Spirituality for Today – August 2015 – Volume 20, Issue 1

Hard Times

Rev. Raymond Petrucci

Do I pray only when facing hard times? Do I ignore God the rest of the time? How sad that so many people answer yes to these questions. Sadder still is that too many otherwise devout people expect their faithfulness to act as a protective patina against hardship. It is easy to focus on the glories of Jesus' stories of the Kingdom of God and forget about his admonition about being willing to pick up our own crosses and follow him. Discipleship is blessed with the indescribable promises of Our Lord about the rewards of perseverance in faith. Yet, faith does not make us invulnerable to the realities of sin and death, the failures and the tragedies of life, or the pain and sorrow that accompany them. God's love for us is absolute, but also mysterious in its functioning, its expression, and in its gifts.

Bret Baier is one of the anchors at FOX News. He and his wife, Amy fell somewhere in the middle of those two types of Catholics mentioned above. But it was one of those "hard times" that would bind their faith and their love tighter than ever. Amy gave birth to a son that they named Paul. Nurse Beth Kennedy noticed that his color was not what it should be. It was discovered that Paul had severe problems with his heart. One might say miraculously, the doctor who answered the page while driving near the hospital was Dr. Gerard Martin, among the most revered cardiologists on the planet. Paul's needed a number of operations and will need more surgery as he grows, but he made it. Bret and Amy made it; their Catholic re-awakening opened a new comprehension of faith, prayer, and love. They found out about the power of prayer as their family and a multitude of friends and colleagues prayer fervently for the boy's recovery. Fellow journalist, Brit Hume, whose son had committed suicide, was a source of wisdom and comfort: "'Brit's early counsel was really important to me because I knew he knew the darker points of life and dealing with loss.' After his son's death, Baier continues, 'Hume turned to his church and the Bible – we're of different [denominations] but the same mentality – so his advice and counsel were really substantive. He basically said as hard as it is right now, it's going to get better, and you have to trust in God and the doctors, and you have got to put it in God's hands." [Source: Bret Baier's Tale of Faith and Healing, James Breig, St. Anthony Messenger, October 2014] The challenges for Paul Baier and his family are a long time from being finished. Many more prayers will be called for and offered.

As a past chaplain at a hospital, I know that happy endings are not always the result for families facing desperate times regarding the illness of a loved one. Understanding suffering and loss as sharing in the redemptive sacrifice of Our Lord is not an easy concept for many people to grasp, but an Easter faith is based on that truth of Jesus' victory over the evils of life and of our sharing in that victory as his disciples. Putting our most heartfelt desires within the hands of God and being able to face a good or tragic outcome is an act that takes deep faith and the loving support of those around you.

Bodily pain affects man as a whole down to the deepest layers of his moral being. It forces him to face again the fundamental questions of his fate, his attitude toward God and his fellow men, of his individual and collective responsibility, and of the sense of his pilgrimage on earth. Pope Pius XII

There is a passage in the gospels in which Jesus tells his disciples that anyone who wishes to enter the Kingdom of Heaven must not love any person or thing more than God. Many lives, however, reflect a grim reality of doing just that – an idolatry of the heart. We all face hard times. Trust nothing on this earth to give us the hope and assurance that we need. Only in God can we find the courage and strength to bear up before the storm. Only with God can we conquer the follies and the disasters of being human. Depend on God to walk with you, enlighten you, and save you through all of your hard times.