March 16, 2015: Better Be Glad I’m Born Again

~by Louis Templeman

Girl! You better be glad I’m born again; or, this’d be a day you wouldn’t forget. The rhythm the young woman used to say those words were menacing and militant. The words she really punched out were “girl and better.” If bold type had a sound she surely had it down. Whatever irritation her unthinking neighbor inflicted was certainly unwelcomed. No one likes to suffer. Not even the born again in the Dollar General check-out line.

The saints whom the faithful commonly adore are those who handle suffering well. Even the “born-again” gal who was easily offended seemed to demonstrate that. The idea I got from her is she would have responded in kind to the offender had she not at least an inkling of holiness.

(Jesus) had to become like his brothers and sisters in every way that he might be merciful . . . . Because he himself was tested through what he suffered, he is able to help those who are being tested.” Hebrews 2: 16-18.

In November of 2013 Typhoon Haiyan killed more than 6,000 people in the Philippines. It struck full force (one of the strongest storms ever recorded) the poorest and most ill prepared people on earth. Such intensive suffering causes many to doubt God’s goodness, to wonder if he even cares about human suffering or if he even exists. But in many people tragedies do just the opposite.

A few days after the storm a woman came from miles away to visit Costa Brava, landfall of the storm. She’d had a dream. She arrived in response to its instructions, went to a certain spot and began digging – looking for a statue of the Sacred Heart as promised in the dream. She indeed found it. The villagers would not let her take it away. Instead they took it and placed it on an altar in the middle of the village where once stood the church.

There was a hole in the stature’s chest. A hole where once was a wooden heart. The Sacred Heart had suffered even as the people did. The people looked for other statues, finding many – all broken. The living who remained after the storm – nearly all Catholic – saw in these recovered, “resurrected,” icons that God suffered with them. And as these statues were found and resurrected even so the people and the town would also come back to life.

They felt God had given them a sign that he had been with them in their suffering. Denis Murphy, in his account in America Magazine (Nov 3, 2014), indicated the suffering brought a spirit of gratitude among the people, many of whom began to attend daily Mass in the chapel populated with broken statues of saints. As I am daily suffering with the aggravation and fear that comes from this relentless tremor in my left arm I have discovered I am leaning towards patience and peace. My weakness is opening areas in my heart where I long for God’s strength. I am praying more. I am becoming more empathetic.

I don’t know if the young lady in the Dollar General check-out line would understand but I think she might. I am fortunate this is happening at a time when I recognize that I am on a pilgrimage of faith. There is usually no answer to the why of suffering. The value I am learning to find in it is suffering produces in me a longing. This longing itself is a great gift.

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Louis writes from Jacksonville, Florida where he lives with his old friend and wonderful bride, Joy. They transformed their friendship into the sacrament of marriage on August 30, 2012. They share their home with two self-absorbed, playful, twin cats (Flo and Jet) and one very allusive and arrogant cat named D. Louis has recently been diagnosed with Parkinson’s and is fighting the good fight. Much of what he writes these days he is sharing his journey with us. Please keep Louis and his wife Joy in your prayers.

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