“We are afflicted in every way but not constrained; perplexed
but not driven to despair; persecuted but not abandoned; struck
down but not destroyed.”
As I read these beautiful lines from St. Paul, two members of my
personal Communion of Saints visited me.
Uncle Jerome who became a paraplegic in a tractor accident in his
30’s, learned to walk on crutches and even to fly an airplane.
He spent the next 50 years serving his parish, his community and
his family despite continuing severe pain. His life was a daily
lesson in courage for all who knew him. My friend, Mary Lutz of
Kansas City, died of ovarian cancer in her 40’s after a long
battle. A nursing teacher, she turned her experience as a patient
into lessons for her students.
Uncle Jerome and Mary exemplified the hopeful message of today’s
readings. You can be struck down but not destroyed even if you die
far too young like Mary. Note the critical word can.
It would be easy for someone like me who has never been tested by
extreme adversity to wax eloquent about turning horror into good.
That would be hypocritical. I don’t know how I would handle
something awful because I haven’t had to do it. Suffering
isn’t fun or pretty. We all want to avoid it and escape from
even ordinary feelings of depression, loneliness, departures of
What’s the best way? Try living the message of today’s
Gospel. “Whoever wishes to be great among you shall be
your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your
Think of the great, unsung cheerful people in your life. Chances
are they spend their spare time dreaming up ways to help others.
That’s how I remember another member of my Communion of Saints,
Kathy Thomas, who turned helping people into an art.
“I’m mad,” she called to say shortly after my
husband and I had sponsored a Cambodian refugee family. “You
haven’t asked me to do anything. I’m sending Mark (her
son) over with our old pool table. It will give them something to
But Kathy, you were right. I picture you bustling around heaven
now, briefly grabbing a seat a Jesus’ right hand to remind
him of someone who needs help. Like Kathy, we can do that here –
all of us, every day.