Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.
A reflection on the word “HOUR”
An hour. Depending on your point of view, it’s a blink or an eternity.
Consider a mom. An hour falls on the “blink” side of the fence: “I have one hour to finish (insert forty-eight projects) before I have to pick up the kids from (insert thirty-seven activities).”
But for a child an hour lands — nay, thuds — firmly in the territory of eternity: “I have to wait an ow-errrrr before it’s time to leave for the water park?!”
For our Blessed Mother, though, it’s all the same. It’s a moment. The moment. “The hour of our death.” And we ask her to pray for us in that moment.
The “hour” of my death refers to the precise moment at which I’ll pass from this life to the next. Perhaps that will feel like a flash to me, though I doubt it, as that’s what I imagine the hour holds for those saints who will zoom past “Go” and collect the ultimate $200.
No, for me, I am guessing my hour — my slog toward Heaven — might feel like that child’s perception of the It-Cannot-Arrive-Soon-Enough-Water-Park. I’m imagining a best-case scenario here — I made a good confession right before I died, so at least there’s no mortal sin mucking things up, but I’ve still got purgatory to wade through, and it’s gonna take awhile.
I sometimes imagine the lobby of purgatory as a giant movie theater in which I am forced to sit in a horribly scratchy, lumpy chair. Of course I’m wearing shorts, too, so I feel every coarse, wooly thread as I fidget in my seat, trying to get comfortable. And did I mention that the shorts are ill-fitting? The waistband cuts, but there’s nothing to do about that until the movie is over. It’s way too hot, and there’s no restroom in this theater, either. Obviously there’s no popcorn and the only thing to drink is a watered down Dr. Pepper (I hate Dr. Pepper). The feature film is a wretched excuse for entertainment — it’s all my unfinished business, the temporal messes I left behind, the things for which I haven’t atoned, illustrations of the sins to which I’m still attached. I’m squirming. I can’t wait for this movie to end because clearly I’ve still got a huge cleansing coming my way. This is just the purgatorial equivalent of running the bath water.
It’s ironic that on this side of heaven children perceive time as something that crawls while we adults are convinced it flies. At the hour of my death, I’m certain I’ll rediscover that an hour can indeed crawl, seemingly forever, as I work through the consequences of my life choices. And yet an innocent child, who can’t bear to wait that “owww-errrrr” for anything of import will find herself in the presence of Jesus in an instant.
An hour is what we make of it. My blink, my child’s eternity — they are the same in the eyes of the Lord, who stands outside of time.
Mary — beautiful, gracious, ever-present Blessed Mother — pray for me to make use of every minute, to stretch every bit of time taken for granted, turn around every bit of impatience, to live for Jesus every hour, so that your prayers for me, now and the hour of my death, will not be for nothing.
Karen Edmisten’s a Catholic wife and mom who blogs and is the author of a number of awesomesauce books, including her latest, After Miscarriage: A Catholic Woman’s Companion to Healing and Hope. She is also a soul sister of mine who feeds on coffee the way I do. What’s not to love?