Saving Treyden: The Final Chapter

Saving Treyden 2These are some of the saddest words I have ever read, which appeared today on Facebook, Saving Treyden:

With a heavy heart I am so very sad to share that treydens MRI results showed something that none of us were expecting. There shows an extreme amount of leukemia in his brain and spinal cavity. The doctors told us there is nothing more we can do. Devastated doesn’t even come close to what we are feeling… I have no words we are currently in route to go back home and be surround by all the love that we all three desperately need.
I cannot thank you all enough for your love and support we will need it more than ever with the days to come
Much love the Kurtzweils

They are now on their way home from St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital. These courageous people whom I have never met have fought so hard for their brave little man. So many, many good people have pledged their prayers for Treyden and his family. I simply could not let myself believe that God would not give us the answer we all sought. This without regard that the CCC clearly says “even the most intense prayers do not always obtain the healing of all illnesses.”

I still have faith that God answers all our prayers, although sometimes He doesn’t answer them in the way we would like or understand. He acts for our good. The wisdom of man is folly to God. Who are we to question His works?

And yet the suffering of innocents remains one of the most difficult issues for Christians to wrap their arms around. We have faith that God is infinitely good and infinitely powerful. He could grant Treyden a healthy life in a twinkling. But it appears He will not. Surely He will welcome Treyden with open and loving arms. The suffering of that small child will be as nothing compared to the glory that will be revealed to him. Treyden will serve his Lord and Creator in Heaven rather than on earth. The Lord has His reasons.

Unfortunately, for those of us left on earth, His reasons will remain a mystery. Oh, the suffering of his parents, past, present and future is so very real. I wish I could wash away their pain with my tears. I wish I could mend their broken hearts with my prayers. I do not ask for whom the bell tolls. I only hope that this sad event will not lead them to question their faith.

I will try not to question mine, but suddenly that has become ever so much more difficult. At the moment I have been muddling through Making Sense Out of Suffering by Peter Kreeft. After that I will re-read The Problem of Pain by C. S. Lewis. I need to get a better handle on the world’s suffering. I need to strengthen my faith. Many, many others who prayed for Treyden will be doing the same. I hope none of them decides that their prayers fall upon deaf ears. I hope none of them loses heart. I will pray for that too, along with that gift of the Holy Spirit called understanding.

God does hear our prayers. God does answer our prayers one way or the other.

He does.

Postscript: None of this is intended to deny the occurrence of miracles. They happen. It would be contrary to my faith to deny them. One should never, ever give up hope. I still pray for a miracle. Continued at Saving Treyden: Epilogue.

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Saving Treyden

Saving TreydenI have never been very successful trying to understand the pain in this world. Yes, I try to understand what Pope John Paul II said in his Apostolic Letter Salvifici Dolorus and in his Letter to the Sick at the National Cancer Institute. This is not easy going. I’m not as concerned about my own salvation as I am about those who suffer, animals and human.

We were on our way to Texas for my mother-in-law’s funeral. My cellphone rang. A call from the animal hospital where I was boarding my cat, Sonny. There was a lump on his hip. Should they take a sample and send it to the lab? “Why, yes,” I said, “of course.” I didn’t even ask about the expense. Animal or not, Sonny was my friend and I would take care of him like any friend.

Next day a call from the veterinarian, the cells looked funny to her and the lab. Although they could not be positive they were cancerous, she thought it would be best to remove the tumor. I did not hesitate to say yes. Damn the cost. I had already lost one dear feline friend and I wasn’t going to make the same mistake with Sonny by not getting him care.

The tumor was successfully removed, and I was grateful. It was an aggressive, malignant sarcoma. But a month later he fell ill. Even though he was in the house, we could not find him for hours. When we did, I could see how sick he was. I had watched my other feline friend die an agonizing death, perhaps because I did not get him the medical care he needed, and if given a second chance I would not let that happen again. It was an awful night. Sick as Sonny was, he came to the bed to say good night in his way, as he often did. I too was sick, sick at heart. I could never understand why animals had to suffer. Oh sure, I’ve read that they do not comprehend pain as we do, but the fact of the matter is they do feel pain. And they are innocent. They are without sin. Yet they suffer for our sins.

I too was suffering, full of anguish and worry, and it made me reflect upon suffering and pain once again. It was always easier to understand my own suffering than it was the suffering of others. The worst of suffering was never physical pain, but the suffering of anguish and worry and loss. Of watching and trying to comprehend the incomprehensible suffering we see all about us. I think it was Percy Bysshe Shelley who once said he was like a nerve “over which the else unfelt oppressions of this earth do creep.” Yes, I was feeling pain and anguish for Sonny, perhaps comprehending life without him coming to our bed at night. But what I was thinking went a lot deeper than that.

