When I was in my early twenties, the priest in my parish asked me to visit people in their homes and in the hospital. He was the only priest in a large inner city parish and he was overwhelmed with work. I remember one lady I visited over forty years ago, and today, she came to my mind, as she reminds me of so many people I have met in the past nine months.
The woman was elderly. She was about 75 and fairly housebound, but not physically, only by her emotions. She was comfortable financially, upper middle-class and she was a widow. Her children never visited her, except rarely, as they lived in other states, far away. She was suffering from depression.
Two things I noticed immediately when I first visited her. One was that her hair was always immaculately set. She had this done once a week. The second thing I noticed was that she always held her little white Maltese dog, who was also neatly groomed, when I visited. Some weeks, the dog would have red polish on its "nails" and a matching red bow. While, on another day, the dog would sport a white bow and white nail polish.
This lady, and I shall call her Dorothy, complained about her sad life, her loss of her husband years ago, the fact that her children never came.
I suggested, in my youthful way, that she could join groups, go out, enjoy herself. Money was not an issue.
No, she was too low to go out.
Eventually, in my young state, I lost patience with her one day and said, "Why don't you do something for someone else? Instead of thinking of yourself all the time, why don't you get out of yourself?"
Dorothy became furious. She gave me the list of reasons why she not possibly help anyone. I listened and then I got up to leave.
"I am going now," I said. Dorothy grabbed my hand. "You won't leave me like the others, will you?"
I smiled a rather sad smile. She knew exactly what she had done. She had pushed away love, because it was not the kind of love she wanted. She wanted something specific. She was trying to tell God how to love her. She could not see the Cross as love.
She wanted me and others to love her image of herself she had created. Dorothy was her own idol.
At some point, I gave her a Bible and prayed with her for peace. I suggested she would read the Bible.
She said she would try, but she could hardly read with a dog on her lap, and the dog was always on her lap.
Dorothy had overcome the will of the dog, who just sat there. She had pushed away her family because she wanted something they could not give. She wanted to be a god, or rather, a goddess. She did not know how to love or be loved. Perhaps, she was too full of fear to be "found out" that she, too, was imperfect.
I do not know what happened to Dorothy, as I moved away to another city. The parish priest was moved to another church far away and all contact as lost with the sad, lonely woman.
I see this today, among the old and the young. They want to be loved in a fantasy world. They want to be loved in the image they have of themselves, not in the truth of their being, not in the uniqueness of how God created them.
They want people to love an image of themselves and not really themselves. They want to play God and say, "Love me like this!" These people may even only want a certain type of person to love them, like members of their own families, or people with status, not a young parish visitor.
The dog did not care if Dorothy lied to herself about her selfishness and pettiness. But, God did and God was trying to break down Dorothy's fear of real love.
Sometimes, we are closed to love as we want certain kinds of love and we pretend to be someone we are not. In this state, real love will not come our way.
God waits. He comes to the honest soul, the open mind, the heart which seeks Him. He is not manipulated or overcome like the poor, little white dog.
He wants two things from us. He wants us to know Him, but He also wants us to know ourselves as we really are, full of sin, pride, fears.
He will not leave us unless we push Him away. There are many ways to push God away and one is to avoid suffering. Another is to refuse to accept the fact that only God is good and without Him, we are nothing.
I pray for Dorothy today. She died a long time ago. I hope she became open to love.