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Jun 24, 2020 232 0 Deacon Doug Mcmanaman
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Discover Your True Identity

You are truly, perfectly, magnificently… the one God says you are!

Waves of Despair

Back in 2011, just before the Christmas holidays, I came down with a mysterious illness. No-one in the medical profession could determine what it was. On the 23rd of December, I began to shiver and shake. I was feeling tremendous pain around my head, my neck, and my arms, so I climbed into bed, believing that this would pass before Christmas Day. Well, it did not.

I was in the Emergency Room on Boxing Day, in greater pain still. The pain moved from my head to my shoulders down my arms and into my legs. The doctor in Emergency thought it might be Polymyalgia Rheumatica, for which there is no known cure. They sent me home with a prescription for painkillers and prednisone.

As the week progressed, my condition was not improving, and I began to think that I would not be returning to the classroom. It was not only physical pain that I was contending with. I was also fighting despair. I felt waves of depression engulf me regularly. I could not imagine how I could live with this for the rest of my life.

A Simple Prayer

I was on the phone every day with my spiritual director. At one point, I told him: “This must be what those I minister to experience every day.” My ministry as a Deacon is to those who suffer from mental illness. This affliction gave me a momentary glance, from the inside, at the dark and difficult road they have to travel throughout their lives. I gained a much deeper appreciation for the nobility of their lives as sharers in the sufferings of Christ.

My spiritual director urged me to pray: “Into your hands, Lord, I commend my spirit. Into your hands Lord, I commend my spirit”. These lines are part of the Night Prayer from the breviary, so I have been praying those lines for years, but when we say certain prayers often enough, we can lose a sense of their depth of meaning. I had never thought of that prayer in the context of my illness. So, I said that prayer with greater concentration. In other words, “Into your hands Lord, I commend my spirit; do with me as you please. If it is your will that I never return to the classroom, then so be it”.

That night I had the best sleep. I woke up in a spirit of great joy. I was still in a great deal of pain, but the darkness was dispelled. Soon after that, the pain began to subside and eventually, after I had been slowly weaned off the prednisone, I was able to return to the classroom and teach for another 8 years. Neither my family doctor, nor any of the specialists I saw at that time, ever discovered what had caused me such torment. The last specialist assured me that it was not polymyalgia rheumatica, although she did not know what it was, probably just a virus of some kind.

Taste of Suffering

Over the years, I have looked back at that experience as a great blessing; a gift. It helped me to see the mental sufferers that I visit in a different light. I got a taste of what they suffer every day, year in and year out. Gaining an understanding of their predicament was essential to keeping them company in their distress, just as my spiritual director accompanied me during that difficult period. That is what the Incarnation of the Second Person of the Trinity is all about. God the Son joins a human nature to himself and enters into human darkness. By doing so, He joins himself to human suffering.

He came to inject His light into our darkness and His life into our death, so that when we suffer, we no longer suffer alone, and we no longer die alone. We can find Him in the midst of our suffering, and we can find Him in the throes of our own death. What we find is an inexhaustible mercy that joins us and keeps us company in our suffering and death.

Discover True Love

The divine justice has been revealed, in the Person of Christ, as Divine Mercy. The mercy of God is revealed in His passion, death, and resurrection. Although we do not deserve it, God, who is eternal life itself, reveals the boundless depths of His mercy by dying on the Cross. Through His death, He destroys the permanency, the darkness and the despair of death.

He would have done that even if you or I were the only person who needed to be redeemed from eternal death. God does not love humanity in general. No, He loves each individual person as if there is no-one else to love. Although God does not have our attention at every moment of our lives, each individual person has His undivided attention at each and every instant of our existence. That is how much each person is loved by God.

Melt Your Fears

This life is about learning to discover that perfect love. Too many of us are afraid of allowing ourselves to be touched by that love since it is like the sun heating everything that remains under its rays. It melts our deepest resentments, but for some of us, these grievances have become an essential part of our identity, so we resist that love. God’s perfect love will also melt away our fears, but some people cling to those apprehensions because their self-defensive posture is an integral part of their persona. To embrace that love requires letting go of total independence to permit the Lord to guide us as His children. To let go of resentments, fears and total independence, may leave us feeling lost, but of course, we are not lost. We have been found.

The Mercy of God revealed in Christ—in his Incarnation, Passion, Death and Resurrection—is completely and utterly unexpected. We see that Mercy in the image of the Cross, but we need to allow that image of his incomprehensible mercy to move from the outside to the inside, from an object that we contemplate exteriorly, to a light and love that we know from within ourselves. To achieve that completely takes a lifetime, but the day we begin to make our way down that road is the day we begin to live.

Deacon Doug Mcmanaman

is a retired teacher of religion and philosophy in Southern Ontario. He lectures on Catholic education at Niagara University. His ministry as a deacon is to those who suffer from mental illness.

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