“Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.” (Mt. 5:16)
If you were to light a small candle in a very dark room, the entire room would be illuminated. It is that way also with light of God’s love infused into hearts, which He uses to draw others to Himself. The saints are servants of God whose life shone so bright that even after their death they drew others to Christ.
God uses people living among us, who have given their whole hearts to Him as a “lighthouse” to guide others toward heaven, just like the saints of old. John Paul II and Mother Teresa are two of those saints whose examples have touched this generation. Have you ever met a modern-ay saint? Ask God to open your eyes to see His light and love in those you meet. Who knows, there may be a saint right in front of you, maybe even in your own household.
One of my husband’s favorite ministries is to teach a Christian approach to “End of Life” decisions. Since he is both a physician and a deacon it is a perfect fit. Educating parishioners on what we Catholics believe about death, dying and suffering is extremely important. The talks help bring clarity, with sound Catholic teaching guiding the dying and their caregivers along unknown paths.
A few years ago my husband was asked to give this talk at St. Timothy Catholic Church in Lady Lake, Florida. The room was filled with people but one man in the audience stood out. He raised his hand to give a comment. It was timely: while the speakers gave information, he was living it. I walked over to introduce myself after the talks concluded. His name was John Murphy. I encouraged him to meet my husband. Deacon Patrick’s and John’s meeting was a “God encounter.” It was God’s way of guiding John through a very difficult time in his life: the final dance with his wife of five decades, Arline.
In the past five years we have cultivated our friendship with this adorable couple. We have gotten to know Arline through John’s voice. He became her mouthpiece just like Aaron was for Moses. Arline spoke volumes to us too, even though she spoke not a word. Her message of God’s love was clear.
When God presented her with a very heavy cross, she accepted it with grace. She was suffering from a neurologic disease, PSP (similar to Lou Gehrig’s disease) that had taken her voice, walking ability and freedom from her. She never complained. She became an example to all of a “suffering servant.” She joined her sufferings with Christ’s suffering, offering them up for the conversion of souls. Her sufferings drew her and others closer to Jesus.
We all know that true love is more than flowers, candy, and romantic evenings, walking the beach together under the moonlight. True love picks you up when you are down and stands by you when you cannot stand at all. Theirs was true love. Their love story began by John asking Arline to dance over fifty years ago. On that day Arline danced into John’s heart forever. Their love grew and carried them through a lifetime. It would also see them through the “good times and bad, in sickness and in health.” Their love was bestowed through God’s grace.
John walked the road of suffering by her side. He shouldered one side of her cross as Arline carried the other. Carrying the cross together made it seem a bit lighter. Then when Arline could not run the race any longer on her own, God called upon John to help her finish the race. John, an ordinary husband, became extraordinary. With the help of God he fed her, diapered her, and bound Arline’s wounds. John entertained, kissed, loved and cared for his beloved Arline in every way. It was very long, extremely hard, and spanned much time, sometimes with only tears to water their dry weary souls. Their love for each other helped them persevere.
John carried Arline over the threshold on their wedding day, welcoming her into his life forever. Their “I do’s,” stood the test of time. She was John’s light of love and John the light of Arline’s love. Now at the end of her race with an abundance of grace, and a ton of perseverance, John now carried Arline towards the finish line. Arline saved the last dance for John. It was their last dance. John remained at her side until she took her last breath. It is always hard to say, “Goodbye!”Arline is now dancing on the streets of gold in with her Jesus.
“I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith. From now on the crown of righteousness awaits me …” (2 Tim. 4:7-8)
Arline and John walked a road of suffering that few take. Many people do not understand that a cross, if accepted with grace is like a “fast pass” to the heart of God. Many saints were led along the road of suffering. They, like Arline, accepted their cross and never complained. I would not be surprised if Arline Joyce Murphy is now among them. St. Therese said, “I will spend my heaven doing well on earth.” Following in St. Therese’s footsteps, Arline spent her time on earth doing well for heaven by leading souls to Jesus. Just like the saints before her, she was used by God as a “lighthouse,” guiding others to the heart of God in her life and in her death.
The message of their journey can only be seen with the eyes of the Spirit. Souls were drawn to Jesus because of their witness. Arline taught the world to not be afraid of suffering. She and her husband demonstrated to the world the Sacrament of Matrimony in action, not just words. Their journey of oneness was plainly seen by all who passed by them.
Arline was a woman who walked in God’s “amazing grace.” She made a difference in this world as a Catholic wife, mother of five, daughter, friend, teacher, pro-life minister, and author. Before being completely paralyzed she was able to write a book titled The Light of Love. It is about a child who has suffered from their parent’s divorce. Arline’s words bring hope and healing. The book is helpful to all married couples, even if not raised in a broken family. I highly recommend it. The late Father Benedict Groeschel endorsed the book by writing the preface.
With God, nothing is impossible! Jesus was their light of love. Who is yours? Look around, we have much to learn from the saints who have gone before us and from those saints among us. They are a beacon of light and Christ’s love which lives within their hearts. How bright will your heart shine for Jesus? Who has Jesus used to changed your life? If asked by God to carry your spouse to the finish line, how will you respond?
Copyright 2017 Ellen Mongan