Greater Love Hath No Man
Thomas A. Droleskey
“Greater love than this no man hath, that a man lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends, if you do the things that I command you.” (Jn. 15:13-14)
Every Catholic is called to lay down his life every day in order to follow Our Lord as He has revealed Himself solely through the Church He founded upon the Rock of Peter, the Pope. That is, each of us is called with every beat of our hearts, consecrated as they must be to the Immaculate Heart of Mary and to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, to die to self in order to let Our Lord live more fully in our souls, permitting us to be Him for all others and to see Him in all others.
For example, husbands and wives are called upon by the very Sacrament of Matrimony into which they have entered to die to self to serve the other unto his eternal good. The sacrifices and humiliations of daily living must be accepted with serenity in order to foster the joy, the peace and the charity that characterized the Holy Family of Nazareth, the model of all families, which are the domestic cells of the Church. The little “deaths” to self that spouses endure make possible the flowering of hearts that are more generous in responding to the promptings of grace to restore all things in Christ through Mary Immaculate in everything we do.
Those called to the priesthood or the consecrated religious life must die to self in an even greater way. Men called to the priesthood and men and women called to the consecrated religious life must deny their biological parenthood in order to be the spiritual father (or mother) of souls, many of whom they will not meet until eternity. That is, the actual graces that flow out into the world from each Holy Mass that a priest offers may influence souls in ways that will not be made manifest to that priest until the General Judgment of the Living and the Dead on the Last Day. Similarly, the hidden prayers offered by a hermit or a cloistered religious help to support the work of the pope and bishops and priests and parents in the Church Militant on earth and help to release the Poor Souls in the Church Suffering in Purgatory.
Total Consecration to Our Lady’s Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart teaches each of us, no matter our state in life, to die to self in every way by offering all of the good we able to accomplish by means of God’s ineffable graces, which flow to us from Our Lady as the Mediatrix of all graces, to her as her consecrated slaves. We give her also whatever evils and sufferings and humiliations we are asked to endure, happy that we can have share some small measure of the sufferings and humiliations she shared in perfect communion with those that our sins imposed upon her Divine Son in His Sacred Humanity during His Passion and Death. She, who died to self so as to give birth to us as the adopted sons and daughters of God as she stood beside the Holy Cross on Good Friday, teaches us to use every moment of our lives as an occasion to renounce self and self-interest in order to imitate the perfect self-surrender on Calvary by her Son that was made possible by her own fiat to the Father’s will at the Annunciation.
Most of the sacrifices we are asked to make in this life are relatively small. Most of the penances we endure are pretty insignificant. A simple consideration of what our sins in strict justice require us to suffer in order to make reparation for them will reveal how merciful God is to us by designing crosses that are perfectly suited for us and us alone. A soul that is disposed to accept with serenity God’s will in all things, especially in the little things of ordinary life, will be more able to rise the challenge posed by the greater demands made in situations where one must give up his physical life in defense of the Faith and/or to save the lives and, more importantly, the souls of others.
“Greater love than this no man hath, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”
It is with this in mind that the death of a one month and ten-day old infant, Susan Torres, on the morning of September 12, 2005, the Feast of the Most Holy Name of Mary in the calendar of Tradition, must be viewed.
Baby Susan Torres, who was born on August 2, 2005, was named after her mother, Susan Torres, who spent the last three nine months of her pregnancy with baby Susan in a coma following a cancer-induced stroke, was kept alive by an artificial respirator. Mrs. Susan Torres’s case became quite celebrated in the secular media as her husband Jason told the story of how his wife desired to be kept alive so as to make it possible for their child to be born and thus baptized as a member of the Catholic Church. Quite literally, Mrs. Susan Torres, who died shortly after her daughter was born, gave up her life so as to permit her child to be born and thus have the chance to die after having Original Sin flooded out of her immortal soul in Baptism and becoming closer to God than the angels in her state of Baptismal innocence and glory.
