by Anton Wills-Eve
In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “In Good Faith.”
<a href=”https://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_prompt/in-good-faith/”>In Good Faith</a>
She was one of 14 children, born in the decades between the wars when families of Catholic Irish origin in Britain were still praying for the conversion of England, and backing their prayers with a big contribution to the number of Catholics per capita. She grew up holy, pretty and modest. A model little girl who actually loved the stories of God that her family told her every night. She also loved the atmosphere of the Latin-Mass congregation who understood little of what they heard or said but still very obviously loved each other. She really enjoyed going up to receive Communion and then battling the petty sins of puberty and the first temptations of the teenage flesh as she met a boy she really loved. But Ginny would never commit a sin of impurity. You see, she did not want to go to hell. She did not fear hell fire, no it was just that her favourite saint would not be there.
She knew Saint Rita had led a difficult life in Mediaeval Italy but ended it by fulfilling her religious vocation and becoming a nun against all the odds. Ginny knew her as the patron saint of hopeless causes and her aim in life was to try to help really hard done by people herself. But how could she know, well she couldn’t, that the person who was to be most sorely tormented was she herself. She was about to marry her childhood sweetheart when she was twenty but a month before the wedding he was killed in a plane crash. She put her whole heart into Saint Rita’s keeping, weeping and begging to be kept true to her Faith despite her awful loss.
Two years later she met a young man who she did not love romantically so much as want to help. He had not long recovered from a mental breakdown and she wanted to lead him back to a normal life. They married and he recovered very well under her prayers and encouragement. She was so glad for them both. But it was not he who was to suffer. Their first child was still born, their second was seriously mentally retarded and their third both deaf and dumb. But still Ginny hung onto the hem of Saint Rita’s habit and begged her to keep her close to God. Her truly loving and rather sweet devotion was known only to herself, but worse was to come. He husband had a relapse under the strain of his children’s suffering and took his own life when he was forty and Ginny was only thirty seven. In those days many Christians believed that all suicides were unforgiveable and went straight to hell and the thought of this nearly drove Ginny mad herself. But from somewhere deep down, in the depths of her soul she dragged up the last vestiges of Faith and Hope that she could find and begged Saint Rita to help her live through her purgatory on earth because she was really getting close to losing God altogether. The final crisis came a few weeks after her forty fifth birthday in 1979 when both her parents died of very painful forms of cancer within a couple of weeks of each other. The sacred thread holding Ginny to God snapped and she wandered away, lost and broken as she cursed everything she had ever held dear. Never would she pray for help or love again.
It was some fifteen years after that that she was struck down with cancer herself. Friendless, horribly depressed, unable to face her deformed offspring and abandoned by her family, she wandered into my church and asked me if I would hear what she believed would be her last confession. There was almost nobody in the church that day and she let the full story of the sorrow that was her time on earth just pour out of her.
“Father, I gave up God because he gave up me. But I’ve been told I shall be dead very soon. Just in case, just if perhaps I’m wrong, please forgive me and ask God to as well. That is if He exists at all.” I attended her funeral very soon after that and as I was walking away from the graveside, where less than a handful of mourners had bothered to remember her, I felt a hand on my shoulder and a beautiful Italian voice whisper to me,
“Grazzie, father. I never let go of anyone who loves me as she did.”