Perhaps it might be said rightly that there are three times: a time present of things past;
a time present of things present; and a time present of things future.
For these three do coexist somehow in the soul, for otherwise I could not see them.
The time present of things past is memory;
the time present of things present is direct experience;
the time present of things future is expectation.
St. Augustine, Confessions, Book 11, Chapter 20, # 26
As my time at St. Martin of Tours comes to an end, and as these eighty-four years of many generations of parish life come to an end, we find ourselves living in a state of reverie, anticipating future sadness while we reminisce on many wonderful years. Such is the nature of life and its timeline, intersected by events which mark various gains and losses.
St. Augustine chose to include many beautiful reflections on the human experience of time, of which I have included just one excerpt above, in his autobiography, since in the process of writing his life story he – philosopher and theologian that he was – felt it fruitful to write about his experience writing his experiences. Hence his musings on memory and expectation. We can find contemporary examples of such reflections, too.
Time Past: “How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.” - A. A. Milne
Time Present: “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.” - Dr. Seuss
Time Future: “The pain of parting is nothing to the joy of meeting again.” - Charles Dickens
If death were the end of existence, then meaning of the human experience of time would be a constructed fiction. For what good is memory if all who do the remembering will one day be forgotten? There is One however who remembers all, and He is the one who is the Alpha and the Omega, the end and the beginning (Rev. 22:13); He is the Lord of time (Is. 9:6); He is the Salvation of the human race (Phil. 1:6; John 10:27-30; Rom. 8:29-36).
All the souls in heaven will receive what is called the Beatific Vision: every one of us will “see” all things in God, and what that actually means is that we shall experience in fullest illumination all that is good in space and time. So all those memories, all those lost moments, shall become present once more. What was lost is now made present and permanent.
There is only one exception: The damned. We must pray therefore for every departed soul, so that by our prayers and sacrifices offered even now will bring about their salvation, even if their death occurred in the past! For God, being the Author of time, is not limited by time. In fact we have a word for this spiritual “time travel” – prevenient grace, which literally means a grace granted “before” the causes of the grace “are to come.” This is how Our Lady could be made Immaculate, since her immaculateness was itself dependent upon a future event, Her Son’s Passion, death, resurrection, and ascension.
As for ourselves, we must be certain we do all that is within our power to be assured of our salvation.
Here are what I call the “Great Eight”:
1. Prayer – every day!
2. Mass – Sundays and Holy Days of obligation
3. Confession – as soon as possible if you find yourself in mortal sin, but at least once a year. Confession is necessary for salvation.
4. Living a Moral Life – if you are unsure what that entails, read the Catechism: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you; obey the commandments of the Church, even if they are difficult; never accept an evil means to some alleged good end; love others, most especially by forgiving them from your heart. If you need to forgive anyone, you must forgive them from your heart. Say, “Lord, I do not like this person, and I do not have good feelings toward them, but I choose to forgive them. Grant them the grace to go to heaven..”
Then there are these special reassurances:
5. Be enrolled in the Brown Scapular and be faithful to its responsibilities: Brown Scapular Information https://www.sistersofcarmel.com/brown-scapular-information.php
6. Pray the Rosary daily
7. Complete 9 First Fridays and/or 5 First Saturdays to receive the graces necessary for salvation
8. Ask for the grace every day to passionately and fervently fall in love with Jesus:
“Lord Jesus, grant me the grace to fall madly in love with you. I want you to be my best friend, and I want to be your best friend. Amen.”
I came to St. Martin of Tours for one reason. To show each of you the way to salvation. I pray I have done that. May God and all of you forgive me in any way that I have fallen short of such a task. Until the day we die, let us pray for one another. I will never forget you. Our hope is that one day, in heaven, we shall come together once more as St. Martin of Tours Parish – resurrected, perfect, joy-filled, unsubsumable – which shall remain forever.
With love, to my favorite parish and favorite parishioners,