When I was much younger (and still now) when it was cold enough for the kitchen windows to frost over, I had a habit of writing the word ‘Eternity’ in cursive writing on every single window, like Arthur Stace did on the footpaths and other areas of Sydney, Australia for 35 years.
Mr Stace became known as “Mr Eternity”, and it is said that he wrote the word approximately 500,000 times over this period, demonstrating his faith in action to all who discovered his distinctive chalk handwriting, which was a miracle in itself. In an interview he spoke of his conversion experience:
“Eternity went ringing through my brain and suddenly I began crying and felt a powerful call from the Lord to write Eternity.” Even though he was illiterate and could hardly write his own name Arthur, legibly, “the word ‘Eternity’ came out smoothly, in a beautiful copperplate script. I couldn’t understand it, and I still can’t.”…After eight or nine years, he tried to write something else, “Obey God” and then five years later, “God or Sin” but he could not bring himself to stop writing the word “Eternity”. — Wikipedia – Arthur Stace
In her book, Fatima in Lucia’s own words, Sr Lucia recounted a conversation between her cousin, Jacinta Marto, and herself:
“That Lady [referring to Our Lady, the Virgin Mary] also said that many souls go to hell! What is hell, then?”
[Lucia explained then concluded:] “…They stay there and burn for ever!”
“And they never get out of there again?”
“Not even after many, many years?”
“No! Hell never ends!”
“And Heaven never ends either?”
“Whoever goes to Heaven, never leaves it again!”
“And whoever goes to Hell, never leaves it either?”
“They’re eternal, don’t you see! They never end.”
…What made the biggest impression on Jacinta was the idea of eternity…
Eternity is a difficult thing to grasp. How can something last forever and ever? There must be some sort of end! I can totally understand St Jacinta’s persistent questioning. We want conclusions. We want outcomes. We want reasons and results.
The idea of going to hell and being there forever is so frightening that we do not even want to contemplate it. But as pointed out by the Virgin Mary to the little seers at Fatima, souls do and can go there – forever. Eternity in that context is horrible, and not something you probably want to be reading about on New Year’s Eve, but I think it drives home the importance of using our free will to make the right choices now while we still have time.
Conversely, we can more easily embrace eternity if we knew with certainty (like little St Jacinta did) that we were going to Heaven. As believers and followers of Christ we hold that belief and hope close to us because He has said that He has prepared a place for us. If we remain faithful to Christ and to His teachings we can rest assured that eternity with Him will be ours.
The common factor between the recognized saints, like Jacinta, and those unofficial saints who humbly and quietly walk our streets, like Arthur Stace, is that they clearly demonstrated by their lives and actions where our eternity should be. They were so certain of God’s existence and that we must all be with Him forever, that they undertook what we may perceive to be extreme actions and sacrifices. They had a fire burning so deeply within their hearts for God, and had a sense of urgency about them for all souls to repent and turn to God, because they did not want souls to be lost. Not one. Their pleadings still reach out to us across time to today.
I often find this time of year to be very poignant. Just before midnight I will continue my little routine of going outside and looking at the stars in a clear Summer night sky as the old year ends. I think of the souls that have left us and the events that have taken place around the world. I will direct a prayer up into the Heavens.
Where does time go? What have we done this year? What is to come? No one knows but God. What I do know is that our eternity must be with Him. We must take His hand at midnight and walk forward with Him.
Please light a little candle for the world and say a prayer, wherever you are, for God to bless us with His peace and mercy as we enter 2018.
Image Credit: Aluminium replica Eternity at Town Hall Square, Sydney, Australia (resized, partially blurred background), Sardaka 09:13, 2 May 2008 (UTC) (Own work) [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons