Saturday, May 20, 2017

Touching the Foot of Christ on the Cross

                                                      By Monica  LCW, Columbus, Oh.
     Please pass this partial repost of last year's Lenten newsletter along to people.  There is no regular way to get to it on Bing; so perhaps this will help.  Pray.
     I had an out-of-body experience at the Mayo Clinic in early June of 2015 that has taken me this long (almost 8 mos.) to try to capture in words, to attempt to clarify, or even to understand. This intense and alarming experience cannot be subjected to words or boxed into words, which has been part of the delay, as well as illiciting a horror in me of its memory, equaled to a memory of simultaneous intense, agape-love ecstacy, in an almost mystical sense.  I am glad to have delved deeply into St. John of the Cross before (The Ascent to Mount Carmel and Dark Night of the Soul) 3 yrs ago on a 3-week silent retreat, to begin to grasp and digest this incident. 
      Having been nudged for quite a while by the Holy Spirit to try to write about it, the final push was at mass at St. Patrick’s today where we perch on the edge of another beautiful Lenten season.  The Dominican priest, on celebrating the feast of Blessed Catherine Ricci, reminded us of the power of meditating at length on the passion of Christ, particularly of Him on the Cross (one Gospel has this being for six hours, not three) in excruciating, writhing agony, suffering for all of our sins and sinful living, that of the whole world, to set us free.
     Basically, I believe that God allowed me to touch the foot of Christ on the Cross, and for 8-10 seconds, maybe 15, as long as I could stand without letting go, I was allowed to share in SOME of the intense swirling conglomerate of pain and love that enveloped Him during His hours of “defeat” and triumph on the Cross.
     I had once seen a detective show where there was a gory graphic scene of a 20 year old woman who had been nailed to crude cross beams with large nails in her hands and feet, and was found the next day.  It was shocking.  I realized then how I had become somewhat numbed or used to seeing Christ on the Cross and had lost the true sense and appreciation of the intensity and torture of Christ’s torment on the Cross.
     For those who have not read past articles, I had donated 59% of my liver to a relative in end-stages liver disease in a surgery on June 9.  There were complications, then a fully ruptured bowel (technically the secum leading to the colon) and a second emergency surgery performed 4 ½ days later, having to be left somewhat open for several weeks.  The convalescence has been long, with almost six months off of work with many complications, and is still taking place (hence another reason for the delay in this newsletter and writings).
     I will admit that I went to the Mayo as a coward.  I was terrified and did believe that God was possibly asking my life for the sake of The Lamb Catholic Worker to begin here and for Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin’s canonization, besides saving a relative's life.  While I said “yes,” I was more and more scared the closer the date came.  It was not until the very day before surgery that this lessened some, when the Gospel was the same as what I had planned for my funeral, the beatitudes.  This felt as a a gentle nod to me that all was in His hands totally and I could be at peace.  This is not the life anyways, the real life is to come!
     In my weeks leading up to leaving for the Mayo, the fear had become so intense (certainly tangled in  and magnified by menopausal hormones) that I went to The Book Loft in German Village to find any kind of relief in the religious section.  I had gone to MANY Eucharistic Adorations, and they helped to appease it while I was there, but as soon as my foot was outside, it all came flooding back.  More than anything, I was ashamed at how scared I was and wanted to pretend to be brave, or to REALLY BE brave.
     Only two things caught my eye in the few minutes I stayed at the bookstore.  One was simply a book cover that said, “Living Courageously:  You Can Do Anything, Just Do It Afraid.”  That was it!  It IS courageous to do something anyways, even as a scaredy-cat, so I convinced myself. I just wanted to take a big straw and suck His strength and His braveness into me.
       The second thing I found was truly amazing and perfect.  It was a short story of an orphanage during the Korean War.  It had been hit directly by bombing and corrugated metal and parts were everywhere.  Underneath everything was a 4 year old girl with a severed leg, bleeding to death.  The doctors asked all the orphan children that were her blood type if one would come forward and give them their blood or she would die.  A little 6 year old boy finally stepped forward.  They began taking his blood and he started to cry.  He was asked if it hurt and he said no.  They continued and he cried so hard he was wailing.  They stopped and said he did not have to if he was afraid or if it hurt, and he said, “I am NOT afraid, keep going.”  They did and he screamed and screamed. 
     When finished they asked him why he was crying so hard if he was not afraid and it did not hurt much.  He said that he thought he had to give her all his blood, and that he would die instead.  They asked him, “WHY would you do that?!  Why would you be willing to give her all of your blood?”  He said, “She is my friend.”
      I felt God’s grace pour over me that it is okay if I am not this perfect martyr, but a big baby.  As I walked out of the bookstore, a beautiful sight unfolded before my eyes.  The trees, I think Magnolias, were shedding their white, pink-lined blossoms like snow, with no breeze to cause this.  I sat down on the benches to soak it up, the petal-covered ground and pedestal bird feeder looking as a beautiful wedding.  As petals fell on my clothing I thought of the Scripture, from Revelations, that goes something like, “the wedding feast of the Lamb has begun; the bride has made herself ready, adorned with the finest of linen glistening and pure..”
      At the Mayo, I lay in bed one day in particularly excruciating pain.  My memory was after the first surgery but before they had found and acknowledged the perforated secum (ruptured bowel). The pain meds were not cutting it much at all.  I couldn’t pray or use words well in my head.

