It’s never easy to know without a doubt you’re doing the right thing, only to find that everyone around you resists you, criticizes you, or do not understand you.
We eagerly desire to be understood — especially by our friends and family. Those closest to us.
And yet today, as we celebrate the memorial of St. Agatha, an early virgin martyr of the Church, and as we continue our Five First Saturdays devotion, meditating on the incredible story of Fatima, we come face to face with a stark realization:
God often places us in positions where we are deeply misunderstood.
Where nobody buys into what we are saying.
Where we look crazy.
And I just want to say from the outset — That is ok. It’s ok to seem crazy if you’re doing the will of God. In fact, the Good Lord seems intent on working his most wonderful marvels through this very painful experience of being resisted, suspected, harshly criticized, and misunderstood.
St. Agatha had made a promise to God. She had offered the Lord her virginity and was committed to her one and only spouse, Jesus Christ. When a pagan official approached this beautiful young woman with the intention of marrying her — Agatha said no. This was unthinkable. But she knew that accepting this man’s proposal would not only break her promise of perpetual virginity, but even more importantly — it would demand her to forsake her faith entirely. So she refused him.
For all the world, this looked like sheer insanity. Nobody could understand this decision. She was turning down a favorable position in society. A comfortable marriage. A guaranteed upgrade in influence and pleasure!
But she held her ground.
And as a direct result, she faced brutal rejection and resistance, and ultimately — imprisonment, torture, and death.
Fast forward almost 1700 years to the year 1917.
The three little shepherd children of Fatima had come face to face with the Blessed Mother and had received incredible graces form her. Lucia, the oldest of the three understood full well that NOBODY would be able to accept or understand this. So she begged her little cousins, Francisco and Jacinta not to breath a word of this to anyone.
Of course, Jacinta, so innocent and so filled with joy — could not restrain herself from telling her mother about the great visit they had received. And while Jacinta’s parents — to their immense credit — actually believed their children’s account of the beautiful Lady from heaven that shared with them so many beautiful and good things — the same could not be said of Lucia’s mother, Maria Rosa.
She strongly disbelieved the children’s story. In fact, she went so far as to publicly accuse her own daughter Lucia of instigating a fraud to get attention. In so doing, she managed to get the entire town to turn against her daughter, Lucia. They all mocked her. They all made jokes. They all misunderstood the great gift Lucia had been given.
But great as her suffering was, Lucia persisted. She persevered. She was willing to look COMPLETELY CRAZY. And in the end — She was magnificently vindicated.
This is the way with all the lives of the saints, isn’t it? In some way or another, they all have to face down the intensity of being completely misunderstood and rejected. Peter looked crazy when he asked to be crucified upside down. Francis looked crazy when he stripped off his clothes. Anthony looked crazy when he preached to the fish. Ignatius of Loyola looked crazy when he lived in a cave for 11 months in prayer. Thérèse looked crazy when she ran up to the Pope to beg him to let her enter the convent at only age 15. Catherine of Siena looked crazy when she told the Pope to leave France and go back to Rome where he belonged. John Vianney looked crazy when he showed up to town in a tattered cassock and spent long nights kneeling in front of the Tabernacle. Mother Teresa looked crazy when she set up shop in Calcutta. John Paul II looked crazy when he forgave his would-be assassin.
Every Saint was willing to look crazy. Every Saint endured the Cross.
But here’s the thing — When the proper time comes, and none of them really could have predicted when — they are redeemed. They receive the golden crown of glory from their Lord and Savior.
And THAT is well worth all the misunderstanding.
All of this reminds me of those lines from the Litany of Humility:
“From the fear of being ridiculed, Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the fear of being wronged, Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the fear of being suspected, Deliver me, O Jesus.”
We need to cast out this demonic fear that prevents us from being CRAZY like the Saints. We have to trust and believe: God will deliver us and vindicate us, if we only remain steadfast in our pursuit of the Truth.
In the meantime, however, how do we deal with all of the heaviness of being misunderstood and resisted?
Listen to the words Our Lady of Fatima said to Lucia, when she learned how much she would suffer in spreading the Blessed Mother’s message:
“My daughter. Are you suffering a great deal? Don’t lose heart. I will never forsake you. My Immaculate Heart will be your refuge and the way that will lead you to God.”
Take refuge in the Immaculate Heart of Mary. It is a refuge for the misunderstood, the ignored, and the fiercely rejected.
Why? Because this Immaculate Heart is so misunderstood. Mary is so often rejected and resisted. People say she gets in the way of Jesus. That she is a distraction! That she is an idol! What insult! What blasphemy! All she wants to do is hand deliver us to Jesus! And yet she endures all that misunderstanding. Her Heart is surrounded by thorns.
So in this Five First Saturdays devotion, let us boldly offer reparation for all the countless sins and blasphemies against this Immaculate Heart, this Refuge for poor sinners.