I had to bug out early on our homeschool book blessing Mass and social hour because hubby had to go in to work for some dire proposal that's due at 10am sharp. The house is remarkably quiet with the kids in bed and hubby gone. Hubby's a smart man, much smarter than I am. I used to think I was the smart one until I spent a few years being married to him. He's smart. He's patient. He's kind. This I know.
I also know one thing. God exists. There's a vast ocean between what I believe and what anti-theists do. Hard for them to understand me and equally as difficult for me to understand them. All the words I would use to describe God: obvious, rational, merciful, providential; are the exact opposite words that come to their minds. To them God is not obvious and certainly not rational. Most often He's vengeful and even arbitrary. Distant.
Sadly, it isn't only the anti-theists that feel that way, but a good number of Protestants.
My husband's uncle is not well. He hasn't been well for a long time, but he is now, technically and medically, in "end stage emphysema." The family is in shambles. The issues of death and dying, and if there is eternal rest, are a bit more than my husband's aunt can handle at the moment.
My husband used to be Lutheran. As a cradle Catholic, I have a hard time understanding how other religions approach these issues. I mean in their hearts, deep down, what do they really think will happen when they die? Many believe that most everyone goes to Heaven, while Hell is populated with Hitler and Stalin who are still waiting for two more to join them for bridge. Getting into Heaven seems like a slam dunk.
But, hubby says many Protestants don't believe Heaven is a certainty, not beyond a shadow of a doubt. What if those pesky Catholics are right? Or even the Hindus, and they have to come back and do this all over again until they figure it all out? And, on the outside chance the anti-theists are correct, they missed a lot of opportunities to have fun.
While many don't address the issue head-on of where they'll spend eternity, it is a little more challenging to be Protestant and to grasp the concept of suffering. This is where hubby's family struggles and I struggle to help them, most of the time being unable to know where to begin because our faiths are very different at ground level.
Purgatory, Communion of Saints, Confession, Absolution, and redemptive suffering are just a few items not on the Protestant radar. How can you see the providential plan of God, witness His mercy or merely not fall into despair, if you can only see life's struggles, and even it's incredible sufferings, as pointless and without merit?
Everyone keeps saying that they hope Uncle D dies in his sleep because they don't want to see him suffer and they don't think it's fair. As a Catholic, I don't want to see a loved one suffer, but fair doesn't have anything to do with it (who was the Lamb without blemish, the Innocent Victim?). As a Catholic, our faith makes this a time of action instead of a time of hopelessness.
With my large family and all the serious illnesses my parents and other loved ones have suffered, I find my Catholic faith to be incredibly comforting. For me, God is never closer than when things are the darkest. For my husband's family at this time, God is far away. Distant.
It's funny the number of times I've had to stop myself from asking hubby's aunt if she's called the priest yet. Without the comfort of the Catholic faith, it's hard to talk to hubby's aunt. Her heart is breaking and the conversations are morose. If only she could see how close God really is.