       Every split second was beyond any pain level I had ever experienced, including five childbirths with no painkillers or epidurals.  I couldn’t even hold up one hand by itself toward God, so I took my hand I was trying to hold up and barely held it up at the wrist, with my other hand. 
       We had been listening daily to a song Abby Evans, my niece and caregiver, kept playing for me called “I Surrender,” by Hillsong (the 12-minute concert version on Youtube is the best).  It goes:
I surrender,
I surrender,
I want to know you, Lord
I want to know you, Lord.
Like a rushing wind,
Jesus breath within,
Lord have your way,
Lord have your way,
Innnn Me.
Like a mighty storm
Stir within my soul,
It gets pretty intense!
       I was trying to sing this song with intensity in my head, and then praying: “Have your way in me, have your way in me, have your way in me, have your way in me,...  You could stop this if you really want to; you must be willing this.  Have your way in me, have your way in me, I say yes, have your way in me. I offer this for the canonization of Dorothy Day!  For the canonization of Peter Maurin!  Then almost screaming in my head too – “I do this for ______’s SALVATION!” (one of my five children who is an atheist).
      That’s when it happened. Eyes closed, with my hand barely pointing upward from my abdomen, I was suddenly touching something warm, round, and slimy, with a sharp-edged metal piece coming out of the top.  I opened my eyes in my mind and it was the foot of Christ on the Cross.  I couldn’t see the other foot, I was in such close proximity.  I looked up and could not even see His knee, the bright blinding light from above was so intense, completely swallowing the entire room.  I was almost instantaneously drawn into an inferno of pain, like fire all over my whole body, wracking, and boiling my skin. Later when I was remembering, I recalled that the most intensity was in my palms and feet.
      Simultaneously, there was a burning in my heart for Christ as I have never experienced, equally as intense as the pain. I felt this ferocious love for me as well, my direction. I could only hold on for probably 8-10 seconds or so, maybe 15, before letting go.  THIS had been 100 times worse than my pain.  When I “came back,” although still in a GREAT deal of pain, I took a nap!  It was NOTHING, nothing in comparison, not even in the same galaxy, as this pain Christ led me through.  Nothing in my life from this point on will ever compare, even if I were to be crucified somehow.  Christ had had the “sins” of the world rip through His wounds and His torture - not just metaphorically, but physically. 
      My love for Him was forever changed, transformed to heights I did not think possible.  It was a gift, a gift. Just brace yourself if you say or sing that you want to really know Him, as in the song, and to have His way in you. It is almost too much for us to bear, his level of love for us. Those who wanted to walk closely right up with Christ, his beloved Apostles, to know Him, love Him dearly as a friend, learn from Him, and follow Him closely, were all martyred.  The exceptions were Judas Iscariot and John (although his "martyrdom' may have been the worst if he touched Christ's foot as support, but even if not, witnessing what he did!).  These grueling deaths though were after living incredible lives of great joy in the Spirit, building His Kingdom on Earth. Better yet, now they are at His side forever, seeing His beautiful beautiful face, laugh, Spirit.

           My Sweet Savior, Jesus Christ, through constant prayer and the intercession of Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin, and through the loving care of my family, Lisa, Abbie, and Dory are mainly what got me through this ordeal.  I think of St. Paul, and after having had a particularly torturous scourging, was singing praises to God even after midnight in the jail, chained heavily (against his wounds in dirt and skin agitation), when the walls shook and the chains fell off everyone.  He stopped the guard from killing himself, and was “cleaned up” at the guard’s house before baptizing him, showing he was quite a mess.  Wow, singing praises in this situation, not knowing his fate too.
       I was not always singing God's praises at the Mayo, but hope to if I am ever in another situation of intense physical suffering for Christ. My heart goes out to our modern martyrs in dangerous places. As my niece Bernadette Rogers, young Catholic mother of eight has tattooed on her, "Make my suffering perfect."

    Take Up Thy Cross

Take up thy cross, the Savior said,
If thou wouldst my disciple be;
Deny thyself, the world forsake,
And humbly follow after me.

Take up thy cross, let not its weight
Fill thy weak spirit with alarm;
His strength will bear thy spirit up,
And brace thy heart and nerve thine arm.

To Thee, great Lord, the One in Three,
All praise for evermore ascend;
O grant us in our home to see
the heav'nly life that knows no end. Amen

From the Liturgy of the Hours for Benedictine Oblates, St. Meinrad Archabbey, P. 184



Pray for the canonization of Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin, please!