The Catholic Church teaches a couple of things in relation to animals. First, we should not spend money on them that should as a priority go to relieve human misery. Well, that wasn’t going to stop me from taking him to the animal hospital and letting them put him on an IV and anti-biotics. That’s what I did and once again I didn’t ask about the expense. Sonny was a better friend to me than many people had been. Perhaps the message to me in this was that I should also give more money to human causes.

The Church also teaches that while it’s OK to love animals, we should not direct the affection toward them that are due to human beings. Well, of course not, but that did not prevent my empathizing with his suffering or my anguish at the thought of losing him. He had done nothing to deserve his suffering, much less death at a relatively young age. Was I wrong to pray for him? If God knows when a sparrow falls from the sky, surely He knew that Sonny was sick as well.

After a night in the hospital, Sonny fully recovered. Prayers answered? I don’t even think about that. I’m just grateful to have his friendship back. But that’s only the lead-in to why I came to write this post. My daughter-in-law has been posting and sharing entries from a Facebook site “Saving Treyden.” Treyden is a baby. He is very sick. His parents are going through a hell no one deserves. Until this time, I had thought very little about these posts. To be honest, I still have not read them in great detail because I simply cannot bear it. See, Treyden being a baby, he too is innocent.

Being a parent and a grandparent of an infant grandson, I simply cannot comprehend the agony his parents are going through. I don’t need to read their posts to pray for them and for Treyden. It’s all we can do to pray into the darkness of this fallen world and pour some light into it. It’s all I can do. That, and ask anyone else who reads this to pray for Treyden and his suffering parents. They all need the strength that only God can give.

Please take an extra moment today and pray for them. God Bless You.

Be Jesus.

 

I have been crucified with Christ; yet I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me.

Gal. 2: 19-20.

The Academy Awards have been the subject of many conversations this week. I watched them for a while, although I did not stay up long enough to see the awards for best actor and actress in a lead. Although I do not go to many movies, I was fortunate enough to see Jennifer Lawrence’s great performance in “The Silver Linings Playbook” and best supporting actor, Christoph Waltz, in “Django Unchained.” It gave me pause to consider just what it takes to become a great actor. There is a lot more to it than just memorizing lines, just as there is a lot more to being Christian than memorizing the Bible. I had been told once that Charlton Heston used to wear his period costumes off set to stay in character. I don’t know if that’s a fact, but it has the ring of truth. I came across an article in Time, “Daniel Day-Lewis: How the Greatest Living Actor Became Lincoln.”

Winner of yet another Academy Award for his portrayal of Abraham Lincoln, Mr. Day-Lewis is well known for the lengths to which he will go to know the character he portrays. From the article: If Lincoln seems given over to legend, so does Day-Lewis’ totalizing methodology of acting, honed over a quarter-century. It comes with its own boilerplate of mythos and anecdote: How he stayed in character throughout My Left Foot (1989), in which he portrayed the profoundly disabled Irish writer and painter Christy Brown, to the point that cast and crew members fed him at lunch breaks and carried him over equipment between setups. How he lived in the manner of an 18th century American Indian in preparation to play the noble warrior Hawkeye in The Last of the Mohicans (1992), surviving for days on a 3,000-acre (1,200 hectare) expanse of Alabama wilderness. (“If he didn’t shoot it,” Mohicans director Michael Mann says, “he didn’t eat it.”) How he stayed up for three nights straight before a nightmarish interrogation scene as a man wrongly accused of an IRA bombing for In the Name of the Father (1993). How he sharpened knives between takes as the terrifying proto-mobster Bill “The -Butcher” Cutting on the set of Martin Scorsese’s Gangs of New York (2002).

Mr. Lewis spoke of “breathing life” into the character of Lincoln. He spoke about him as if he were a living, breathing person. “The minute you begin to approach him—and there are vast corridors that have been carved that lead you to an understanding of that man’s life, both through the great riches of his own writing and all the contemporary accounts and biographies—he feels immediately and surprisingly accessible. He draws you closer to him.” In short, great actors in a very real sense become the characters they portray.

Remarkable as the gifts of some great actors are, Jesus Christ calls us to an even deeper conversion. Most of us are not actors. That’s OK. He is not calling us to act the part, He is calling us to be the part. He is calling us to become another version of Himself.

Sounds like arrogance beyond conceit, doesn’t it? Yet do you think God was kidding when He said He created us in His image and likeness? Gen. 1:27. Was Saint Paul kidding when he said it was no longer he that lived but Christ who lived in him? Was he kidding when he said we must renew our inmost being and become the “new man”? Eph. 4:22, 24. Was Jesus kidding when He said He was the vine and we were the branches? John 15:5. Was he just being metaphorical when He said whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him? John 6:56. Was He just being metaphorical when He said He was the way the truth and the life? John 14:6. I firmly believe God has a sense of humor, but He is not much of a kidder. When we eat his flesh we are answering the call of total conversion. The living body of Christ literally becomes a part of us. The call of conversion is just not to be like Christ and act like Christ but to be Christ.