Most secular commentators saw no “purpose” in keeping Mrs. Torres alive. Indeed, some believe that the “merciful” thing to do was for her husband to let his wife and preborn daughter die “peacefully” without “artificially prolonging” Mrs. Torres’s “agony.” And, sadly, there might be a Catholic commentator or two who would reject the use of artificial means to keep Mrs. Torres alive so as to make it more possible for her preborn child to be born after she had reached the stage of viability.
Alas, this is where a Catholic must understand that the technology that exists for prolonging life artificially (extraordinary means) can be used to save souls, which is the only real purpose for its use when a competent, believing Catholic medical professional has come to a judgment that there is no chance for a patient’s physical recovery.
As Father Lawrence C. Smith noted during the needless controversy over the withdrawal of ordinary means, food and water, from the now-murdered Mrs. Theresa Marie Schindler-Schiavo, extraordinary means to sustain life must be maintained until such time as the person in question has been able, if possible, to make a good Confession of his life and to receive the Sacrament of Extreme Unction. Then and only then can one consider the removal of truly artificial, extraordinary means that keeps alive natural bodily processes that would not otherwise function.
In the specific instance of Mrs. Susan Torres, the use of extraordinary means to sustain her life during the last three months of her pregnancy made it possible for her daughter to be born, thirteen weeks premature, and Baptized, thus preparing her for the holy death that awaited her on the Feast of the Most Holy Name of Mary. Mrs. Susan Torres was kept alive to make it possible for a saint, her daughter Susan, to enjoy the glory of the Beatific Vision in Heaven for all eternity. Baby Susan Torres is now in a position to intercede for the needs of her family members on earth, as well as for her mother’s immortal soul if she is not yet in Heaven, more perfectly and more powerfully than she could ever have been if she had grown to maturity and died of an old age. Baby Susan Torres died while wearing the brilliance of her Baptismal gown.
The “world” will never understand how a Catholic can see in what are truly naturally tragic circumstances the hand of God and to be at peace in the acceptance of His Holy Will. The fact that the “world” does not see things clearly should impel us with all the more fervor and conviction to speak the truth Our Lord gave to His Apostles at the Last Supper: “Greater love hath no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends, if you do the things that I command you.”
Baby Susan Torres has received her eternal reward. She will console her grieving father, Jason Torres, and her siblings as she pleads for them by invoking the Most Holy Name of Mary, to whom she is united in an unending Easter Sunday of glory. May Baby Susan Torres help each of us to appreciate the importance of dying to self in little ways every day so that we might be readier to embrace the total giving of self that may be demanded of us at some time when we least expect it, the total self-giving of her mother, Mrs. Susan Torres, that made it possible for her own entrance into Heaven.
Our Lady of Sorrows, pray for us. Comfort the Torres family in their unspeakable grief.
Saint Gianna Mollo, who gave up her life in childbirth for her own daughter, pray that all mothers will imitate the self-surrender of Our Lady, who gave up her Son so that we might have the life that never ends in Heaven.
Saint Padre Pio, may we make our own your fervent prayer: “God is served only when He is served according to His will.”
A Prayer to Our Lady of Perpetual Help
O Mother of Perpetual Help,
grant that I may ever invoke your powerful name,
which is the safeguard of the living and the salvation of the dying.
O Purest Mary, O Sweetest Mary, let your name henceforth be ever on my lips.
Delay not, O Blessed Lady, to help me whenever I call upon you, for all my needs,
in all my temptations I shall never cease to call on you, ever repeating
your sacred name, or even only to think of you.
O What consolation, what sweetness, what confidence, what emotion
fill my soul when I pronounce your sacred name, or even only think of you.
I thank God for having given you, for my good, so sweet, so powerful, so lovely a name.
But I will not be content with merely pronouncing your name; let my love
for you prompt me ever to hail you,
Mother of Perpetual Help