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Via Media

There is nothing I shall want

A couple of weeks ago, a memorial Mass for Michael was held here in Birmingham at the Cathedral. The bishop presided and offered a very nice, even charming homily in which he first focused on the Scripture readings of the day, and then turned to Michael, whom he remembered, among other things, as one who continually encouraged him, among other things, to keep his preaching rooted in the Scriptures.

I blogged about that before, and once the archives have moved over here, I will guide you there, if you are interested.

(Update: It’s this post.)

The Responsorial Psalm at the Mass was Psalm 23.

The Lord is my Shepherd. There is nothing I shall want.


As I sat there listening and attempting to join my weak, unenthusiastic voice to the others, a question came to me.

There is nothing I shall want.

Really? I thought. Do I really believe that right now?

I have written before and will write more at length in the near future about how Michael’s death has body-slammed me into confronting the nature and content of my faith, this faith about which I write and speak, which I have been paid to communicate off and on for a couple of decades now.

There are various dimensions to that challenge. The most obvious is that of mourning loss. Doss the reality of Michael’s physical absence overwhelm my faith in the Resurrection? Am I actually no better than the pagans in my response?


The other dimension is that of the sufficiency of God. As I have written before, in my prayer, which is centered on the prayer of the Church – the Liturgy of the Hours, the Mass, and then the rosary – I am forced to center my focus, not on my own loss, but on God’s glory, mercy and my hope and trust in him. This is no surprise, intellectually speaking. It was the whole point of an entire book that I wrote – The Words We Pray.

But now ideas, theories and intellectually-accepted notions confront cologne, clothes, shoes and Jacksonville Jaguar hats untouched now for almost five weeks. They confront absolute silence in a bedroom in the darkness of night, a silence undisturbed by breathing, shifting presence on the other side of the bed.

God is God…The Lord is my shepherd…is there really nothing else I shall want?

No one?

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posted March 5, 2009 at 11:34 am

Jesus wanted. He wanted somebody near him, awake and praying in the Garden when he was “alone” and in anguish in the dark. But they were asleep.
I wanted to also add-
You may be as surprised about this as I was but… you are my penance. I just came back to the Catholic Church after 20 years and I am starting from scratch and going through RCIA. I just had my “First” revert Reconciliation I guess you would call it. I sat nervously in the pews waiting with my 7 and 12 year old, who were much more calm than I. When it was finally my turn, I braced for the mountain of “Hail Mary’s” or whatever else I would need to do or say for being away from the Church for so long. Instead my priest, a wonderfully insightful person, told me about your blog and your books and said to read your writing for my penance. I am a writer also and he thought I would gain something from reading your work. I have.
Thank you. I’m glad to be back Home.

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posted March 5, 2009 at 12:19 pm

FWIW, a better translation would be “I shall not want FOR ANYTHING” or “I shall lack nothing,” ie., “God will supply all my needs.”
IOW, it’s not about “wants,” but about “needs.”
The question then becomes, “What do you need? What is a need?”
If you’re a sheep, I guess, you need green pastures, still waters, repose, like that.
There is regular need, and there is crisis need. A husband and wife “need” one another; need to spend time together. But if one is bereaved of the other, what does she need then? What does it mean to one in mourning that God will supply all our needs?
Grace in every hour for that hour?

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posted March 5, 2009 at 12:22 pm

Want is such a huge word in the English language. I don’t think the translation (want) improves the meaning of that sentence. Desire, strive, improve, anticipate, even demand, without putting a hole in yourself that you will never be filled properly. God will provide for your needs, over provide, and you will live abundantly, but not without loss, not without expecting more to come.
Want is wanting your old life back. A hole that nothing can ever fill, as it is gone. You have been moved from a green pasture. You will go down to the river and drink, and there will be a new pasture on the other shore. Living in the expectation of Grace and abundant life isn’t “want,” it is believing the promises of God.

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Your Name

posted March 5, 2009 at 1:29 pm

I found your “Charlotte was Both” blog right after the death of your husband which was 1 day after the 4th anniversary of my 6 year old son’s death. I think “want” can be what we should want. Did I want my son to leave us? No, of course not, but isn’t he where I was raising him to be? As hard as it is for me, I have to remember that my son did not belong to me and my husband, but to the Lord. Yes, we miss him terribly, but my hope is that we did our job and he prays for us with Jesus even now.

