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She prays.

Slowly, her veined hand moves across his sunken chest. No longer is there a heartbeat. He is gone. Unfathomable peace suffuses his shriveled remains. Within that sacred moment she rests—fulfilled are her vows of almost seven years, pronounced that festive afternoon in their parish church where they had met at daily Mass, their snowy hair enhancing their flushed faces. Afterwards, merriment enlivened their white-tent reception filled with families and friends. It was all about love with its inherent sacrifices.

She prays.

Of little consequence, now, were his temper tantrums, rigid judgments, blaming—behaviors exacerbated by his Parkinson’s Dementia, three years into the marriage. Of little consequence was his frequent need in the middle of the night to pack his things in a pillowcase and go home. Of little consequence was his emptying the contents of the kitchen drawers into the refrigerator, of flooding the bathroom floor. Of little consequence was his violent reaction to placement in a skilled nursing facility, despite painstaking preparations. Now, he lives in eternal life and that’s all that matters.

She prays. Her eyes glisten.

Salted by keen suffering, she lives the mandate of Jesus Christ to be “the salt of the earth.”

Her name is Mary.

 

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This week, many in the Christian world remember.

More than two centuries ago, a misfit was hounded to death on a cross atop a steep hill outside the city walls. Before sundown, friends removed his desiccated remains to a nearby cave for burial, then huddled together in secrecy lest they be discovered. Days of indescribable angst followed. The third day, several women sought out their beloved, only to find the tomb empty and an angel proclaiming his resurrection.

Empowered by this phenomenon, this man’s followers spread his teaching throughout the world. Deep joy spirited their footsteps toward neighboring villages; its flame ignited those who were receptive to its transforming message of littleness and service. Merriment tickled psyches, drew broad smiles.

But as with such divine in-breakings, its fire flickered. Materialism, secularism, and hedonism spawned other sophistries that undermined the humility and truth and simplicity, the very foundations of this life path. The pursuit of comfort and prestige and power became paramount, no matter the misery, even bloodshed, of those in the way.

Even the reforms of the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) did little to deter this spiritual malaise.

Like “The Fool on the Hill,” alone, scorned, ignored, the Crucified still looks through the eyes of the poor, the afflicted, the harassed. He cannot stay away. These are his people and they know it.

But there’s more to this picture. Such suffering passes; within its wake easters in unfathomable LIFE. We are invited to participate, even now, within moments of grace.

 

 

Helplessness, searing bone pain, and fog-brain reduced me to total dependence upon others following last summer’s fall. It also shut down my egoic mind: I was no longer in control—of anything. Suddenly many helpers filled my waking hours; their cues prompted my snail-like return to life.

Dreams of healthy functioning gave way to long hours of exercise atop my bed. Indeed, they became a prayer, of sorts, while therapists eyed my weekly progress and urged more challenging stretches. My leg muscles, atrophied from the hip surgery, began to wake up. My elbow and shoulder stiffness lessened. I could dress myself again. Even neighbors applauded my progress during supervised walks with my cane around the court.

However, all this changed the morning of July twenty-ninth when I awoke to a one- inch-discrepancy in the length of my legs that skewed my balance. There followed a modified exercise program, chiropractic adjustments, and healing massages. After weeks of no change, I consulted my surgeon. An x-ray revealed the displacement of the three pins in my hip, and more surgery was indicated.

During the lengthy work-up of tests and x-rays, I again shut down. Within the ensuing silence I discovered I was still controlling my return to health. Somehow, my Healing Presence was taking orders from me. And when the November first surgery was rescheduled to the seventeenth, I finally surrendered.

The irony of this experience was not lost on me: Unfolding within the wake of last summer’s fall have been untold spiritual riches I probably would have not experienced had I been well enough to attend my annual retreat on the New England coast. Perhaps next September …

 

 

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