Is this really what the Church teaches? Or is this just another bunch of messianic heresy? And the answer is quite clearly yes, this is what the Church teaches. See Section 460 of the Catechism:

The Word became flesh to make us “partakers of the divine nature”: “For this is why the Word became man, and the Son of God became the Son of man: so that man, by entering into communion with the Word and thus receiving divine sonship, might become a son of God.” “For the Son of God became man so that we might become God.”  “The only–begotten Son of God, wanting to make us sharers in his divinity, assumed our nature, so that he, made man, might make men gods.”

Those might be some of the most profound words in the entire Catechism. We’re called to be gods? That’s a little overwhelming to say the least. Who, me? Yes, you. You have a glorious nature. If you don’t believe it, then you’re listening too much to the one who dwells in darkness. He hates you. He hates you because he is proud and jealous that you were made in God’s image. The brighter you shine, the harder he will try to tarnish you.

So, does being Jesus mean you have to give away everything and don a robe and sandals to keep in character? Saint Francis of Assisi took the literal approach and was rewarded with the stigmata. But you and I are not Saint Francis. If you have a call to be an architect, can you still be Jesus? Can you still be a truck driver? An accountant? Certainly. Jesus lived one glorious life on earth, but along with being fully man, He was also fully God and limitless. He wants to manifest Himself to us and through us in as many unique ways as there are people. He has given you unique gifts and your own unique mission. Never before has there been anyone like you or ever will be again. Don’t hide your light under a basket.

But what if you fall off your horse? Don’t worry, it’s in the script. Don’t give up, just get back on. Be patient with yourself, because God is patient with you. As psalm 51 says, so long as you have a humble and contrite heart, He will not spurn you. He will forgive us seventy-seven times and more. Conversion is a lifetime process. Keep working and praying. Your Oscar is waiting for you. It’s called the Kingdom of Heaven.

Spiritual Communion

SPIRITUAL COMMUNION

I bought The Blessed Sacrament Prayerbook by Fr. F. X. Lasance while I was going through the church annulment process. I was in crisis. Twenty-nine years earlier I had entered a very brief and painful Catholic marriage. We divorced and two years later I remarried outside the church. Thereafter I could not receive communion. Due to the circumstances of the first marriage, I had only one crucial witness who had much personal knowledge of our marital situation. He was way late in responding to the inquiry of the diocese, and I could not contact him. I sat down in despair, face to face with the possibility I might never be able to receive communion in the church again.

I examined my options (i.e. leaving the Catholic church for another), and they were completely unacceptable. After twenty-nine years I had not undertaken the annulment process lightly, because I knew it would be very painful. I was finally ready to be completely Catholic again. I cannot say that I was ever completely unsympathetic with the Church’s “let no man put asunder” position on marriage. I took refuge in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, §1651, which offered me some encouragement and which I quote in part: They (meaning people like me) should be encouraged to listen to the Word of God, to attend the Sacrifice of the Mass, to persevere in prayer, to contribute to works of charity and to community efforts to justice, to bring up their children in the Christian faith, to cultivate the spirit and practice of penance and thus implore, day by day, God’s grace.

If you do not have a Catholic Catechism, get one! There is a good Kindle version too. Hold it close. It is far easier reading than the tax code and full of more wisdom and guidance than I ever would have expected.

During this time I also became aware of what is called spiritual communion. Saint Alphonsus Liguori is the author of the following prayer of spiritual communion, which appears on page 174 of the BSP:

“My Jesus, I believe that thou art in the Blessed Sacrament, I love Thee above everything, and I long for Thee in my soul.

Since I cannot now receive Thee sacramentally, come at least spiritually into my heart.

As though Thou wert already come, I embrace Thee, and unite myself entirely to Thee. Allow me not to be separated from Thee. Jesus, my sweet love, wound, inflame this heart of mine, so that it may be always and all on fire for Thee.”

Wow. Divorced and remarried Catholics take heart! God still wants you. He still offers you His Grace. At that moment I resolved that I would become a practicing Catholic no matter what. If I were to be left with nothing more than spiritual communion and the wonderful devotions and prayers to the Blessed Sacrament that are in this book, then so be it. I was already familiar with the BSP, because it is an old prayerbook than can be downloaded (along with many other wonderful Catholic books!) at Sancte Pateror by doing a search at Google Books. But I decided I wanted a copy of my own to hold in my hands. It is currently published by Loreto Publications.

Postscript: The BSP has far more than just prayers and devotions to the Blessed Sacrament. It is over 1200 pages long and is an endless source of grace and inspiration for Catholics, and I will refer to it often here. I might also add that my witness did come through for me like a trooper, and I am in full communion with the Catholic Church.

Loreto Publications