Carla told her grandmother she had found a place to stay for the summer while she interned at Ernst and Young in Northern Virginia.
Her grandmother asked who she was staying with, pointing out the host family was either “very generous or very creepy.” Carla said, “It’s the Ruse family.”
Carla’s grandmother said, “Is it Austin Ruse?”
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“Yes, grandma, how would you know that?”
Her grandmother told Carla that she had volunteered at a United Nations conference in 2002 and that she attended a briefing I had given on pro-life lobbying. She said the talk changed her life, that she decided then and there to leave the TV show she hosted in Colombia and dedicate her life to the pro-life cause.
How is it, except divine providence, that I gave a talk at the U.N. and 25 years later the talk comes back to me through a young woman who wasn’t even born at the time I gave the talk? I am not making myself the hero of this story but, rather, making a point about the General Judgment. It is when we find out all sorts of things about ourselves. I’ll get to that point in a moment, but first I will tell you another story, the story about Joe Drake’s rosary.
Joe Drake’s rosary laid on his dresser in the townhouse we shared circa 1982 not far from Union Station in Washington D.C. I wasn’t Catholic then. A fallen-away Methodist at that time, I was always impressed that no matter how out of hand we may have gotten drinking beers at the Tune Inn on a Saturday night, he always went to Mass on Sunday morning.
And that rosary. I didn’t even know it was called a rosary. This mysterious thing fascinated me, almost called out to me. I picked it up once, turned it over in my hands, examined it closely. What is this thing? The image of that rosary stayed with me for years. I see it in my mind’s eye today.
At the General Judgment we are going to hear lots of stories like these two.
For those who may not remember, the Particular Judgment is when you discover immediately upon death the final disposition of your soul: Heaven (with a likely detour to Purgatory), or Hell. That’s it. You find out and you go there. Done and done. Your chances are over.
At the end of days, however, when Jesus returns, comes the General Judgment, which is when and where you find out the disposition of everyone, and you find out how they got there. It is when everything is revealed.
You will find the things large and small you did that affected others for good or ill. Someone will walk up to you and tell you a story about something you did or said that changed everything for them. You may not even know them. You may not even remember. You will find the things large and small you did that affected others for good or ill. Someone will walk up to you and tell you a story about something you did or said that changed everything for them. Tweet This
Maybe someone saw you cross yourself before eating at a diner one morning, and that got them to thinking.
Maybe someone in your office noticed you left for Mass every day at noon. You never made a big deal about it, you simply rose and left.
Maybe it will be someone who noticed the crucifix discretely laying on your desk, or that you never joined in the f-bomb humor at after-work drinks.
These moments were the beginning or maybe the final thing that sent them to confession for the first time in years or sent them to instruction in the Faith. It could be as small and as huge as that.
Of course, we should shudder to think of the stories we may hear about how we negatively affected someone on their journey home, that moment we were short of temper, or even deeply sinful. Maybe something we did or said led someone totally astray and we find they are in the eternal fire. Even this is something for us to ponder every day.
What is guaranteed is people will walk up to you in the General Judgment and tell you stories about how you affected their lives.
But we see glimpses of the General Judgment in our lives today. I gave a talk at the U.N. one day, a woman from faraway Colombia was there, she decided at that moment to dedicate her life to unborn children; 25 years later, her granddaughter stays in our house for the summer. She becomes our “summer daughter,” whom we love. That is like the General Judgment.
Joe Drake’s rosary laid on his dresser, and it sticks in my mind to this day. It was a part of my conversion. After nearly 40 years, I contacted Joe through LinkedIn and told him that story. You know what happened? He sent me a picture of the rosary and said he still says it from time to time. That is like the General Judgment.
I told Joe he ought to say it every day and not from time to time. Maybe he will come up to me at the General Judgment and tell me that admonition to say it every day was all the encouragement he needed and that it made all the difference. We shall see.
All I know is that the General Judgment will well and truly rock.