Respecting Death: an Odd Family Tradition

I’m a stickler for family traditions.  Therefore, as I told my doctor, my preferred way to die is of some kind of cardiac incident in a church.

That was how my maternal grandmother died – and how her mother died before her!  And both in the same little church of St. Henri in my mother’s French-Canadian hometown…

Their Death Stories

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Life with Dignity: a Personal Plea against Assisted Suicide

Saint Augustine wrote, “it is never licit [right] to kill another: even if he should wish it, indeed if he request it because, hanging between life and death, he begs for help in freeing the soul struggling against the bonds of the body and longing to be released; nor is it licit even when a sick person is no longer able to live”.  (Ep. 204, 5: CSEL 57, 320)

For centuries, good and brilliant people have been advocating respect for human life.  I am not so very good, and certainly not brilliant, but the issue of assisted suicide, the so-called “right to die with dignity”, is very important to me. Physician-assisted suicide for terminally ill patients is the law in some states, like Oregon, Washington, and California. Other states have sought to pass similar legislation, including my own state of New Hampshire. When attempts fail, advocates continue to push and I’m sure that more proposed bills will be coming to a state or country near you – perhaps your own.  Here, I don’t offer pages of arguments against these laws.  Instead, I offer a heartfelt plea against “Death with Dignity” in the hope of saving countless innocent lives.

Christina Chase, disability rights, pro-life

My Life

Do you know what it’s like to be weaker than an infant, laboring daily to breathe, ravaged by an incurable disease, completely and utterly dependent on others for every basic need of survival? I do.  Although I am not terminally ill, but rather chronically ill, I know that one chest cold can turn into pneumonia and kill me… probably an agonizing death over days… or weeks.  Living all of my life with a progressive motorneuron disease, I have slowly weakened over time, becoming more crippled up and deformed, losing strength, losing simple abilities, losing energy, losing privacy. My family and paid home health aides feed me, brush my teeth, clean me of waste, bathe me, dress and undress me, transfer me to and from my wheelchair… and more. My parents have made tremendous sacrifices in order to help me survive each day. They are sacrificing their time, energy, strength — their own personal lives — for my life. And there have been times when I have wondered… is my life worth all of this? … all of this work, sacrifice and heartache? Continue reading

On Mass Killings and Respecting Life

james-barr-302867

I want to help build a culture of life.

My vocation, I believe, is to inspire and foster respect for human life, compassion for every human being, and recognition of everybody’s inherent, indissoluble dignity.  No matter how small or seemingly useless a person may be, each and every one of us is supposed to be here, each and every one of us is intrinsically sacred and beautiful in the eyes of the Creator Who brought us into existence.

Sometimes, though, my conviction in the core worth of every person gets tested.  On Sunday, October 1, 2017, celebrated on the Catholic Church calendar as Respect Life Sunday, a man perched in a high-rise in Las Vegas, Nevada fired upon a crowd of over 22,000 people, injuring nearly 500, and killing 58 before ending up dead himself.  This man had no history of mental illness, appears to have been a “normal guy”, was a wealthy, older man, and has no apparent ties whatsoever to any kind of terrorist group, foreign or domestic.  So… Why?  Why did he do it?  What was wrong with him?  Something must have been wrong with him… right?  I am asking these questions because I don’t have the answers….  Perhaps, there is no definitive answer. Continue reading

Favorite Things: Jesus Images

The Christian faith, especially in the Catholic Church, offers rich imagery for believers to assist in their worship.  After all, God created us with five physical senses and desires us to love Him with all of our heart, soul, strength, and mind.  Some images, however, fall flat for me, or are too pink-and-blue pretty.  For example, I seriously doubt that Jesus had blond highlights.

Since they say that a picture is worth 1000 words, in this post I’m sharing some of my favorite images to keep me mindful of my Consecration to the Sacred Heart of Jesus…

Sacred Heart of Jesus stained-glass

Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart, Houston, Texas; photo by MaryLea

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4 Life Lessons of Football

This reflection is about football.  That subject may seem like a departure for me, especially if you’ve read my blog before, but it’s really not.  Football happens to be one of my favorite topics of conversation.  But, don’t worry – even if you don’t like the game or understand the jargon, keep reading, there’s more.  Because this post is about the life lessons that one can learn from watching football.  You may scroll to read the detailed text or watch the video version below.

First: Life is a team sport.

Football, quarterback

Football is obviously a team sport, no matter how much some players may think that the game is all about them.  Now, although the quarterback gets most of the spotlight, hype, criticism, and glory, he knows that he is completely dependent upon his 10 teammates on the field – not to mention coaches, coordinators, trainers, and, obviously, the defense and special teams, who are both responsible for ball position on the field as well as score on the board.  No matter how well your quarterback may throw the ball, if he and the receiver aren’t communicating, or if the receiver drops the ball, then it’s all for naught.  Of most importance to the QB are the offensive line and other blockers, without whom the quarterback would just be scrambling around, trying not to become a permanent dent on the turf.

