist’s soul. If before he knew of it, after the Crucifixion, he had been immersed into and was burned by the cold flames of atheism.
As the morning winds sing a soundless hymn, I slowly begin to understand.
China. Crushing of the flame of faith.
The seer’s words,
When Communism comes again, everything will happen. The rise of atheism.
That was why St. Thomas had come to me. To warn me of the rise of atheism. The hell he had once known and lived.
The spirit of atheism is an oppressor’s spirit. This Lent, I have been called to pray for oppressors. I had assumed it was confined to those in our family’s lives.
Now, St Thomas has come to lay another name on my spirit.
That of the oppressor known as Atheism.