Thursday 3 April 2014

A Trouble Shared

For nearly a year now I have been experiencing the more or less serious symptoms of an as yet undiagnosed illness. The latest plan, as of today, is to try a bone marrow scan and see what that reveals. One of the consequences of this all is that I have spent more time in doctors waiting rooms and hospital outpatients departments during the course of 20013/4 than in the whole of my previous 50 years put together. It is a besetting weakness (sin?) of mines that I observe life rather more than I participate in it. And it is that part of myself that is responsible for this particular blog.

In my capacity as a crazy solitary mystic I attend appointments stolidly on my own. I wait on my own, I see the doctor or other health professional on my own and I deal with the consequences solitarily. This is the bed which I have made for myself and I am more than happy to lie in it. Of this I make no complaint. I do notice though that I am very much an unusual case. Most people seem to attend appointments, especially in hospital, with a companion. Adults have their spouses or partners, children have their parent (by which I mean mother but it would be un-PC to point out that I have never yet seen a child accompanied only by an adult male.)

As an observation this is fairly trivial and I expect that thousands have noticed the same. There is a reason though why it merits mentioning on a Catholic blog. It is argued by the Church that one reason for devotion to Mary, the Mother of God, is that she helps us to approach more closely and more warmly to Jesus her Divine Son. Others ask 'why not approach Him direct, what do we gain by calling upon Mary?' My waiting room observations amount to this. The doctor will not tell us more if we approach her with a companion, it makes no difference to her, but it makes a huge, life changing difference to most of us. A friend who listens to our anxieties as we wait, a companion who hears what we hear, a mother who rejoices as we rejoice or mourns as we mourn that is what most people seeking health and living with sickness need and dearly desire. That is the least of what Mary Health of the Sick is.

When I personally say that I need or desire no such thing in my dealings with doctors it does not mean, God forbid, that I think others should do without what I in my own idiosyncratic way do without. We are all, praise the Lord different from each other. Yet those Protestants who say that they can happily approach Jesus without recourse to Mary therefore nobody else should have recourse to her either are making precisely the same arrogant "I am the perfect template" assumption which I think should be forever repudiated by all calling themselves Christian.

Mary makes a difference. Being told things that affect the whole of the rest of your life, which might be shorter than previously anticipated, is Big Stuff. Hearing these things on your own and being left for hours or days on your own to digest them is not only Bigger Stuff but, perhaps Way Too Big Stuff. When you are too stunned to respond an Advocate can respond on your behalf. When you are to dazed to weep a Mother can weep for you. When you feel ashamed to beg Mary will shamelessly beg in your place. No child of Mary is ever abandoned.

Does my solitary mystic status mean that I am recommending a devotion which I do not myself share? By no means. One of the symptoms of my mystery illness is that I spend about 12 or 14 hours a day so ridiculously tired that I struggle to put together more than two or three coherent sentences (you may have noticed this already, sorry about that.) In that state (this state?) I struggle to lift my mind to contemplate the Blessed Trinity as it should be contemplated or Jesus the Logos of God as He should be contemplated. But never, never, do I struggle to raise my heart to Mary to love her as she should be loved.

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  1. Dear Steven

    I am glad that you have Mary with you. Having spent a fair bit of time in hospitals, some of it on my own, I have often ruefully joked that one can feel too sick and too tired to endure the hospital experience. The long waits for consultations, painful prodedures, recovery time, cancelled appointments, operational errors, far too busy and stressed staff - all of this can make you feel very small, very alone. Having a loving presence makes the world of difference, a loved one to hold your hand, sit with you in silence, listen to medical staff when you are too exhausted to take it in, to give you something to look forward to, to have someone to bounce off, to share fears and make unspoken pacts to just leave some subjects alone; all this kind of support helps more than words can say. And in some of my most awful moments where i could feel my body trying hard to betray life and my mind falling down a mine shaft of darkness and ghouls, to feel God's presence in that darkness is life and soul saving.

    I am so sorry that you are unwell my dear friend. I hope and pray that the doctors manage to fully figure out what the problem is soon. It is hard enough to cope with being physically unwell but when you cannot summon the mind to achieve inner equilibrium - everyday living gets very hard indeed. If God, through Mary, holds you up and embraces you when your 'self' has fled down tangled frightening ways, then thank the Lord for that. And those Protestants can criticise all they like - in my view they should be rejoicing.

    Be still dear friend and may courage be yours.

    And let us know how you go.

    with kindest wishes
    Donella Ann

  2. Thank you Donella, your words mean a great deal to me, more than I can say.