Teamwork is also essential in real life.  I know this personally and extremely, because I’m completely dependent upon other people for my every physical need.  I know that I can’t survive without others.  But, do you know that?  No one is totally independent or self-sufficient.  Yes, we interact with others, in some way, to get the basic resources of food, clothing, and shelter – but we also need each other for direction, encouragement, and, most of all, love.  We cannot be fully human, fully alive, without love.

Let’s us remember that we’re all in this together and love one another.

Second: It’s important to do your job.

Football, athlete, prayer, praying

“Do your job” is the famous mantra of Coach Belichick.  When a defensive player isn’t doing his job, it’s rather obvious, because a receiver goes uncovered and the other team makes a big play.  Even a perfect season can be ruined by one person not doing his job.  It’s about being where you’re supposed to be when you’re supposed to be there and fulfilling your role in the team.  In football, as in real life, we have particular roles to play.  Each person has God given gifts, talents, strengths, and a mission to fulfill.  We can’t do all things in all situations.  But, what we can do, what we’re called upon to do, we must do with diligence and excellence.

Now, your particular job is highly unlikely to have direct influence on changing the world.  But, it is your job to influence your family, your circle of friends, your workplace, or your community, for the better.  You may be just some rookie, backup corner named Malcolm Butler, say – but, if you do the grunt work of your job, preparing, training, and practicing, then when you are called to step up… well, you may just secure the championship for your team with one small act.

In my life, I’m able to do many things (have a blog, make videos, volunteer for my parish, write stories, essays, and poetry) because I live at home with my parents.  However, if I lost my whole family, God forbid, then I would end up in a nursing home.  In that situation, it would be my job to merely be patient, forgiving, and cheerful.  There’s nothing “mere” about that – it would probably be the hardest job in the world!  But, doing it well would benefit everyone around me, my fellow residents, and the staff members taking care of me.  I would still be able to fulfill my job of inspiring others.  And doing my job would help them to do theirs.

Third: A selfless act is a beautiful thing.

Football

There’s nothing prettier in all of football than when a highly talented wide receiver uses his abilities and strength, not to score a touchdown, but to block the defenders so that one of his teammates can go in and get the score.  Sometimes, what we are called on to do is to help another get success.  Good parents are examples of this.  My parents, with the sacrifices that they make in order to take care of me every day… well, they are wonderfully amazing examples of the beauty and power of self giving.

Fourth – going for it on fourth down: Every moment of life is precious.

Football

Life is beautiful – I believe this strongly and am grateful for every moment of my life, even through the difficult times, the weakness, the suffering.  I will try my best to live my life excellently, right through my life’s natural end and into eternity.

Want a football example for the importance of treating every moment of life as precious?  Okay.  The New England Patriots were down by 25 points in the third quarter of Super Bowl LI.  Most people thought that the game was over and, perhaps, another team may have thought that way, too.  But, not New England.  Coach had always drilled into them the importance of using and playing every second of the game, right until the end, no matter how bitter that end might be.  Doing your job is what matters, being there for your teammates and giving your all for the team – that’s more important than any statistics.  With this understanding, the Patriots were able to soldier on with their very best, employing every second wisely – and ended up victorious to the amazement of the world.

So, there you have it!  Enjoy the season – not just the football season, but also every season that comes your way.  And go Pats!

© 2017 Christina Chase


 Photo by Riley McCullough on Unsplash

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

Photo by Geoff Scott on Unsplash

Photo by Nathan Shively on Unsplash

 

Fibonacci: Science and Poetry, Part 3

God’s Fingerprints

 

Curls,

swirls,

whirling,

unfurling,

the universe forms

such dissimilar things as storms

and roses, galaxies and shells – with familiar tells.

 

© 2017 Christina Chase


This is Part 2 of my journey of faith chronicled through Fibonacci poems

Fibonacci: Science and Poetry, Part 2

Cliff diver, leap of faith

 

Faith

 

on

the

cliff, a

diver waits,

stilled, toes gripping edge…

then… leaps!  as Heart commits to Sea.

 

© 2017 Christina Chase


This is Part 2 of my journey of faith chronicled through Fibonacci poems

Photo of cliff diver from Shore Trips, Limited Mobility Travel via Google images

Fibonacci: Science and Poetry, Part 1

beach, seashell, Spirals

There is order in the created world, both seen and unseen.  As a person of both faith and reason, I know that some aspects of this order can be discerned – while some will always remain Mysterious to the limited human brain.  When science documentaries show the collapsing and exploding of stars, the forming of galaxies, the wondrous growth of life on our blue and green planet, some people see this as proof that God, Our Divine Creator, doesn’t exist.  I, too, once drew this conclusion – but how to do so now is beyond me, for all of my eyes are open.

If there is order in the universe to be discovered by scientific methods, then the universe must have been ordered.  And if it has been ordered, then there must be an Orderer.  Hello, God!   Continue reading

On Redemptive Suffering

Christina Chase

A friend told me fairly recently that she thinks of me when she reads Colossians 1:24.

Yes, I admit, I had to look it up…

“Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body, which is the church…”.

Ah, yes, I am familiar with this one, as well as its association with redemptive suffering.  But… I can’t say that I understand it.  Because I don’t.  I don’t really get the concept of redemptive suffering… but, I am trying.

