“And Jesus said to all, “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” – Luke 9:23
Yesterday was a tough day. When you have ALS tough days are bound to come. It all started when I was preparing for a visit from a dear friend from my seminary days in St. Louis, MO. We had not seen each other for quite a while, so I was looking forward to a nice chat. The only way to carry on a conversation these days is by using my eye gaze computer. I type with my eyes, and it does the talking. It’s my only way to communicate. Without it my speech sounds like gibberish. So, when the computer started acting up, I became growingly frustrated. Here, a friend had traveled numerous hours to visit and I wouldn’t be able to talk to him. Nor could I properly explain to my sister how to adjust the computer so it might work better.
This frustration about not being able to communicate led to tears on my part and on the part of my sister. It’s hard for those around me to not be able to fix things for me, and to see me suffer and know there is nothing they can do to help. This all is very much their cross as well as mine.
One of the blessings of the day came next. My friend offered one of the most devout and beautiful Holy Masses I have been to in a while. The chanting, the bits and pieces of Latin, the feast day, the readings, and the sermon all conspired to make for a stunning expression of the love of God. It too was accompanied by tears.
After Holy Mass we got the computer working well enough to chat. It was good to catch up with an old friend and to talk about spiritual things.
Later on, we had similar difficulties with the computer, which led to further frustration and anger on my part. It is incredibly, incredibly frustrating for me to not be able to properly give instructions or to ask for what I need. When that happens, I tend to shut down. I want to go to bed, not eat, and just lie there. If I’m honest, part of that tendency lies in not wanting people to see me have a breakdown. So, pride once again rears its ugly head, and God applies the remedy by allowing me to breakdown, cry, and be vulnerable when I would rather appear strong. After assuring my sister that it isn’t her fault when I become so frustrated and angry, and after a good cry, I began to slowly feel better.
I know, because of the nature of this disease, that there will be many more bad days, and new challenges will arise. It’s then that I have to remember that this is what I signed up for on the day of my baptism and again on the day of my ordination to the priesthood. I signed up to take up my cross daily and follow him. This is what I intend to do, although I may not do it well in practice. Every bad day I try to remember that the Lord renews his mercies each morning. He, nor our Lady will abandon me, or you.
Every bad day is also an opportunity to offer up much in reparation to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary for the many sins of mankind. It allows me to offer up my frustrations for the conversion of sinners. It allows me to offer my tears for my brother priests. When I fail in being humble, that too I can offer to the mercy of God to be burned up in the flames of his love.
Jesus, burning furnace of charity, may the flames of thy love burn out of me whatever is not thee. May it burn out of me pride, fear, anger, and bitterness. Replace them with humility, trust, peace, and joy in suffering. Let me never forget thy own suffering, and how it won salvation for all who will accept it. Give me the grace to suffer with you for the salvation of mankind. Amen.