Nearly 2 years ago I was hospitalized with pneumonia and the RSV virus in my lungs; my beautiful transplanted lungs. I spent 10 days in the hospital and went home feeling much better. A week later I found myself in the ER once again with extreme pain in my neck and my sciatica decided to come out and play.
The pain was incredible. Sometimes the pain can get so bad that you really think you are going to lose your mind. The Dr. in the ER told me that after looking at the x-rays I had degenerative disk disease, osteoarthritis and a bone spur that was “gently” pressing on my spinal cord. OK, whew!!! Oh P-Shaw, is that all?
After a dose of dilaudid, valium, ibuprophen and a stay of about 2 hours, I was sent home with a referral to the Spine Clinic. Had no pain I’ll tell ya, but I was living in some other world for awhile, quite happily I might add. . .
Went to the Spine Clinic and spoke with the “spine” Dr. She confirmed my diagnosis and referred me to Physical Therapy. I was sent home with the following drugs; between the ER Dr. and the Spine Dr. I was given Valium, Ativan and Klonopin, Flexeril, oh and Tylenol. Well that’ll sure take care of things. It certainly took care of things. Instead of good pain relief I was sounding like a drug addict, slurring my speech and scaring my grown children. They were so afraid for me as was my husband.
During one weekend I was in such pain and nothing that I did would ease it. I tried the pills, I tried everything, but to no avail. The pain was so intense, so relentless that I was at the point of wanting to just rip my hair out. I was pleading with God to take it away. I cried, I tossed, I turned and then I went to Gethsemane.
I went to Gethsemane and spent time with Jesus. I watched him suffer and cry and beg his Father to take this cup away, but, not my will, Your will be done. As I watched I realized in a very personal way that what I suffered, Jesus suffered. When I cried, Jesus cried. When I begged, Jesus begged. I asked the Father to take the pain away, but I also said, not my will, but Your will be done. I want you to take this pain and use it for whoever needs your mercy and love right now. If I was meant to suffer this pain, I wanted it to not be in vain. Pain and suffering can be redemptive, a very powerful thing. When we join our pain with Christ’s suffering, we enter into a place of redemption. We suffer for our own sins, a penance. We also suffer for other souls. Only Jesus knows who receives these blessings, they are powerful blessings.
There is something else I learned; I learned that it was in the Garden of Gethsemane that Jesus made his decision. He could have walked away from all of it and called on his Father in Heaven to send angels to rescue him. But he said YES, just as his mother Mary did. Mary said YES and brought us a boy child named Jesus. Now, like his mother, Jesus said YES, yes, I will go forth in this Passion because I love all the people of this world, the world my Father created.
Just think if Mary had not said yes, we would not have Jesus. If Jesus had not said yes, we as a people would be doomed. He said he would go to the cross if there was only one person in need of salvation.
This is an unsettled world. There is trouble all around, wars, earthquakes, terrible weather, etc. As a people of God we must pray and we must pray harder than ever before. Evil is rampant, make no mistake. We must stand up and be counted as children of God.
Each and every day we are being asked to say Yes to God, to follow his path and live in His Word. We must strengthen our spiritual life and reliance on God when the hard times come, and they are coming.
I like the expression or meaning of the letters FROG which means Forever Rely On God. Let’s rely on God for our daily life so that we can be the hands of Jesus in our communities, the heart of Jesus for our family, friends and those who need the love of God, the eyes of Jesus to recognize one another as the “distressing disguise” of Jesus in our midst. (said by Mother Theresa of Calcutta)
Love is the answer. It is the only answer. Nothing worthwhile gets done without love. The love of God comes to us through other people. When we do something for someone, we are serving that person as God would serve that person. When we accept help from someone else, we are saying Yes to God. We are setting aside our pride to allow that person to help us when we really do need help. Many times those who are caretakers or who just join in and help when they are needed have a hard time with someone else helping them when they need help. That is true of me as well. When I got sick I found it hard to let someone else do for me the things I couldn’t do at the time. It’s a pride thing and I still have trouble with it, but each day I have to remind myself that God wants to help me, God wants me to be the best I can be in His eyes. Swallowing that pride releases you to receive so many blessings because it is God ministering to you through this person. We are here to serve one another.
I believe that I was born a Passionist. From the time I came to this world until this day I believe it with all my heart. Of course I didn’t recognize it for what it was until I came to St. Paul of the Cross Monastery some 33 years ago. I became friends with many of it’s congregation and the Passionist priests and brothers as well. It was here that I learned about St. Paul of the Cross, founder of the Passionists.
The Passionists live by this maxim “May the Passion of Jesus Christ be ever in our hearts”. We must always remember the Passion of Christ and live by this creed.
Life can deal some cruel blows, my life is no different. In the time from First Grade to High School Graduation I attended over 20 schools. My family just kept moving. Usually it was to beat the rent that we couldn’t afford. Every year, sometimes twice in a year I and my siblings were living in a new neighborhood, attending a new school. It was so hard to be the “new kid” in the classroom. It usually went like this, “Class, this is Sandy P_ _L, say hi to Sandy”. I hated that! I was always the new kid. It’s hard to form lasting friendships when you are always moving.
My lasting friendship turned out to be God. I found myself thinking about God a lot. I don’t remember receiving any formal religious training, if I did, I surely don’t remember it. I do remember one day I believe it was in the fall, near an apple tree that I was thinking about God and Catholics. Why??? I have no good idea. What I remember thinking was that I wanted to be a Catholic because they get to go to confession to get their sins wiped away. I also thought about wanting to be a nun. Again, I don’t know where these thoughts came from, I just know that I thought about them.
Another time my sister R and I were walking along an alleyway, I’m not sure how old we were, but not that old, maybe pre-adolescent, but we found in the trash on the ground a Sacramentary. It was just thrown out like garbage. So, R and I took it home and started reading it and “saying” Mass in our bedroom, giving out little drinks of water and ripped up bread slices for communion. We thought it was great. I still would like to know who would throw out something so holy.
But, you know I’m not always that holy or at all. I aspire to that degree, but fail so miserably. I lived many years angry at God. Not for my plight in this world, but for something the priests were doing in some parish, in this I do not remember what the beef was. I spent 6 years of my life not going to church. Finally after those years it “dawned” on me that it was not God I was angry with, it was the humans who run the church that had me angry. Priests are humans too! We all sin and fall short of the Glory of God. So too do priests. I pray for them because I believe that God holds his priests to a higher standard and they have much to live up to. People look up to their priests for goodness, holiness and good counsel. The problem is when I say people look “up” it means that we have put them on a pedestal where most of them don’t want to be. I believe they want to be looked “to” for goodness, holiness and good counsel. And beside that, this is their call, to be there for the rest of us as God’s representatives on earth.
I remember what one of our Passionist priests said many years ago. His name is Fr. Dan Sullivan, C.P., who died in the year of 2011, but he said to a group of people, “Life and love are messy things”. How right he was. If everything in your life is going well and no obstacles rise to meet you then I wonder what kind of life you are living. Which reminds me of another quote or saying from years ago, “If you were accused of being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you”? I have thought of that many times.
A Christian Catholic life is a road of twists and turns, straight paths and obstacles. We must travel it all.
So, my original question was: “Where do you put your pain?” I put mine at the foot of the Cross of Christ because only He knows what to do with it.
Sandy Ozanich © March 8, 2013