“Our once great western Christian civilization is dying. If this matters to followers of Jesus Christ, then we must set aside our denominational differences and work together to strengthen the things that remain and reclaim what has been lost. Evangelicals and Catholics must stand together to re-establish that former Christian culture and moral consensus. We have the numbers and the organization but the question is this: Do we have the will to win this present spiritual battle for Jesus Christ against secularism? Will we prayerfully and cooperatively work toward a new Christian spiritual revival ― or will we choose to hunker down in our churches and denominationalisms and watch everything sink into the spiritual and moral abyss of a New Dark Age?” - Mark Davis Pickup

Monday, October 31, 2016


Having lived with degenerative disability for more than 32 years, I have learned this: The mind is greater than the brain. Rise above disability, don't sink beneath it. Keep a positive attitude and seek your full potential.

[Click image below or https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZynnAJFM8UA For Andrea Bocelli singing "Because We Believe. He chose to rise above his blindness to achieve great heights of musical achievement.]

Sunday, October 30, 2016


The Catholic Health Care Association of Saskatchewan recently asked me to deliver a keynote address to their 2016 annual conference. On the promotion brochure they said:
"Mark Pickup's life and testimony speaks volumes about the profound meaning that can be found in human suffering and limitation, through relationship with Jesus Christ. Mark, who has advanced multiple sclerosis and is wheelchair dependent, will share the story of his journey from despair to hope as he found meaning through his Christian faith. Mark reminds us that everyone who is suffering needs the support of a significant community to overcome their fears of pain and powerlessness."

They called my address "Surprised By Hope".  Below is what I said. -- Mark: (For bookings email mpickup@shaw.ca) 

In the months before the Canadian Supreme Court made its odious and morally corrupt assisted suicide ruling, I was asked to speak to an Alberta Conference for Christian women. They asked me to address the rising threat of euthanasia and assisted suicide. Of course, we now know medical assisted suicide has come to Canada for suicidal people like me. I did speak about euthanasia but I also spoke about grief. I did this because I believe that unresolved grief fuels calls for euthanasia and assisted suicide.

During my speech, I noticed a young woman of about 30 years of age sitting in the front row of the audience feverishly taking notes.  After my presentation I was greeting people. The young woman came up to me. Her name was Kimberley. Kim was using a cane and had the classic unsteady gait so common to early multiple sclerosis ― the same disease I have. She told me she was diagnosed with MS five years earlier. I asked Kim how she was doing? She said, “I’m scared out of my mind.” I knew that, I could see the fear in her eyes.

I usually use a full electric wheelchair but airlines damage it so badly that I resorted to using a travel scooter for travel. My speech was local so Kim looked at my electric wheelchair with in a combination of sadness and horror.  I told her not to assume she will end up in one. From her description of the course of her MS it was strikingly similar to where I was at the five year point. Her eyes welled up with tears and like a little child she said “I need a hug.” As she hugged me I could feel her frail and frightened body shake like a broken reed quivering in the wind.

How do I console such a soul? That vivacious, vital young woman, with so much promise, knew her hopes and dreams were being snatched away from her with each MS attack. Kim saw in me what she dreaded most.  It is so easy to feel swindled by life.
I know that feeling. It so easy to grow bitter and eventually despair of the very act of living: I’ve known that temptation too.

I went from being a healthy and athletic man about Kim’s age to what you see today. At about the 2-3 year point in my downhill slide with MS, my grief was so profound and unimaginable, my sorrow so deep, my heartache so sharp, that my judgment was clouded.

The course of my MS was wild, volatile and raucous.  I went to bed each night not knowing what functions I would wake with or without.

·      I would go spastic;
·      I would lose the use of a leg, both legs, or my right arm. In fact there was a point when I was in serious threat of becoming quadriplegic;
·      My vision was affected;
·      My hearing and speech was affected;
·      I would lose control of bladder function and dirty myself;
·      I had a crippling fatigue and I still do.

All these symptoms would come with no guarantee they would remit. Some symptoms remitted quickly; others stayed for weeks, months and even years. There was no guarantee they would go into remission at all or return all previous function. Some have not.  

If assisted suicide had been available in the mid-1980s, and if I not had been enveloped in the love of God and my wife, LaRee, I may have taken my life at a low point. I am so glad now that did not happen. I would never have known my 5 grandchildren. (We never know what tomorrow may bring.) I needed to safely grieve with the freedom to cry out, and not be helped with a death wish I might have expressed at my lowest point.

