I wriggled to the end of the hospital bed and curled up in a ball, hoping I had finally stopped being sick. The pain thudded. It felt like my brain had decided to bounce up and down against my skull. I couldn’t walk. My eyesight was doing some kind of kaleidoscope thing. After a few hours in the Accident and Emergency my hair could really only be described as, ‘Mad Woman in the Attic’. I was ‘glowing’ profusely.
I had been in this situation before. I will be in this situation again. I’ve been in so many ICU’s I could write a user’s guide. However, this particular episode did have one unusual aspect to it. I had spent six and a half years in the noviciate of the Secular Order of Discalced Carmelites. I knew at this point that the call had developed into one of full religious sister. The full nine celibate yards.
That day, stuck in a curled up mess on the end of a hospital bed, I cried to God something like, ‘How can you call me? I can’t do anything. Look at me? I am nothing. I can’t help anyone, do any good like this…’ I kind of fizzled out at this point. I frantically searched around for a solution. I wondered what the Church’s advice would be? A priest, I thought. I must call for a priest and ask for his counsel. I managed to communicate this to a member of staff and in due time a priest from the next door Catholic church came running onto the ward. The poor man had Mass in a matter of minutes but he heard someone was in need so he came. He put me at my ease, advising me to concentrate on the ‘be’ and not to worry about the ‘do’. God, in His time, will sort it.
As the priest was trying to make a dash for the lifts, a lady that was in the bed at the top of the ward began waving her arms around indicating that she needed the priest. He went in to her cubical and emerged some time later.
After the priest left the woman came over to me. She started fiddling around in her bra and from its confines pulled out a little tiny prayer booklet. This little booklet was clearly precious to her but she insisted on giving it to me. She was from the Philippines and spoke almost no English. It transpired that the following day she was due some very serious test results. She was desperate to make Confession but couldn’t make herself understood to the staff. She was literally fighting off despair and then, as if by a miracle, a priest came to the ward. She insisted this was all down to me.
God gave His answer. I was a curled up ball of nothingness, but in His hands all things are possible. For some reason it didn’t seem to matter to God that I was just a splat in a hospital ward. My chronic sickness and disability wasn’t in contravention to God’s call, it was somehow linked to it.
I returned home with altered understanding. ‘Concentrate on what you can do, rather than worrying about what you can’t’ said my inner bumper-sticker. I began writing blogs on the Religion and Philosophy section on MySpace. All I needed for internet work was a couple of fingers and an attitude. I thought I could probably manage that.
Pretty soon it became about defence of the Faith. It was just how it rolled. I love to read and study and would address people’s points clearly but respectfully. I did not meet hate with hate but vigorously dealt with all matters head on (of course, making clear I was speaking as an ordinary Catholic and had no mandate from the Church to speak on her behalf). The atheists hated me. At one point there was a hate-blog out about me. Disconcertingly it stayed on page one for some weeks. I was a bit hurt by this at first, then I thought about all those Catholics who gave their life for the Faith. They gave their life and I’m pouting because I’m being called names. I can safely say that I have been called everything under the sun. People really speak their mind when they can hide behind the safety of their keyboard. Besides, I have had an eventful life. To be honest, I have rarely been called anything I haven’t deserved, at least at some stage of my life.
Hospital stays came and went and MySpace changed their settings. Then something happened. Our beloved Pope St John Paul ll sat at that window, trying to get out the Easter message. To my knowledge he didn’t get out a single word but the truth of the passion in his eyes as he struggled to speak drew millions to his bedside. Christ spoke through those eyes. The brutal facts were that he was an elderly, disabled, sick and dying man who was barely able to speak a word, yet God spoke to millions through him. My vocation became clear.
I have proposed an Order for sick and disabled women. They would live under the discipline of a Contemplative Community but would live outside in adapted premises. This way they would remain the responsibility of the wider society and would not be a burden on the Community. They would have an adapted Rule and the Charism would be to enter the life of the Suffering Christ. In addition to formal prayer they would offer their pain and suffering for the Universal Church, most especially the Holy Father. They would work as missionaries on cyberspace. Defend the Faith where the minds of today’s world congregate. I have set up a company called the Little Heaven Shop Ltd and am busy learning art and craft skills to help fund the Order. I have spoken to my parish priest, a wise Jesuit and he has been most encouraging. He has spoken to some people about putting me on retreat and I am waiting, pretending to be patient (how am I doing?)
I continue, when I can, to defend the Faith on Facebook and spend time in prayer, study and craft work. I am working to develop a blog, then a website.
Cardinal Vincent Nichols was recently quoted as saying, ‘It is a great lie to try and convince people that life living with serious illness is not worth living’. He was answering the euthanasia lobby who are working towards the second reading of a bill that would legalise assisted suicide for the terminally ill on September 11. The Institute of the Queen of Peace would be a loud Catholic rallying call for the principle of Life. Life in Christ, valuable in all in all its forms.
Here’s the thing; those entering the front line of Church defence would not be the well, the young, the able-bodied. They would not be the strongest of the strong.