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bill bannon

posted March 5, 2009 at 1:43 pm

I think the passage in the deepest sense is only about not wanting for the things necessary to salvation. Period.
Poor people in Peru are already poor and then they are hit by a mudslide and half a family is lost. Were they sinners? If so why do not the ponzi scheme Bernard Madoff’s of the world ever get hit by mudslides? Nothing is harder to accept than the dissonances and evils that God permits by His consequent will.
A Chinese mother two weeks past has to identify a four year old daughter who has been crushed by a van against a building along with a Spanish boy as they were holding hands and returning to day care in NY…and that mother has to look at her angel in a disgusting and horrible transmutation that will never leave her imagination totally. There is no way that will leave her ever fully. Relatives of murder victims say the same thing. There is no closure. Your experience is technically more beneficent than theirs but alot depends on sensitivity. Many people have been tortured longer than Christ was… but Aquinas noted that His was the worst suffering because He had a perfect sensitivity of the human nature.
The New Testament says to help “widows in their tribulation”….it does not say to urge them to get over it. For some that may happen and for some that can become their daily cross which they are to carry….for 1 year or 10 years or 20 years…each according to their charism and the part it plays in the salvation of someone involved. One of your sons may 27 years from now in a particular situation under temptation…he may choose the saintly choice due to Michael having left now rather than later. Michael being where he is and seeing your lives as Aquinas thought was the case…will be praying always at the right moments for those sons and you.
Salvation is the bottom line and I have no doubt that disgusting as it was that a 4 year old was crushed in Chinatown….someone’s salvation stands the chance of being positively affected for the better years from now precisely by this horror or rather God’s use of this horror. In the crushing case of the four year old, I…could be incorrect….but I believe that it is directly from the devil who in the book of Job uses a wind storm to kill Job’s relatives…though the chaos resulting from the Fall might be sufficient even herein…but he can be involved. But only if God allows it as He does in Job.
If “I shall not want” were to mean getting rid of our daily cross, then God is contradicting God and St.Jerome said in such cases, we have misunderstood one of the texts in question. Christ said to take up our cross daily….I shall not want…take up your cross daily….I shall not want….take up your cross daily. Both must be accepted.

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Jeff Grace

posted March 5, 2009 at 2:03 pm

Of course you still want what you love…! Nothing wrong with that. Your want and need is God-given. The thing we (at least it’s true for me!) spend our entire lives learning is that have it. All that you love and need and seems gone now is still here. I truly believe that when we die, we become one with God… so what you love and need in Michael is still here… just as real as God presence, for that’s where he is now… in all that we see, touch, hear and smell every day. Everything we smell, touch, and feel is imbued with Presence.

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Redneck Catholic

posted March 5, 2009 at 2:09 pm

I have been reading a lurking on your blogs for several years now. I don’t comment much, for two reasons: We are seperated by serval years of education and about a dozen and a halk IQ points, this is out of my league. And, I’m just a lot harsher than anyone I see here who isn’t nuts. (yes, I realize the implicaiton!)
But I was saddened by your loss, and am very glad that you will continue to blog. Your blog, “Open Book”, had a lot to do with me returning to the faith. thank you.

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Your Name

posted March 5, 2009 at 2:22 pm

“He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” Colossians 1:17 Or as the evening prayer canticle is said: “In him all things continue in being.”
As I walked with my dad through his terminal illness and death, and then began the journey forward without him, that terrible gone-ness hit me over and over. I couldn’t call dad and chat about the thunderstorm that just passed by. I would never sit in the fishing boat with him again. I wanted to do those things again. I wanted him back in our lives. I wanted what was and “what was” is now past forever in this life.
We were created for communion. It is death, which was never God’s will, that wrenches that communion apart. I feel that God, in all of the prayers of the Church, has us keep our hearts focused on Him not because He doesn’t want us to think about and love and miss the people we have lost, but because it is in Him that eternal communion exists. In Him, the past is not past but part of the eternal “now.” In Him, the ones we love continue in being.
This world separates. This world passes. Our hope and trust is in God, who is love and is perfect communion. It seems we need that constant reminder.
Love to you, Amy. I have followed your story with sadness and prayers, and look for insights into my own questions about these matters through your beautiful writing. God Bless.

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posted March 5, 2009 at 2:47 pm

Seriously, how does it feel when you know you are saying, doing and writing what you were meant to be?

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Patricia Gonzalez

posted March 5, 2009 at 3:38 pm

Thank you, Amy, and you also, fellow commenters, for what you’ve written here today. The words are comforting, strengthening, and knowing that they come out of your own terrible loss gives them more resonance. God bless you all for the good you’ve done — unbeknownst to yourselves. And, of course, may God continue to bless and strengthen you and your family, Amy. You’re in my prayers frequently.

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posted March 5, 2009 at 4:08 pm

Isn’t the meaning more “lack,” rather than “desire?”

