Purest of All Lilies

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When the darkness of loneliness and suffering blot out the light of faith, The Divine Mercy is there with the red and pale rays of illumination.

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By Dan Valenti (Sep 4, 2008)
Some time ago, I got a call from a woman in South Dakota. She tracked me down after reading a piece I wrote about God's mercy. Without even introducing herself, she was on the line and expressed a deep loneliness that she said she experienced as an "aching in my heart."

When I ask her how I could help her, she didn't say in so many words. After we talked for several minutes, however, it became clear she was looking for human contact and commiseration. I could hear a person whose hope had been shriveling from lack of love and whose spirit was being worn down by too little loving human contact. I had no easy answers — only the ability to listen.

No Family, No Friends
The woman said she lived in a remote area 20 miles away from Pierre, S.D. She said she had been suffering from intestinal problems. To complicate her situation, she said she had no family or friends nearby.

She once had a strong faith, she said, but after she got sick, it became difficult for her to travel the 20 miles to Pierre for Sunday Mass or to make other church visits. Consequently, her faith began to wane — a combination of illness, loneliness, and missing church. When I suggested that God is not only with her but also within her, she said she would like to believe that but couldn't because she had no sensation of His presence.

How could the God who was there make Himself apparent to her? More to the point, how could she learn to perceive His companionship? I let her talk.

You don't realize what it's like. For the past year I've had health problems, difficulties with eating and digestion. I don't like it. I don't enjoy it. It's terrible. I dragged myself to church on Dec. 8 for the holy day [the Feast of the Immaculate Conception]. In South Dakota, it's very cold and harsh in the winter, awful. I dragged myself there [to church in Pierre] 20 miles again for Christmas, but from Christmas to Ash Wednesday, I could not make it. It was just too much for me.

I managed to get my name put on the parish sick list that they just run through real fast. They mention it at Mass, but they rush through it. I don't have a family. They died a long time ago. I don't have a support list. I thought I deserved some prayers. I called [the church] back. It was embarrassing to do. My name was put on the prayer list for a while, and a couple women friends from the church called me because they did care a little bit for me, especially being out here by myself.

The pastor never called, nothing. Some time after Easter I finally came back to church, and I've been trying to make it as much as I can. About three weeks ago, the assistant pastor got after me when I shook hands after Mass. He said, "I haven't seen you very much. How come?" That insulted me and hurt me. "I've been sick a lot this past winter and spring," I said. "I live at a distance. Often, it's not safe." I told him I watch the Mass on TV. I went home hurt and sad. I felt condemned, ashamed, and yelled at.

A Persistent 'Soul Ache'
She ran out of energy and her voice tailed off. Again, I asked how I could help her. She asked if I knew anyone in her area of South Dakota who she might contact or who might be good enough to call upon her. I was honest. I didn't know anyone out there. I offered to pray for her and to share her name with the Marians' Divine Mercy Intercessory Prayerline, here on Eden Hill, in Stockbridge, Mass.

After she hung up, I knew I hadn't touched the persistent "ache" in her soul. I hadn't made her see that God Himself had inspired her phone call and that He was with her, every bitter step of the way. I also realized it was OK that this hadn't happened. The unknown God moves as He will.

It's been more than a year since that call. I had forgotten about it until today, when I came across the notes from our conversation. The discovery was by mere chance, or was it? God often throws things in our way so we might have to stop or stumble. I read the notes and felt compelled to share them with others.

A Call for Prayers
I don't know the woman's name. She didn't give it. I don't know what town she lives in — only that it's about 20 miles from Pierre. I don't know if she still reads this website. I don't even know if she's alive today. Nonetheless, only good can come from bringing sunshine to her story.

I can ask you, dear readers, to pray for her. Your prayers will be heard. I also offer this column itself as my petition for this woman's good and the good of her soul.

I'm sure I will be thinking about her often. She reminds me of the great "ache" in the world caused by loneliness. So many experience this emptiness of soul and feel the frustration when it resists the attempts to fill it up. Only God can handle such an ache, and that is why we must continually turn to Him in prayer. As St. Faustina writes, "A soul arms itself by prayer for all kinds of combat. In whatever state the soul may be, it ought to pray" (Diary of St. Faustina, 146).

Nothing is permanent in this life. We are sinful and God is mercy. Suffering and hardship are inevitable in this valley of tears. The best we can do is be touched by the eternal through whatever the present moment throws at us, something that — because it's easier said than done — becomes a test of faith and character.

