By Barb Arland-Fye
Eighteen months ago, my cousin Connie’s daughter Katie began a challenging journey with cancer two weeks after giving birth to her first child. I continue to pray for Katie, her husband Andrew and their son Luke. Katie and her husband are committed to their Catholic faith and have relied on it through this ordeal, which inspires me.
Our church, rightfully so, is concerned about the “nones,” the young adults who claim no religious affiliation. We tend to overlook young adults who embrace their Catholic faith and have developed a deeper sense of their relationship with God, their fellow human beings and all of creation. Katie is one of them. She demonstrates a maturity of faith nurtured long before being diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia/lymphoma (ALL).
Three weeks ago, Katie posted on her CaringBridge page a reflection that caused me to take action. I decided, despite feeling fatigued from a long work week, to attend an event where I knew my presence would be appreciated. I’ve been reflecting on her post ever since.
Katie wrote that she had just finished her first delayed intensification treatment. The first few weeks were a little rough because of nausea, but she was thankful to have good days that past week and felt blessed not to have gotten an infection. Soon she’ll have a PET scan to monitor the cells in the tumor located near her heart.
“I thank everyone for their prayers for me and my family,” she wrote. “And please know we pray for you. If you ever have a specific request, don’t hesitate to ask us to pray for you. Intercessory prayer is beautiful, and it can bring us all closer to each other and our Lord.”
In her reflection she addressed a question she had been asked about why God has permitted this challenging time in her family’s life. She offered this perspective of an illness that has both blessed and tried her:
“I am quite at peace and expect to never know the answer. Before I got sick, I read about redemptive suffering. St. John Paul II wrote about it in his papal encyclical named “Salvifici Doloris.” It talks about how you can offer up the pains you experience for others and for prayer intentions. I think Andrew has mentioned this in a few posts.
“I also really like the story of Joseph in the Old Testament (Genesis 37:1-46:7), or my short summary: This is where he is sold by his brothers into slavery and lives a pretty rough life until he interprets Pharaoh’s dream. Then, since he is Pharaoh’s right hand man, he is able to save Israel from the famine that was plaguing the land.
“Joseph stayed true to God, and God rewarded him in the end. I know that God will do the same for me, and he will not give me something I can’t handle. And since God’s ways are not our ways, I probably wouldn’t even understand the ‘why.’ But as long as I use this as an opportunity to grow in faith to accomplish my goal of eternal life in heaven, then I can take what he gives me now. I also pray that through this ordeal I can witness to others, so they can spend their eternal life in heaven as well.
“All too often Christianity has been preached as a gospel of prosperity, but Jesus calls us to take up our cross and journey with him. Our world is focused on ending suffering, but suffering does not have to be negative, and I hope I can be a witness to that. Suffering can make us stronger in ways we never realized we can be.”
(Barb Arland-Fye can be reached at email@example.com.)