People need to grieve a loss: They need to know that there are people around them who will uncompromisingly hold up the value of their lives – even if they cease to believe in their own value. A person grieving catastrophic disability or incurable illnesses needs help to rediscover their natural human dignity when they have lost sight of it.

Throughout 30 years with degenerative MS, I have observed and studied grief – both my own and others. Grief will visit everyone. Someone you know has grieved a loss, is grieving a loss at this very moment, or is about to grieve. Perhaps that someone is you.

Grief is like a river that cuts through the course of human lives. When the current in a river of grief ceases to move, it can stagnate and become dangerous if internalized. Things that block or dam the flow of grief must be cleared away or broken though.

My river of grief, spanning more than 3 decades, has had it ebbs and flows related to sorrow – and even rapids of terror as I was dragged through various stages of neurological disease.

This is my experience: Different people grieve differently depending on their personality and disposition, their culture and background, and most importantly their openness to the divine love of God through His Son Jesus Christ.

Some people are loquacious and expressive in their grief. We see this in some middle-eastern cultures.  My cultural background is British, and particularly that strain of stiff English reserve that is loath to express emotion. To deny one’s sorrow is almost seen as virtue. In some ways, that put me at a disadvantage to speak about grief. I was taught that if one must mourn then do it silently and with appropriate aplomb.  If one must weep go to your bedroom and weep, people don’t want to see it.

For a long time, this cultural disadvantage made it difficult for me to express grief and so I became introspective about intense emotional agony. It made intense grief more intense because it isolated me from my community. (I bought a cocker spaniel. I hoped he would keep me company and bark to alert me if a burglar was trying to break into my house. Unfortunately he was an English cocker spaniel. Jeeves wouldn’t bark at strangers unless they were properly introduced.)

The reality of grief is that it is diverse yet distinct. People grieve in various ways: They grief visually; they grieve in sound and in abstract ways. Perhaps grief raises its head at the sight a park, lake or even a flower that takes us back to an earlier and happier time before sickness or disability. Maybe a song transports us to another place and time.

Let me give you a personal experience:  In the early days with MS attacks, the very sight of my cane beside my bed in the morning brought a stabbing shock. On one occasion I remember hobbling on my cane down a city street. Not realizing I was seeing my own reflection in a window of an office tower, I thought the man coming toward me was quite disabled. What a shock to discover I was looking at myself.

You see, although I knew in my head I was limping and using a cane, my psyche imagined me walking normally. I could accept internally a temporary injury but I could not bear the reality was that I was losing function that could be permanent.

The sound of a certain song on the radio can remind me of the last time I was able to dance with my wife. As we danced that evening, she started to cry -- knowing we were coming to the end of that particular rainbow – to borrow a phrase from the lyrics of that song.

Grief is distinct in that it is usually focused on an object, which is different from depression, which may (but not necessarily will) have a focus. Depression and grief are often interconnected but in my experience they are not the same. Grief that ceases to progress can settle into depression. Depression that does not move is dangerous because it festers and can become entrenched. Grief is often dynamic, depression is usually not: It is lethargic and abstract. Grief is dynamic because it still interacts to its surroundings and stimulus. Grief is expressive while depression tends to turns in on itself. Grief can express a multitude of emotions through music, writing, drama or dance. This is good. It indicates grief that is fluid and moving.

Depression can only express darkness of the human spirit. It is stagnant and unresponsive. Because grief and depression are so closely interconnected it is important for caregivers and loved-ones try to keep them from melding together.   

Music played a huge part in my grieve journey. Anyone who reads my blog will know that. One thing I lost early in my multiple sclerosis was my sense of musical timing, and the coordination in my right hand. This was a terrible shock to me because music was a huge part of my life. I played guitar, and at the risk of sounding boastful, I was very skilled.
I grew up in a musical and artistic family. My mother taught music for over sixty years. In fact, if you go to the community where I was raised, you will find a performing arts center named after my mother: The Eleanor Pickup Arts Centre.
At any rate, about two years after losing my ability to play the guitar, I realized it was probably not going to return. And so I took my beautiful, top of the line instrument and sawed it in half.
My wife was horrified! She yelled at me, ‟What are you doing! You`ve lost your mind!” I put the two pieces of my guitar back in the case and we spent the rest of the evening in stunned silence. But I wasn`t sorry. That night after the family was asleep, I got up and wrote a note and put it in the case with the destroyed Fender guitar. May I read you what that note said?:
I sawed my guitar in half today. It was the healthiest thing I have done in a long time. It gave me a release and a feeble way to express my grief. My love was music. As a youth I lived for my guitar and my music. I remember when I would rather play than eat. Now, my timing is gone, so too is the strength in my hands.
On September 27th 1986, my new reality came into clear focus. Life will not be normal again. I realized I must pick up the pieces remaining in life and forget what I`ve lost. Grief that would not focus for 2 years finally came to a head. I couldn`t cry so I sawed my guitar in half.
I couldn`t just give it away; that would only be more things slipping out of reach. There`s been too much of that already. I needed to sever the past with no tiny remnants to haunt me and taunt me.
I sawed to say goodbye to artistic expression. I sawed to say goodbye to a carefree youth. I sawed to say goodbye to life without a cane or other contraptions of the disabled. I sawed to release grief and say Ì hurt! But mostly, I sawed to say goodbye to an old and trusted friend – my guitar – a finely crafted instrument I can no longer play.
It didn`t seem right to just leave it in its case. I sawed my guitar in half today.

