Tuesday, July 28, 2009

My last supper...change in surgery time

First of all, there has been a change in the surgery time. Surgery will begin at 11am and go until approximately 3pm.

Today has been quite the day. We left home at 7am and arrived in Columbus at noon. Luckily the hotel had our room ready so we were able to check right in. I say luckily, because I was supposed to start my "bowel prep" at noon. I can not even begin to tell you how much "fun" an afternoon of citrate of magnesium and Dulcolax tablets has been. Oh goodie. I have no idea what we would have done had the room not been ready when we got here. :) Add to that the clear liquid diet that I'm on all day (yes, that means that I had to throw out the four entire batches of Jello I made at 11pm last night because I realized they were colored and didn't fit my required diet) and I've pretty much just sat here in the room, slept and read...and well, considering the "bowel prep" you know what else I've been doing on a regular basis. :) (God bless a hubby who calls you from the drugstore wanting to know if you want the "Cars" or "Disney Princess" wipes....love it!)

But the book I started reading today has been a very good read. It's Padre Pio: Man of Hope by Renzo Allegri. Beatified by the Catholic Church on May 22, 1999 and canonized June 16, 2002 Padre Pio of Pietrelcina was a Capuchin monk and mystic whose life was marked with miracles and wonders. In describing these miracles and wonders, the book has a passage that I found to be striking to me, especially as I consider what is before me tomorrow and beyond:

These events [the miracles and wonders] are difficult to explain because they are closely related to the mystery of the passion and death of Jesus Christ. According to the teachings of the Catholic Church, God in his infinite love wanted to save men through the sacrifice of his only Son. The Church also teaches that a Christian, through his own suffering, can "participate" in this sacrifice, thereby "continuing" this work of salvation. Reflecting on this mystery, some particularly holy souls offer themselves up as victims so that they might be like Christ, and God has accepted their sacrifice by allowing them to experience in their bodies the physical suffering that Christ endured on the cross.

Learning how to freely offer up suffering as a gift to God is something that will most likely take the rest of my life to learn. I don't want to go looking for suffering (few do), but rather to learn how to carry that suffering that is already in my life with grace and a thankful heart. One thing I do know, however, is that we each have crosses in our own lives and that they can truly be transformed when we unite them to the Cross of Christ. It isn't easy, but it is a real promise. He alone can transform our suffering into something beautiful.

Pope John Paul II was an incredible example of this. I know of some people who were sickened seeing him over the years presiding over events in his deteriorating condition. They felt that it was cruel to "parade a dying man around" and found it too painful to watch and wondered why he didn't just retreat from the public eye to die in peace. To me, his courageous suffering was his final gift to us--a lesson on how to suffer with Christ...a lesson on the dignity and inherent worth of every single human life from conception until natural death. In his life under both Nazi and then later Communist rule, he certainly was no stranger to suffering, and in 1984 he gave us a beautiful encyclical entitled On the Christian Meaning of Human Suffering and then as his final gift of love to us, he exemplified this message of the Gospels with his very life.

All of this reflection brought to mind a quote from John Paul II regarding the transforming power of the cross in relation to human suffering. It was taken from a time when he spoke to the sick outside the Shrine of Jasna Gora in Poland:

Dear brothers and sisters, every contact with you, no matter where it has taken place in the past or takes place today, has been a source of deep spiritual emotion for me. I have always felt how insufficient were the words that I could speak to you and with which I could express my human compassion. I have the same impression today also, I feel the same way always. But there remains the one dimension, the one reality in which human suffering is essentially transformed. This dimension, this reality, is the cross of Christ. On His cross the Son of God accomplished the redemption of the world. It is through this mystery that every cross placed on someone’s shoulders acquires a dignity that is humanly inconceivable and becomes a sign of salvation for the person who carries it and also for others. “In my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s affliction” (Col 1:24), wrote St. Paul.

Therefore, uniting myself with all of you who are suffering throughout the land of Poland, in your homes, in the hospitals, the clinics, the dispensaries, the sanatoria---wherever you may be—I beg you to make use of the cross that has become part of each one of you for salvation. I pray for you to have light and spiritual strength in your suffering, that you may not lose courage but may discover for yourselves the meaning of suffering and may be able to relieve others by prayer and sacrifice. And do not forget me and the whole of the Church, and the cause of the Gospel and peace that I am serving by Christ’s will. You who are weak and humanly incapable, be a source of strength for your brother and father who is at your side in prayer and heart.

Father John A. Hardon, S.J. commented on Pope John Paul II's words saying:

These are the words of a father who understands. They are also the words of Christ’s Vicar teaching the suffering faithful to profit from the cross they bear and unite their trials with Jesus.

What is the Pope also saying? He is emphasizing the value of pain, when joined with prayer, in moving the heart of God. Prayer, all prayer, is always efficacious. But prayer takes on extraordinary power to win graces, for the one praying and for all mankind, when it is united with patient suffering.

Indeed, suffering is already a prayer, when humbly accepted from the hands of God and offered to God—as Christ’s prayer on the Cross—in patient resignation to a divine will.

Thank you for your continued support and prayers. Please pray that I too will be able to humbly accept and offer to God any suffering that comes my way, not only tomorrow, but for always.

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