We have all failed that test at one time or other and maybe much more than that. What matters is not the falling down, though, but the getting back up. God's mercy can help us rise again, but we must be open to it and ask Him for it. If we are so down we can't even do that, let our prayer then be that God will cause someone to hear our anguish and pray for us.

Prayer works. I have seen many remarkable examples from the Divine Mercy Intercessory Prayer Line. That line is accessible by calling, toll-free, 1-800-804-3823. The call is free. You can also e-mail the prayer line at prayerline@marian.org.

Our troubles are only instruments; what we must try to do is to see the One Who is handling them — the God of Love. It is the spirit of faith that sees this Love in suffering and turns its darkness into light. ...To be faithful does not mean that we shall not suffer. ... Suffering is, and always will be, suffering — that is, violence done to our nature. Even God cannot change that.

Thou hast made us for Thyself. It is in the "Thyself" that lies our happiness. Suffering is in opposition to the "Thou hast made" and to the movement towards our end, "Thyself".

By suffering with us and for us, Jesus has brought this opposition into the movement towards Himself.

Go on, then, bearing suffering bravely, making it serve to enlarge your capacity for the divine life in you. Continue, too, to look upon God with love when He sends you these hours which mean so much for our spiritual growth — when our crushed heart can do little more than utter its Fiat (quote from They Speak by Silences by "A Carthusian," Cistercian Publications, 1996 edition)


Recommended to The Divine Mercy
To Lonely in South Dakota:

This column hasn't stopped your pain, but it's the best I can do besides recommending you in prayer to Jesus, The Divine Mercy. What is the best you can do? I don't know, but as best as you can, pray and be patient. Be persistent. Be present to your life, in whatever form it takes. That's where the Unknown God lies hidden in — and for — all of us.

You have many prayers coming at you from Eden Hill.

Dan Valenti writes for numerous publications of the Marians of the Immaculate Conception, both in print and online. He is the author of "Dan Valenti's Journal" for thedivinemercy.org.

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Be a part of the discussion. Add a comment now!

MG - Oct 1 - Oct 1, 2008

I just finished reading this very touching story and I am set to pray The Chaplet of the Divine Mercy for the lonely in SD. I also would like her to know that each time I need celestial support I call for Our Mother and Saints, and always call for my Angels. They never failed me and I always fell their presence. So dear Sister call upon your Angels and they'll always be there for you. May God bless you abundantly!!

Lonely in South Dakota - Sep 29, 2008

20 miles from Pierre? That's close in this country. Mail is delivered in a 50+ mile radius and the school district extends that far from there as I used to live in Pierre. Those people look out for each other. If she had only asked she would have recieved help. If only you had gotten her name I certainly could get help for her but as it is I'll pray which is all I can do at this point

Juliette - Sep 24, 2008

It's hard to believe, after reading these many comments here, that not a single one mentions the idea of actually trying to directly SOLVE (most of) this woman's problem. What about her parish church? Surely she is not the only one who feels lonely and isolated. The church there should work on forming a support group, with the help of some parishioners -- perhaps making occasional visits to distant parishioners; or a sort of telephone brigade with people keeping in touch with one another by phone; perhaps some get-togethers for a meal or attending a movie or other event; and offers to travel together to Sunday Mass. It's nice to get all sorts of good wishes and promises of prayer, but what is obviously and overwhelmingly clear in this case is the great need for one-on-one human CONTACT. Surely someone in that area could take some simple steps to DO SOMETHING! May Our Lord inspire someone who can reach out directly to this woman.

Alice - Sep 7, 2008

I will pray the Chaplet for this woman. May she feel the power of God's love and never feel lonely. If she knew who walks beside her everyday, she would never feel lonely.

Toni - Sep 6, 2008

Loneliness is something that everyone of us can relate to as soon as I read the word the painful times of loneliness I have had came rushing back.
A Year after hearing from this women the mental pain she was suffering was still on your mind. Some of her loneliness was pride of not asking for support pride of not asking for well deserved prays anger that a busy pastor did not try to find out why she wasnt in church an anger that probably help keep her from asking for support prayers and the love she is seeking.
I have had somereal battels for my faith I have had the battel this women is having now Im not perfect I dont want to be harsh but this women is in a fight for more than human companionship.
I will pray that all who feel the pain of loneliness feal the love of our lord and that she comes out of this with a strong desire to help others who are going threw this pain that in going threw this pain she comes to a relationship with our lord his mother and the saints and her gurdian angel that will be trully amazing to behold.
As you see our Faith gives us the support the things we need sometimes even in loneliness we need to be quite and listen for the answer she has her anser she choose to not hear it and be angry.she choose not to accept the pleasnantry as a opening to step back in and choose to be angry. I will allso pray that our lady gives her such a desire to be at mass with her son that she will put up with anything to get there. Then when she is surrounded by him she will forget herself .
This has reminded me that I to can selfimposse loneliness that I to forget that God lives in me and Im never really alone.and that if i shut my self off in a box and dont reach out to even Him I will get what I ask for nothing.
I really hope this didnt sound unfealing because I really do know her pain and speak from a hard lesson won.