It was like a dam burst to let my grief move on.  A letting go began to take a first step ― the first of many ― that continues to this day in a long journey toward a redefining of self.

Still, music remains my friend, even though I can’t participate. There were times when music expressed my deepest sorrow in ways words and tears could not. J.S. Bach’s Cantatas remind me of Christ’s love.  Samuel Barber’s adagio for strings captures emotion of grief in a profound way and had a peculiar effect on me in this regard. During my early years with MS, I identified with orchestral renditions of his adagio. In recent years as my acceptance of disability grew, I have leaned toward to Barber’s 1966 a cappella choral arrangement in one movement under the liturgical title Agnus Dei (Lamb of God). Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, composed in complete deafness, symbolizes to me the human spirit overcoming adversity and disability.

Most people are aware that he was deaf when he wrote his 9th Symphony. It was his crowning achievement. I want to bring to your attention to the fact that Beethoven was going deaf when he wrote his 1st symphony. It was detectable when he began composing his 1st symphony in 1798. When it was completed in 1800, Beethoven’s had become quite anxious about his malady. By his own words, Beethoven had noticed his hearing loss beginning in 1796 at the age of twenty-six. By 1801 his physicians began various therapies, to no avail. His deafness increased to be near total, yet his creative prowess did not falter. All 9 symphonies were composed with some level of deafness! His mind was so muscular. How could it be that the standard bearer of the Romantic era was a composer who was deaf! Despite this, he rose above his predicament to reach unequalled human achievement.
Beethoven’s beloved Moon Light Sonata was composed in serious deafness. The same is true for his opera Fidelio and Creatures of Prometheus.  It’s doubtful he heard much of his 5th Symphony, his concerto for violin and orchestra, his Masses.
 In Beethoven’s life story, we read about his inner and outer troubles, his disappointment with life, his isolation and emptiness brought on by his disability. Beethoven addressed this isolation in a letter he wrote to his brother Carl in 1802. He wrote:
“[F]orgive me when you see me draw back....for me there is no relaxation with my fellow man, no refined conversations, no mutual exchange of ideas. I must live almost alone, like one who has been banished. ...But what a humiliation for me when someone standing next to me heard a flute in the distance and I heard nothing, or someone standing next to me heard a shepherd singing and again I heard nothing. Such incidents drove me almost to despair; a little more of that and I would have ended my life – it was only my art that held me back.”
In that same letter, Beethoven prayed,
“O Divine One, thou seest my inmost soul thou knowest that therein dwells the love of mankind and a desire to do good.”  At the end of his letter to Karl and Johann, he wrote in his despair, “Farewell and do not wholly forget me when I am dead.”
These words were written at a point of crisis for Beethoven about his deafness. Happily for us, the crisis passed and the great man rose above is deafness to eventually write his 9th and final symphony at his peak of creative power.
Although Beethoven used Schiller’s Ode to Joy, there is a spirituality or mystical quality to the 9th. Symphony. It has a note of authentic life experience. It contains energy yet a peace and an acceptance only won by strife, and a wisdom only suffering can teach.
Here in this 9th symphony we see a triumph of human spirit over adversity sustained by a spark of God’s love in a silent world. Yes, above a starry canopy dwells a loving Father who can reach into the silent world of a deaf genius and touch us even 192 years later.
In fact, I keep a bust of Beethoven on my fireplace mantle to continually remind me of this. Yes, the right piece of music can touch my heart. Still, when the last note dies away and the room is silent, I have often been left to wrestle with my grief. It has been in the silence of my room that His still small voice whispers, “Be not afraid, I AM with you.”