My mother is a lifelong Catholic and, so, I do know about “offering it up”.  That is, she has told me to simply offer up my day and all of my pains and sufferings to God, suggesting to do this with a simple prayer first thing in the morning.  Okay.  I didn’t do that when I was younger, but, after my long spiritual journey and upon rediscovering Christ (perhaps, more accurately, upon discovering him for the first time) I wanted to give it a go.  And I have been.  But… I still don’t get it.

What Is Lacking in Christ?

Sometime during this year’s adventure in health, I thought again about this enigmatic phrase from Sacred Scripture, “in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ,” and a new thought was given to me.  Well, a new angle or perspective…

Cross

Jesus took on the sufferings of humankind with his sacrifice upon the Cross.  He was fully united with us in our pain, suffering with us.  But (and please forgive me if this sounds sacrilegious, I do not mean it to be, and if I am speaking incorrectly of Church teaching, please correct me) Jesus was one human, with one human body.  He could not, in his one human lifetime, suffer every suffering that is known to humankind.

There are billions of ways to suffer in this life.  Jesus suffered his particular suffering and, being fully divine as well as fully human, in his particular suffering he took on all of suffering – but… he did not himself physically suffer leprosy, or lifelong disability, or cancer, or, of course, menstrual pains and the pain of childbirth.  We do that as individuals.  However (and this is a big however) when we offer these trials and sufferings of ours up to God, when we seek to suffer them in union with Jesus on the Cross, then Jesus was and is able (the Mystery of the Eternal Now) to suffer them himself up there, once and for all, for the Salvation of the World.

Why Am I “Offering It up”?

Does this make any sense?  Well, not completely, but that’s partly because it’s a Mystery.  There are some things in this life that we can never understand because we are limited.  Jesus asks us to offer our sufferings up to him so that he may unite them with his Sacrifice on the Cross for redemption.  He suffers everything with us and for us when we turn to him in our sorrows and needs and, thus, saves humankind.

So, I have come a tiny bit closer to understanding “offering it up” and the reason that my friend thinks of me when hearing St. Paul’s words.  It is, after all, quite obvious, upon looking at me, that I suffer in my body.  And also rather obvious, upon knowing me, that I rejoice in being alive – if not exactly in my sufferings.  (I’m definitely not a saint yet!)

I don’t know what sufferings await me in the future – of course, no one does – but mine were feeling palpably close and real when I came to this understanding.  When I was thinking about offering it up during my cancer scare, Carrie Underwood’s song would come into my head: “Jesus, Take the Wheel.”  I don’t really know the words of the song or what it is about, but the sentiment of wanting God to take control and take over – because I know that I can’t do it on my own – I get… And I’m hoping that this is part of “offering it up”, too….  Yes.  It is.  For I am not alone.  None of us are.  And it’s good to know that.

Why Redemption through Suffering?

All of this does beg the question, however – “Why redemption through suffering?”  What is so good about pain that it has eternal benefit?  I’m sure there are many theologians that have tackled this question, but I’m just going to answer with this:

Why are lush, green islands dependent upon volcanic eruptions?  Why do the bodies of furry creatures need to decompose upon the forest floor and, thus, feed the forest?  Why rain?  Why childbirth to bring new life?

This is life, this is how this life works.  I don’t know precisely why because I didn’t create it.  But, I do trust the Creator and I am willing (God, help me) to live fully and love deeply this terribly beautiful life that He has given to me.  There are people who are suffering so much worse than I am, so much worse than I ever can.  My heart goes out to them… Can you imagine how much more so with Jesus?  His heart not only goes out to me, it is beating for me, it is being pierced for me.  For you.  I am not alone.  You are not alone.

May I truly offer my sufferings up to Christ for the Glory of God, for the Kingdom and the Salvation of Souls.

So mysterious… So fleeting this life… So lovely….  Please help us, our Lord and God…

© 2017 Christina Chase


Photo credits:

  1. At the Altar, © 2017 Dan Chase
  2. Aaron Burden, free to use through Unsplash.com

With Open Face Beholding

Lately, I’ve been feeling very well, body and soul. (Thank you, everyone, for your prayers!) The physical wellness is a great reprieve from the difficulties of the first part of this year and I am grateful to God for it! I do have a desire, however, to take a break from myself here – that is, a break from the deeper reflections on my personal experiences, all the burgeoning up of the thoughts and feelings of mind and heart. I am, it seems, a bit tired of me.

Not to worry, though, for there is much to do in the grace of God that doesn’t require such intense introspection. So, this week, I’m sharing something that I wrote as a Bible Burst: a poetic look at the lessons to be learned from a sunflower. Hope you enjoy it!

Bible Bursts

Lord, change me, make me new. Make me like you! – the plea of the sunflower.

2 Corinthians 3:17-18

Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.

But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the LORD.

Sunflower

There is a flower in my garden which is named for the sun. In appearance, much like the sun is she, golden arrayed, burning bright from the center with flaming colors outward spread. But there is more – much more meaning to her identity, because with the sun her whole existence is so lovingly aligned.

She does not mean to mimic or fool by merely sporting appearance – for what bird would dare to perch upon an orb of fire…

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