Hope In Adversity

David was born without an immune system. He lived in a kind of a plastic bubble in order to prevent exposure to common germs and viruses that would kill him immediately. He lived without ever experiencing human contact. When he was twelve he underwent a bone marrow transplant to correct this deficiency. When asked what he'd like to do when released from his protective bubble, he replied, "I want to walk barefoot on grass, and touch my mother's hand."

We take so many things for granted. We are surrounded with beauty and yet many times we fail to see it. Instead of being grateful, we complain.

Glenn Mangurian had every reason to complain. A respected business leader with a 35-year track record in management consulting, he suffered an injury to his spinal cord that left him paralyzed from the waist down.

Immobilized in bed for many years he learnt five basic principles. They can shape a whole life. These values are so obvious that we fail to see them! One, you can't know what will happen tomorrow, and it is better that way. Two, you can't control what happens, just how you respond. Three, loss amplifies the value of what remains. Four, it's easier to create new dreams than to cling to broken ones. Five, your happiness is more important than righting injustices.

Adversity can turn out to be a space where we acquire wisdom. I came across a Catechism written by Saint John Mary Vianney or as he is better known, the Cure d'Ars. This saint, who was almost refused admittance to the seminary because of his lack of intelligence, carried within him a wisdom in things of God that surpassed many theologians.

When he speaks of adversities, he is so full of common sense. "Whether we will or not, we must suffer. There are some who suffer like the good thief and others like the bad thief. They both suffered equally. But one knew how to make his sufferings meritorious, he accepted them in the spirit of reparation, and turning towards Jesus crucified, he received from His mouth these beautiful words: "Today you shall be with Me in Paradise." The other, on the contrary, cried out, uttered imprecations and blasphemies, and expired in the most frightful despair."

There is always the choice to succumb or overcome to circumstances.

The saint exemplifies his message with a powerful true-life illustration. "In a neighboring parish, there was a little boy in bed, covered with sores, very ill, and very miserable. I said to him, "My poor little child, you are suffering very much!" He answered me, "No, sir, today I do not feel the pain I had yesterday, and tomorrow I shall not suffer from the pain I have now." "You would like to get well?" "Not really. I was badly behaved before I was ill, and I might be so again. I am very well as I am. "

"We do not understand this, because we are too earthly," he concludes.

Pope Benedict XVI starts his Encyclical, In Hope We Were Saved, with the stirring story of an African woman. This is his way of highlighting his message that the encounter with God does make a difference because it generates hope. The Gospel is not only "informative" but "performative", "that means: the Gospel is not merely a communication of things that can be known; it is one that makes things happen and is life-changing."

Josephine Bakhita was born around 1869 in Darfur, Sudan. At the age of nine, she was kidnapped by slave-traders, beaten till she bled, and sold five times in the slave-markets of Sudan. At one stage, she was flogged every day - as a result of this, she bore 144 scars in her body!

When she was fourteen, she was bought by a merchant for an Italian consul Callisto Legnani and they transferred themselves to Italy. Now she came to know a totally different kind of 'paron', 'master' as he is known in Venetian dialect.

She discovered that this 'paron', the living God of Jesus Christ, is good, goodness in person. She was amazed to know that this Lord even knew her, that he had created her-that he actually loved her! He himself was flogged! What is more, this master was waiting for her 'at the Father's right hand'.

"I am definitively loved and whatever happens to me - I am awaited by this Love. And so my life is good." Hope is beautiful.

(c) Fr. Pius Sammut, OCD. Permission is hereby granted for any non-commercial use, provided that the content is unaltered from its original state, if this copyright notice is included.