In hac lacrimarum valle,” Fr. Nick quoted as one of our foursome drove the ball from the second tee. We were playing a particularly hilly golf course, and the ball had found a gully near a stream, leading us to believe that ball had been lost. The latin line that Fr. Nick quoted was from the ‘Salve Regina’, or ‘Hail Holy Queen.’ In English, the phrase was ‘in this valley of tears,’ coming from the whole line of ‘to thee we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this valley of tears,’ and was addressing our Blessed Mother. While Fr. Nick’s quote was in jest at a golf shot that deserved a better fate than lost in a gully, his quick wit caused the phrase to become one of meditation in my mind. 

I had always noted that it was a strange phrase whenever I prayed the ‘Hail, Holy Queen,’ but as with many memorized Catholic prayers, I had never slowed down enough to actually meditate on the words. However, as I have sat with the words and prayed them with the heart of someone who desires heaven, the truth behind the words have made themselves evident. 

In our comfortable American lifestyle, we tend to be very complacent in the world, accepting it as our home. Sure, there are issues all around us, but as a whole, many of us have had the experience of nearly always having our needs met, only missing our own wants or desires. We would like to experience more pleasures, security, or entertainment, but when push comes to shove we are thankful that we live in our first world country with so many opportunities (despite any flaws it may have). Thus, we focus on our earthly life rather than our heavenly hope.

We think that the world is good. And it is good. God created it good. But the wealth and comfort of our country has distracted us from the joys of heavens and  blinded many of us from seeing the world as it truly is: broken. Yet, we do not have to look too far to see this reality. Wars, violence, crime, extreme poverty, and depression are just some of the brokenness that we see everyday. Tragedies happen, lives are lost, peace is fleeting. We are in a valley of tears. 

Why? Well the ‘Hail, Holy Queen’ answered that question for us in the previous line: ‘To the we cry, poor banished children of Eve.’ Adam and Eve were banished from the Garden of Eden after their first sin. Their sin caused them to be separated from God. It caused them to enter into brokenness. They were not made to be apart from God. Rather, they were made to be with Him, in His presence for eternity. But sin not only caused their relationship with God to be broken, but also their relationship with each other was fractured. From that point to this day, we have inherited their sinful ways. This world is broken. No matter how much we attempt to shield ourselves from the brokenness of the world, we will feel it throughout our lives. The universal human experience is suffering. No one can escape it. We truly are in a valley of tears. 

But this is what makes the lenten season so exciting! God, in His infinite goodness, decided to descend into our valley of tears, share in our sufferings without being broken Himself, and raise us up to His adopted sons and daughters. The person of Jesus (whose name means to save) rescues us from our brokenness so that at our death, we may enter into true life, the life we were meant to live.

What does this mean for us? We need to remember that we are in this valley of tears, and it is not our home. God has created us for something greater. All of us. We are called to enter into the life of Jesus so that we endure the brokenness of this world with Him. It is only through Him that we can escape the valley of tears. We are called to get to know Him in the Bible, show love to Him in our neighbors and enemies, and receive Him in the sacraments. In doing so, we will rise with Him, never to be broken again. Because in the new heaven and earth, God will wipe away every tear from our eyes and death will be no more (Revelation 21:4). The valley of tears will be no more.