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posted March 5, 2009 at 4:33 pm

Christ said to take up our cross daily….I shall not want…take up your cross daily….I shall not want….take up your cross daily. Both must be accepted.

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Chris Sullivan

posted March 5, 2009 at 5:12 pm

There is nothing I shall want.
Doesn’t the word “shall” indicate a future tense ?
I mean, I’m sure there are lots of things all of right now are in want of.
But that won’t always be the case.
And our lack of what we want now is in some sense part of the process of getting from here to there.
God Bless

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Gerard Nadal

posted March 5, 2009 at 9:56 pm

We were both born in the same summer of 1960, so I believe that we’ve probably shared many of the same experiences of loss in our grandparental and parental generations, as well as in our own, though I have not suffered what you have this past month.
God sent so many wonderful people into my life who have made me very much the person I am today, and now they’re gone. The person most influential in my early adult years, a Priest who has been another father, best friend and mentor now sits in a nursing home with advanced Alzheimer’s disease and no longer recognizes me during my weekly visits. Then there is the issue of my son’s autism of which I wrote on Charlotte’s Web.
In all of these experiences of loss and the bewilderment, I have often contemplated the 23rd Psalm. Other translations say “there is nothing I shall need. The message that has always come back to me in prayer is 2 Corinthians 12:9
“And he hath said unto me, ‘My grace is sufficient for thee: for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”
I realize that’s cold consolation at this moment in your life, but even now I see the power of Christ working in your grief and ministering to others. If my own experiences are a guide, I suspect that as Jesus’ power is perfected in your weakness, it will strengthen and heal your deep wound.
God Bless.

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bill bannon

posted March 5, 2009 at 10:13 pm

You’re welcome Elmo.

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Susan Stabile

posted March 6, 2009 at 5:48 am

Every day my prayer includes the St. Ignatius’ Suscipe. To paraphrase: Take, Lord and receive everything I have; you’ve given it all to me and I freely return it all to you. Your love and your grace is enough for me.
I pray it every day. Some days I feel like I really mean it. Some days I come close to meaning it. And some days…probably more dyas…I pray for the grace to really mean it.

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posted March 6, 2009 at 8:58 am

“He was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.”
I spoke about this to several priests and it throws them — “What about the suffering of the Father? That moment on the cross ‘My God, my God — why have you abandoned me?'” If it was a real separation — which it must have been — then the Father knows grief and loss.
How can God know loss?
How can God know us — be one with us — if He does not know real loss?
Or — to turn it around in its proper mystical perspective — how can be know God — be one with God — if we do not come to know real loss?
Both you and your husband — and your children — are having that “need” fulfilled. And like God, you will be one again in every way.
I heard someone say the other day about a medical condition — “There will be pain — but pain isn’t the worst thing in the world.”
I wanted to say — “Yes it is — that’s why they call it ‘pain’.”

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Your Name

posted March 8, 2009 at 9:34 am

I just wanted to add that after my seventeen year old son died, I could not speak that words of the Mass either (without crying). I could not say the “Allelluia” – I would just mouth the words – after all, God took from me the one thing in this whole universe that I did not want him to take. How could I be joyful about that?

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posted June 4, 2011 at 12:08 pm

I think it means God is enought. He is all that we need to survive this world. With him, we can have faith, love, hope and peace. I think what you feel when you say or do what you want is a sense of serenity and fulfillment because finally you have found your place in this life.

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michael collins

posted September 21, 2011 at 4:02 pm

i don’t even know if this place is active anymore…last posting is from 2009…but i’ll try anyway, because i know of no other way to share my thoughts w/ u…and this has nothing 2 do w/ those postings…anyway, a note to amy herself… i have 3 of ur “prove it” books…enjoyed them all…but have a problem with the “God” one…it is the fundamental weakness i find in almost all books on apologetics… we think we prove God exists by proving the arguments against it 2 b false!!that is only half the battle…yes doing that is needed…but what about the opposite… why do we believe that God does exist…i believe that God really does exist because of reasons 1,2,3,4,etc. someone, somewhere needs 2 do this. maybe as a community we can do this…all can post their reason(s) why they believe God exists…eventually 4 a new book…or at least a greater understanding…so when a student in ur CCD class – or anyone else 4 that matter – sez “how do i know God is 4 real?” we have something to offer!…i once heard of a priest who was asked this, and his answer was 2 the effect “if u don’t believe, u don’t belong here”…4 shame …and he became the DRE!! 2 boot…i once came up with a list of nine reasons why i believe God exists on the blackboard…i wish 2 this day i had written them down…can’t recall all them since…so, waddya think amy? or anyone else out there? what we gonna do? why do u believe god exists?

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