A diagnosis of leukemia for a young child usually brings life to a standstill for their family. There is fear, disbelief, and a sudden, chaotic refocusing of day-to-day life. This cross came to friends of ours several years ago, just as we were entering into Lent. After the positive test results were shared, and the dust had settled ever so slightly, the mother made a comment that I will never forget, “Well … I guess we’re going to have a good and holy Lent!” She didn’t ask why, she didn’t melt into a puddle of despair; she found the only bright side she could think of and clung to it with hope. I was so impressed with that surprisingly positive, faith-oriented attitude on the suffering which was surely headed their way.
That simple proclamation made a big impact on my life, and I think of it every year on Ash Wednesday, or at least sometime during this annual season of penance. (It also comes to mind when I see her grown son, now a healthy and strong young man!) It does seem like heavier-than-usual burdens often come my way during Lent, so that I must summon those courageous words once again. I sheepishly admit that I’m the kind of person who will ask why, especially when one painful burden after another lands in my lap.
With my friend’s words in mind, I’m able to refocus and take up my latest cross. Thus armed, I can stagger unsteadily into the Lenten desert, not always courageously, but at least purposely! Eleven years ago, just one week into Lent, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. My immediate thought was, “Definitely a holy Lent for me this year!”
I felt a rush of joy that puzzled me at first. How could joy be present, when I was facing cancer, when a very heavy cross had just been placed squarely upon my shoulders? There was no explaining it, except through faith, and the unfathomable love and mercy of God. I was drawing close to Christ, and I experienced the glory and magnitude of that truth. I understood then how my friend was able to make that faithful observation in the midst of such disturbing news. And although I would eventually face serious complications that would catapult me into a deep depression, I never lost sight of my faith, or the hope and promise contained within.
When I could do nothing but lie in bed, I prayed Hail Marys for hours, along with my personalized version of the closing prayer from the Divine Mercy chaplet. (Eternal God, in whom mercy is endless, and the treasure of compassion inexhaustible, look kindly upon me, and increase your mercy in me, that in difficult moments, I might not despair nor become despondent, but with great confidence, submit myself to your holy Will, which is love and mercy itself. Amen.) Over and over, I repeated the words, without the form of a Rosary or chaplet, or any specific meditations, just saying each word purposely, as I cried out for spiritual aid.
There are times in our lives when that’s all we can do, plod along with agonizing and insufficient steps, and that’s okay. I know that the prayers of countless people kept me from giving up during my cancer treatments. We can count on family and friends to pray for us, and do whatever they can to help us carry on, just as Veronica wiped the bloodied face of Christ, and Simon the Cyrene helped carry our Savior’s cross (and although Simon did so only under command of the Roman Guard, I like to think that the experience fed his hungry soul and transformed his life!). That is what community is for, loving, supporting, providing for, and praying for one another.
Are you straining under the weight of daunting afflictions? What is the shape and form of your current Lenten cross? Please leave a comment, so that I may add your name to my daily list of petitions. We too, are a community, here on CatholicMom.com, and our goal is to support one another and to grow with our fellow pilgrims in the profound mystery of our faith. May God bind us together in charity, draw us ever closer to Him, and bless us all with a good and holy Lent!
Copyright 2019 Charlene Rack