Thursday, September 25, 2008

In the palm of my hand!

The call came just before dawn.
I was pastor of a country parish, the church in a village so small there were only seven houses in the village.
The rest of the vast area was made up of farms, forests, lakes.
The parents were young, newly married. This was their first child.
He had been born so pre-mature, before the days of modern specialized ICUs for newborns, he would have surely died.
Could I come to the city and baptize him?
Of course I said yes, gathered stole, holy water, ritual and rushed to my car.
On the three and a half hour drive to the city I prayed the Rosary, asking Our Lady to grant strength and long life to the child or at least to keep him alive until he could be baptized.
Once at the ICU, because this Little Man was in an incubator with tubes sending oxygen and other essentials into his tiny being, it was a delicate task to arrange access to him – but the nurses managed and suddenly here was a human being, literally in the palm of my hand as I used my little finger to gather drops of water.
Today that Little Man is a full grown adult, Deo Gratias and thanks to Our Lady.
Today in my own family we are waiting the birth of a child – the Little One is truly due, awaited with love, the parents reasonably peaceful, though the Dad [ this is their third child ] has that restlessness so common to expectant fathers who are, by God’s design, in a sense one step removed until the birthing begins and even then are more in the role of coach than player!
It is a salient lesson for fathers, the experience of powerlessness in such moments, like the father of the newborn child mentioned above, to remind them, indeed all males, that real power and authority originates not within us but as gift from our Abba, Father of us all.
Those of us who have reached the elder stage of life { I detest the word ‘elderly’ as it sounds more like a sickness than a wisdom-graced state of being which IS the vocation of elders, something our Aboriginal Brothers and Sisters and many of our Asian Brothers and Sisters have understood for millennia. } – how should we support the young parents, the new parents?
Well women clearly do a better job around expectancy and birthing with each other than men because we men are always trying to fix something!
What the expectant father needs from we elders, priests and laymen alike, is patient, loving, understanding – indeed an actual standing with – because NOTHING IS BROKEN!
There IS LIFE happening!
Today the Church remembers another man who had a challenging birth and life known traditionally as Blessed Herman Contractus, translated bluntly as: Blessed Herman the Cripple.
Now given the fact he was born in mid-winter in the 11th century [ a. d. 1013 ], born with spina bifida, a cleft palate and cerebral palsy, the first miracle is that his parents obviously loved him and cared for him so well it was only when he was seven for unknown reasons – other than perhaps the obviously serious medical ones – his parents found themselves unable to continue to care for Herman at home and confided him to the care of the Benedictine monks of the Reichenau abbey.
So the second miracle, and this continues today within the Church among those priests, religious, lay apostle communities, as well as some secular medical facilities and caring places – and most wonderfully among those who work to protect life from conception to a natural death { hence the critical importance of these Forty Days to November 2nd of prayer and fasting for the Gospel of Life, for life itself } – is that Herman was received by the monks with such loving care he not only grew, matured, he became a brilliant person, expert in various scientific, literary, spiritual fields – indeed some historians attribute such traditional hymns as the Salve Regina to his authorship.
Herman’s union with the suffering Christ entered a final stage of surrender and trust before his death when he went blind, returning to the Father the gift of physical sight but undoubtedly this expanded the vision of his heart.
In 1054 a. d. Herman was welcomed forever into the arms of the Heavenly Father, into the eternal glory of Jesus, into the everlasting fire-love of the Holy Spirit.
When the culture of death screams about quality of life being in doubt before a human being is born that is arrogant evil to the extreme. It is a destructive and selfish presumption assuming intimate knowledge of the future life of a human being – something we simply cannot know.
Even more dark and evil is the assumption expectant parents are incapable of loving their child unless the new person meets criteria of supposed perfection of potential intelligence etc., criteria which themselves are dubiously arrogant and hostile to the sacredness of the human person, as witnessed by the Little Man I baptized and by Blessed Herman.
My own Father’s generation within the ranks not just of the Allied Forces but within the ranks of ordinary men and women of all faiths and no faith, across the occupied countries of Europe and Asia, paid a horrendous price to put an end to the selective and death imposing actions of the Axis powers.
We dishonour the sacrifice of those men and women, indeed we spit upon the graves of the victims of those Axis atrocities, when, under whatever twisted philosophy it is rooted in, we claim abortion, euthanasia or assisted suicide as either a right or something good, rather than precisely what each of those acts are: the deliberate murder of a person, a human being given life by the Father, Son, Holy Spirit, by Love Himself.
We are NOT the originators of life.
We ARE recipients of the ultimate gift.
It is not economic chaos or climate change or terrorism which will destroy us.
It is our arrogance.

1 comment:

Adoro said...

Dear Father,

I didn't know about Bl. Herman, so I thank you for mentioning him. My father was born with spina biffeda, my mother was born with only one hand. Both of them, if their conditions would have been known before birth, would have been recommended for abortion.

And then, where would I be? Or my brother?

You're right; it is arrogance that will destroy us, and is destroying us even today.