Last night I drove to church because there was a special ceremony at the cathedral in which the bishop was going to "open the doors to the Year of Mercy." The snow had stopped but travel conditions were still not good. Accidents were so numerous in the Cheyenne area that the police were only responding to those accidents in which injuries were involved or vehicles were immovable. I wanted to be present at the cathedral for this special celebration but also wanted to be safe.
As I headed out of the driveway I couldn't see the road. However, I was familiar with the territory so I knew where it was located. As I looked at it this morning in the daylight I could see that I was right on target. Familiarity can help us stay on course.
In our relationship with God we walk by faith. Sometimes we do not exactly know where we are going, but we continue to move forward in faith. That is not always an easy thing to do--especially when times are difficult. I was made very aware of this at an early age when I was diagnosed with cancer the first time at age 25. Why was this happening? What was the point? How do I continue forward when I don't even know if I am going to survive? A thousand questions flooded my mind.
The amount of hurt and struggle that people face is overwhelming. Sickness, loss of employment, broken relationships, poverty, or the stress of living in war-torn countries and high crime neighborhoods can all take a toll on our mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual well-being. We can become worn out by the challenges and struggles of each passing day. How do we move forward when we can't see the light at the end of the tunnel?
Today, I read an update on Caring Bridge about a young man (19) going through a tremendous struggle. It was four years ago today on December 13 that a CT Scan revealed a tumor in his brain. His life, and the life of his entire family, was forever changed. Although progress has been made over the last four years, there is still a long way to go. How does one continue to maintain the fight to get well when the odds are so steep? It is with the grace of God, support from others, and a tenacity developed from deep within oneself. There are times when you can't see where the road leads, but you walk in faith.
This young man was a student at the elementary school of which I served as Principal and Coordinator of Religious Education. Keeping up-to-date on his story frequently calls me to prayer. There are times it even brings a tear to my eye. Why does one so young have to suffer so intensely?
When I went through surgery and chemotherapy nearly 30 years ago I spent 52 days in the hospital over a four month period. (Who was really counting?) The recuperation took much longer, but at least I was able to somewhat get back into a regular routine after about six months. I can't even imagine how tired, frustrated, and angry I would have been if it would have lingered for years as it has for this young man.
December 13, is the Feast Day of St. Lucy. There isn't much known about her life; we mainly have legends handed down through the ages. However, I offer my prayer to God and seek St. Lucy's intercession for all who are hurting. Today, I especially offer my prayer for Sam and his entire family. May God bless each of you with an abundance of grace, mercy, strength, perseverance, faith, hope, and healing!
"Saint Lucy, you did not hide your light under a basket, but let it shine for the whole world, for all the centuries to see. We may not suffer torture in our lives the way you did, but we are still called to let the light of our Christianity illumine our daily lives. Please help us to have the courage to bring our Christianity into our work, our recreation, our relationships, our conversation -- every corner of our day. Amen"
A year has gone by since I wrote that piece and Sam continues his journey. His dad posted a summary of the five-year journey on Sunday and I was speechless as I read through the account. There is no way I can even imagine the many struggles, the tears, and the disappointments that have occurred in those five years. Reading the highlights of Sam's story is nothing short of amazing. It truly demonstrates the spiritual gift of fortitude for Sam and his entire family.
I spent much of the summer writing a book about my own journey of suffering. This provided fresh memories of the struggle that I had when I was diagnosed with cancer on two different occasions and the time I underwent open heart surgery on another occasion. Even though some of this is thirty years in the past, many of the memories are quite vivid. I know firsthand some of the difficulties experienced when you are battling a life-threatening illness. However, I cannot fathom the tenacity that must be required of Sam as he continues his path toward healing for five consecutive years.
My prayers continue to be offered for Sam's recovery. I also pray for the entire family. An illness like this impacts everyone in the immediate family immensely, and it ripples out to the wider family and friends as well. We give thanks for the healing that has occurred to this point, and we pray for even more rapid healing in the days ahead.
I especially offer a note of encouragement to Sam's parents today. The love between a parent and a child is a bond like no other. I remember my mom and dad sitting in the hospital day after day watching me go through chemotherapy treatments when I was 25 years of age. It took a toll on them. I cannot fully grasp the anguish you have experienced these last five years, but I am grateful for your faith and hope. You have taught all of us a lesson in the art of persevering in prayer. May God bless you abundantly for your faithful witness!
Our entire chancery staff gathers for prayer each day before heading off to lunch. We routinely pray for those who have requested our prayers. Today, we will be lifting Sam and his family up in a very profound way. May the healing hand of God be present in some magnificent ways in the coming days!