December 24, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) — My friend fell and broke his hip in August and ended up in the hospital.
And he has been there ever since. In fact, he turned 91 there in October. But he wants out, badly.
When I went to see him on Saturday, he was lying flat on his back on what looked like a gurney because, the nurses said, he’d been trying to escape.
It was shocking to see him straining to get up but only able to lift his head slightly. I asked if they could transfer him to a wheelchair so we could visit.
While they were busy with that, his granddaughter and her boyfriend arrived, in time to hear him say to the nurses: “I’ll, I’ll shoot to kill.”
“You’re pro-life,” I said — or words to that effect. “You don’t mean that. Don’t forget what you are, who you are. You’re a Catholic.”
In his retirement and about the age of 70, he started a pregnancy counseling centre beside an abortion facility. He’s that guy, the one who would go to any lengths to help a pregnant woman, and would consider it all in a day’s work as a pro-life Catholic.
But now he has a different struggle.
He has Parkinson’s disease, and lest he choke on his food, is fed only pureed food, and thickened liquids, all of which he detests. He is legally blind and has to be fed. He can walk, but only with help, and is classified as a “two-person assist.”
All he wants is to go home, eat Indian food, and listen to records of his favorite singer, American baritone John Charles Thomas.
To that end, he wants to walk and get exercise every day. He wants the doctors to tell him how he is progressing. He wants to wheel himself around in his chair, but then he tries to escape, so the nurses put him down on his back. Or, apparently, simply leave him in bed.
It is as Our Lord said to Peter: “When you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go” (John 21:18).
But now, will they try to euthanize him? Surely that would never happen, with his family and friends so close at hand.
“Do you want to say the rosary?” I asked.
“I’ve said a hundred rosaries,” he said.
“Do you feel that God has abandoned you?” I asked. “Are you angry at Him?”
“In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you,” so St. Paul wrote to the Thessalonians. (1 Thess. 5:18).
But it’s not so easy. Maybe there were no atheists in foxholes, but I’d wager there were a few let-down Christians who found themselves arguing with God, if not explicitly, in their bewilderment or resentment.
Why are You letting things go this way? they ask.
Why are Christians in the Middle East being slaughtered? Why does a mother of 10 die of cancer? Why does a seemingly solid marriage break up? Why is Mary Wagner in jail? And what’s going on with Pope Francis?
And, really, why can’t I just go home and eat Indian food and listen to John Charles Thomas?
My friend finally answered: “I suppose. But He has given me many things in my life.”
Well, yes. And that brings us to Christmas, because all things bring us to Christmas, where “the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us.”
Or as the angel told the shepherds: “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.” (Nothing like having an angel, backed up by an entire heavenly host, as your source.)
In light of the astonishing, indeed, indescribable mercy and mystery of the Incarnation, as English Catholic writer Caryll Houselander puts it, “It is impossible to say too often or too strongly that human nature, body and soul together, is the material for God’s will for us.”
Jesus Christ can “will to live in lives of suffering and darkness we cannot conceive of; He can choose what seems to us the most unlikely material in the world to use for a positive miracle of His love,” she writes in The Reed of God.
So when we are asked to bear something that is, from our point of view, far more harrowing or unpleasant than we expected, it’s our expectations, which may well be rooted in fear, laziness, vanity or complacency, that by God’s grace we must shift, however painful that may be.
There is “one big thing we can do with God’s help, that is, we can trust God’s plan, we can put aside any quibbling or bitterness about ourselves and what we are,” writes Houselander.
“We can accept and seize upon the fact that what we are at this moment, young or old, strong or weak, mild or passionate, beautiful or ugly, clever or stupid, is planned to be like that. Whatever we are gives form to the emptiness in us which can only be filled by God and which God is even now waiting to fill.”