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Vale of Tears

August 12, 2020
Capuchin Retreat
Pietà by Michelangelo

By Fr. Tom Zelinski, OFM Cap.

In the traditional prayer to the Blessed Mother, the Salve Regina or “Hail, Holy Queen,” we refer to ourselves as “mourning and weeping in this vale of tears.” When I was much younger and more naive, I used to think of this as too negative an attitude about our lives and religion. Too heavy. Too sad.

As St. Augustine said, “we are Easter People and ‘Alleluia’ is our song.” I wanted that to be more my attitude. But as life has gone on, I have come to realize that there is indeed a lot about life that is a “vale of tears,” and we don’t need to deny that. For many people, this year has been a “vale of tears,” and difficult things keep happening.

As challenging as it has been, it may be good for us to recognize that history is full of difficult things: there have always been famines and plagues and wars and all sorts of personal suffering. But, also, down through the centuries, there have been millions of good, kind, and compassionate people. And we have the same today. Life remains a mixture of the good and the not so good.

Besides the “vale of tears, ” the Bible reminds us to rejoice, as part of our Christian faith. St. Paul says “Rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again: rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4) Always. We feel the “vale of tears.” We still find reason to rejoice because we are living in union with God who is love.

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