Jim - Sep 6, 2008

I prayed all the way through my reading this writing. My heart and prayers are for and with her. My next sung Chaplet will be for her and all the lonely souls. Thank you for the blessing by writing this column. God bless.

A servant of Jesus and Mary - Sep 6, 2008

Let us pray for our Priests as well. We ask and expect so much of them. Thank them for answering God's call. We would not be able to receive the sacraments without them. They bring Jesus to us in so many ways. They are just as human as we are. Pray for your Priests - all of them.

A servant of Jesus and Mary - Sep 5, 2008

Hello my dear sister-in-Christ.

I, too, feel your pain. I live in South Dakota as well. You live in the west. I live in the East - a few hours away. If you are reading this, please know that my heart and prayers go out to you. Hang in there, Sister. Jesus is closer than you realize. Hang in there...May God fill your heart with peace and surrender, amen.

faithfilled mom - Sep 5, 2008

I can't help but ask you... WHAT TOOK YOU SO LONG to come to this poor woman's rescue? If you ask us NOW to pray for her, and we will, a year after her reaching out for help, wasn't there something you could have done then, maybe on your website to assure her of your prayers? Of course, God's Will in all, and I'm sure we have all put things aside. I won't do that any more, I'll start a novena right away for someone I hear of in trouble... including this lonely woman.

Rita - Sep 5, 2008

I,too, will pray for this person near Pierre, S.D. I will offer a Chaplet of Divine Mercy for her. It has never failed me with my varied struggles, expecially lately.
God Bless you!

Numb soul - Sep 5, 2008

I too have said a prayer, a Mercy Family on this web site all giving care and prayer together at the table for you, and all that suffer in the bitterness of loneliness. We all at one time or another have depended on help, only being betrayed and having things left in question to Jesus us why.Please have faith(Trust),my friend, Jesus and Mary loves you and is working in you! Love, a incest survivor, and I will drop my Cross to help you too with your pain

Elizabeth - Sep 4, 2008

Oh my heart, soul, and prayers go out to you in Pierre,South Dakota. I am so sorry you have no family there for you and your lonliness that you're experiencing. I will offer up my sufferings for you tomorrow in hopes that our Lord Jesus brings you comfort and peace. May He bring you loving souls with a healing touch and someone to listen to you and to show you His mercy and love.

Kathleen - Sep 4, 2008

I will pray for you North Dakota.

Perhaps we should all take this opportunity to look around us and see the lonely around us and bring God's mercy to them via word, deed or apple cobbler. Whether its next door or in the next cubicle someone is waiting for you to be the difference in their lives.

P. - Sep 4, 2008

May we all be blessed to look at our Lord - in The Garden... in front of Pilate, being denied in favor of an insurgent ...a crown of thorns ..and The Cross ..may we ever thank Him , esp. in moments when we are allowed to feel a bit of His pain - for He took all that in , so that we get the strenght and the peace , from accepting and acknowledging in gratitude - what He took on , for sake of pure love of His children !

Lifting up to You, dear Lord all our moments , esp. of those who are dying and of those who have gone before us and thanking You, on behalf of all !

Chris - Sep 4, 2008

Ditto on Long Island!

Kathy - Sep 4, 2008

We're praying for you "North Dakota" in Nashville!

Franciscan Steubie Mom - Sep 4, 2008

Dear Mr Valenti ..I will pray for your Friend...she will be included In my rosary and chaplet...and i will pass this along to my friends...God Bless You and Yor Dear Friend in South Dakota.I pray soooo very much that She Feels Our Lord and Ladys presence some how / some way... and that she is Never Ever alone !...:0)

steph - Sep 4, 2008

I will pray for this woman. She should say the chaplet .It is a very powerful prayer and for me helps me find peace and Christ love. St. Fausina please pray for this woman. Amen

Marius - Sep 4, 2008

I will pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet for this woman. I would advise her to say the Chaplet, too. This prayer would help her to feel that she is not alone, that Jesus is near and Jesus loves her.

J - Sep 4, 2008

I have said a prayer for this woman. At one time when I was very low and unwell, someone reminded me that, in my condition at the time, I got an "A" for the day if I just kept going. Sister, keep going. Now to another prayer for you.