Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Cancer as Friend

"Many people are living with chronic and life-threatening illnesses, especially various forms of cancer. I remember often the advice given me, when I was thirteen and had contracted polio, by a neighbor whose daughter began her experience with the disease a year before. He came to my house, ran my leg through some exercises and said that I was not as severely affected as his daughter. Then he told me: “There is always someone who is worse off than you. Don’t ever feel sorry for yourself.” I have recalled this advice many times, in different circumstances over the years. It was the best advice I ever received. It enables me to encourage others, and many now write to tell me that they have found courage to face their own illness because I am still doing, in an increasingly restricted way, what I have been called upon to do by my office. At the same time, God also purifies us, and I have a sense that I’m being taught to let go, to put aside many of the concerns that have shaped my life, even as a bishop. I welcome that “purification of desires,” because it brings the “Unum necessarium” into clearer focus."
Cardinal George has much to say in an America magazine interview, but I gladly carry this paragraph, especially the last two sentences with me. Saint Francis of Assisi talked about "sister death", but I suspect for most people today the shock effect would come from treating cancer as a friend or companion.

I offer a prayer of petition for myself and the world today: for a purification of desires!

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