José Luis Martín Descalzo is a priest, a journalist, and a Spanish writer from a profoundly Christian family in which he was the youngest of four siblings. He completed degrees in History and Theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. He was ordained a priest in 1953. He worked as a professor and director of a chamber theater company. During the Second Vatican Council he was a press correspondent.
As a journalist he directed various magazines and a television program. He wrote a number of literary works, the most well known are: “Life and Mystery of Jesus of Nazareth”, “Reasons to Live”, “Reasons for Hope”, “Reasons for Joy”, “Reasons for Love”, and “Reasons from Beyond”, which compile many articles that are based on real events and daily life.
He was entirely devoted to the priesthood; he sought to be faithful to his vocation with profound simplicity. From his youth he suffered severe heart and kidney diseases which caused him to undergo dialysis for many years. He lived completely in the moment, continually spreading hope, until his death in Madrid on June 11, 1991. Here we present the last article before his death, a letter to God, a precious text worthy of being pondered and shared.
Thank you. This word could sum up this card to you God, “my love”, because that is all that I have to tell you: thank you, thank you. Looking back from the mountain top of my 55 years what do I see except the endless mountains of your love? In my history there is no region which is not illuminated by your mercy to me. There has never existed a time in which I did not experience your loving, fatherly presence caressing my soul.
Even yesterday I received a card from a friend who had just heard about my health problems. She wrote me furiously, “A huge load of rage invaded my whole being, and I rebelled against God for allowing people like you to suffer.” Poor thing! Her affection does not let her see the truth. While I am no more important than anybody, my whole life is a testimony to two things, being and faith. In my 55 years I have suffered more than a few times at the hands of people; I have received curses and ingratitude, loneliness and misunderstanding. However, from you have received nothing but endless gestures of affection, including my latest sickness.
First you gave me being, the marvel of being human. The joy of experiencing the beauty of the world. The joy of being part of the human family. The joy of knowing that, in the end, if I put everything in a balance the cuts and bruises will always be far less than the tremendous love which these same people have put on the other side of the balance in my life. Have I been more fortunate than others? Probably. Now, how could I pretend to be a martyr of humanity knowing for certain that I have had more help and understanding than difficulties?
Furthermore, you accompanied the gift of being with the gift of faith. In my childhood I felt your presence at all hours. You seemed very gentle to me. Your name never frightened me. You planted a fabulous capacity in my soul: the capacity to know that I am loved, to feel that I am loved, to experience your presence daily in the passing of each hour. There are some people, I know, who curse the day of their birth, who scream at you that they did not ask to be born. I did not request it either, because I did not exist prior to that. But knowing what my life has been, I would have implored, begging for existence, this same one which you have given me.
I suppose that it was absolutely necessary to be born in the family you chose for me. Today I would give everything I possess just to have the parents and siblings which I had. All of them were living witnesses to the presence of your love. Through them I learned so easily who you are. Thanks to them loving you, and loving others became so much easier. It would have been absurd not to love you. It would have been difficult to live in bitterness. Happiness, faith, and trust were like the custard which my mother infallibly served after supper, something which would certainly be provided. If it wasn’t served it was simply because eggs weren’t available that day, not because love was lacking. I also learned that pain was part of the game. Not a curse but part of the price of living, something which would never be enough to take away our joy.
Thanks to all this, now, I feel ashamed to say it, pain does not hurt me, nor does bitterness make me bitter. Not because I am brave but simply because ever since my childhood I have learned to contemplate the positive aspects of life and to take the dark aspects in stride. It turns out that when they come they aren’t so dark but just a little gray. Another friend writes to me these days saying that I will be able to endure dialysis “getting drunk on God”. This seems a little excessive and melodramatic to me. Because ever since my childhood, I have “gotten drunk” on your normal presence, God, and in you I always feel ironclad against suffering. Or perhaps it is because true pain has not arrived.
Sometimes I think that I have had “too much good luck”. The saints offered you great things. I have never had anything important to offer you. I fear that, at the hour of my death, I am going to have the same thought that my mother had when she passed. The thought of dying with empty hands because nothing you sent me was unbearable. Not even the loneliness or the desolation which you give to those who are truly yours. I’m sorry, but what do I do if you have never abandoned me? Sometimes I am ashamed thinking that I will die without having been at your side in the Garden of Olives, without having had my agony in Gethsemane. It’s just that you, I don’t know why, never took me away from Palm Sunday. Sometimes, in my heroic dreams, I have even thought that I would have liked to have a crisis of faith in order to prove myself to you. They say that authentic faith is proved in the crucible. I have never encountered any crucible other than your caressing hands.
It’s not that I have been better than others. Sin lurks within me. You and I both know how deeply. The truth is even in the worst times I have not fully experienced the black shadow of evil thanks to your constant light. Even in misery I have still been yours. In fact, your love for me seemed to increase when I made more mistakes.
I also presumed on you during times of persecution and difficulty. You know that even in human things there were always more good people at my side than traitors. For every incomprehension I received ten smiles. I had the good fortune that evil never did me harm. Most importantly it never made me bitter inside. Even bad experiences increased my desire to become better and resulted in unexpected friendships.
Later you gave me my astonishing vocation. To be a priest is impossible, you know that. But it is also marvelous, I know that. Today I certainly don’t have the enthusiasm of young love as in the first days. But fortunately, the Mass has never become a mere routine, and I still tremble during every confession I still know the unsurpassable joy of being able to help people and the joy of being able to proclaim your name to them. You know, I still weep reading the parable of the prodigal son. Thanks to you, I still am moved every time I recite that portion of the Creed which speaks of your passion and death.
Naturally, the greatest of your gifts was your Son, Jesus. Even if f I had been the most miserable person, if misery had pursued me in every part of my life, I know that I would only have had to remember Jesus to overcome them. Knowing that you have been one of us reconciles me with all of our failures and emptiness. How is it possible to be sad knowing that you have walked upon this planet? How could I want more tenderness than meditating on the face of Mary?
I have certainly been happy. How could I not be? I have been happy here, even outside the glory of Heaven. Look, you know that I am not afraid of death, but I’m not in a hurry to get there either. Will I be able to be any closer to you there than I am now? This is the marvel: we have Heaven from the moment that we are able to love you. My friend Cabodevilla was on to something when he said, “We are going to die without knowing which is the greatest of your gifts, that you love us or that you allow us to love you.”
For this reason it pains me greatly to know people who do not value their lives. Indeed, we are doing something infinitely greater than our own nature, loving you, collaborating with you in the construction of a great edifice of love!
It is difficult for me to say that we give you glory here. That’s too much! I am content believing that resting my head in your hands gives you the opportunity to love me. It makes me laugh a little that you are going to give us Heaven as a reward. A reward for what? You are clever. You give us Heaven and give us the impression that we deserved it. You know very well that love can only be repaid with love. Happiness is not the consequence or the fruit of love. Love is in itself alone, happiness. Knowing that you are my Father is Heaven. Of course you don’t have to give me anything, loving you is itself a gift. You can’t give me more.
For all of this, my God, I have wanted to talk about you and with you in this final page of my “Reasons for Love”. You are the ultimate and the only reason for my love. I have none others. How could I have any hope without you? What would my joy be founded on if I lacked you? What tasteless wine would my love become if it were not a reflection of your love? You give strength and life to everything. I know very well that my only task as a person is to repeat and repeat your name. With that, I take my leave.