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Tom Scotus

March or Die!

French Foreign Legion - Flickr Image by: Snapshooter46March or Die! is the title of a 1970s movie about the French Foreign Legion. The Foreign Legion is a very tough organization. I can imagine their officers yelling at their troops, who were often battle scarred, hungry, and exhausted, “March or die!”

As you might know, the German army laid siege to the Russian city of Leningrad during World War II. They did not let food or other supplies enter the beleaguered city. Soon, the people starved and began to die by the thousands. One survivor said that every morning during the brutal siege he got out of bed, shaved, washed, and performed other routine chores. He then went out to forage for scraps of food. Given the horrible and seemingly hopeless situation, many people did not see the point of such struggle. Those people, he said, invariably died.

Our lives, in such an affluent and peaceful nation as Canada, may not seem as challenging. Most of us earn enough money to afford a fairly comfortable lifestyle. Even those who are unable or unwilling to work are, for the most part, fed, clothed and sheltered. However, in order to really succeed in life, not merely survive, we must struggle.

People who are unwilling to face their fears, work hard, make sacrifices and persevere often lose their marriages, their reputations, their health, their financial wellbeing, their lives and their souls. Or, at least, they never really succeed. There is a call centre near my place of employment. Every weekday I see a young woman on crutches go to her job there. I suppose she could easily get a government disability pension, but she chooses to be self-reliant. A middle-aged guy I know does collect a disability pension, even though he regularly plays golf and hockey. Unsurprisingly, he is single and lives in his mom’s basement. Which kind of person would you rather emulate?

I knew a man who had a fairly easy job at a railway. Once he retired, on a good pension, he became a “couch potato” and grew fat. When the doctor told him he was terminally ill, he just went home and waited to die. Someone else I knew, after a very productive and rewarding life, was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Still, she dressed nicely every day, put on a brave smile and attended weekly Mass. Yes, eventually she died too, but whom would you rather emulate?

You may be in a very tough marriage. You may have lost your job -- again. You may have chronic health problems or unruly kids. You may be addicted to sinful habits that you can’t seem to overcome. I’ve also struggled with some of these issues. Life is hard; succeeding at life is even harder. There are many compassionate people, organizations and government agencies that can provide help, but at the end of the day, whether I sink or swim will depend on me. God won’t give up on me, unless I give up on Him and on myself. I believe you and I can succeed, really succeed, if we have true faith in God, work hard and never give up. When I feel like just “throwing in the towel” and “tapping out” on life, I pretend that a Foreign Legion officer is yelling into my ear, “March or die!”