Grief of acquired disability or incurable illness cannot and should not be stopped or avoided or it will back-up and fester. Perhaps you have met disabled people who have become bitter and cynical.

Remember that suffering creates isolation that is difficult if not impossible to express. It deepens the sense of isolation. The sufferer’s loved ones see the anguish of the sufferer and they feel helpless to alleviate the pain. This can create an excruciate sense of isolation for them too. Two anguished solitudes. My wife LaRee speaks of this. She once said “It is easier to be than to watch.”

She was watching me being ravaged by countless MS attacks. Each one would take me further from being the normal, athletic and healthy man she married. She believes that her pain of watching my situation, unable to alleviate it, is as excruciating as mine. Yes, she believes it is more painful to helplessly watch my deterioration than to be the one deteriorating. Perhaps she is right: The thought of things being the other way round is too painful for me to contemplate. My mind simply refuses to go there!

Unresolved grief fuels euthanasia and assisted suicide.

The shock of loss due to acquired disability or incurable illness ― whether it be you or a loved-one ― inexorably alters the expected or planned course of life. No matter what you choose there will be a cost. If you choose to move on with life, it will break your heart but not your humanity; if you choose death under the guise of autonomous choice, it will break your humanity and damage the greater human family that you leave behind.

The idea of independent personal autonomy is diametrically opposed to the concept of interdependent community.  One person’s actions don’t affect just them: They never do. If I choose assisted suicide it will not affect just me. It will affect my wife, my children, my grandchildren. It will affect my doctor because I will ask her to stop being a healer and become a killer. My suicide will affect my community and, in a small way it will affect my nation by helping to entrench the notion there is such a thing as a life unworthy to be lived.
I do not have a right to ask for assisted suicide. It will not just affect me – it will help to put in peril vulnerable people who will come after me. No matter how sick I become I still have a responsibility to the Common Good of society. I have a right to expect the best palliative care available and those things that will foster life with dignity even at its end.
The Encylopedea Britannica defines the Common Good “that which benefits society as a whole, in contrast to the private good of individuals and sections of society.” The Catholic Church definition is broader and teaches :
“…The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us that the Common Good is “the sum of total good conditions which allow people, either as groups or individuals, to reach their fulfillment more fully and more easily.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1906) 
The Common Good concerns a responsibility we have to the life of all. (1914)
The Church teaches that the sick and handicapped should be helped to lead lives as normal as possible (2276). This is inclusion.
Advocates of assisted suicide and euthanasia are masters of twisting words and using euphemisms to make evil appear good and good appear evil. They make death a blessing and living a curse. Human fulfilment is never reached by killing or suicide.
Be careful of language.  Those who control language shape attitudes and set agendas.  Effective use of words that disguises evil can muddle good people’s power of thoughtful discernment. Hitler and Nazi officials knew this. They believed that they could manipulate public opinion by manipulating language with propaganda including euphemisms, name-calling, fear and creating a bandwagon effect.
We must ask where do euphemisms come from and why they were coined? Euphemisms are intended to disguise something.
“Medical aid in dying” is meant to give an air of medical legitimacy killing the incurably ill whereas the word euthanasia still makes many people recoil. Cloak lethal injection of the sick with clever euphemisms … and it is still murder.
The phrase Death with dignity is designed to give the impression of compassion to euthanasia and assisted suicide. The 20th century theologian Dr. Francis Schaeffer said, “the word euthanasia becomes a respectable part of our vocabulary and consciousness in a subtle way via the phrase death with dignity.”
Death with dignity is not achieved by injecting someone with poison when they are at their lowest point, or starving or dehydrating them to death. That is abandonment not dignity.

Let me tell you something about death with dignity: It is not an event rather the end of a process of having lived with dignity.
There is talk about quality of life, or the lack of it. Let me tell you something about quality of life. It changes with time. When I was twenty-five year old, if some clairvoyant told me that within a few years I would be disabled, that my career would be over by the age of thirty-eight, and I would eventually be wheelchair dependent, I would have said emphatically, “There’s no quality of life in that! I reject it!” And yet today, at the age of sixty-three, all those things happened and my live has quality. How? My standard for quality of life changed. Today what gives my life quality is to love and to be loved.
Mercy killing is not mercy. Providing pain relief is mercy. The great Christian thinker, Malcolm Muggeridge, had this to say about mercy killing.
“Jesus healed the sick, raised Lazarus from the dead, gave back sanity to the deranged, but never did He practice, or include, killing as part of the mercy that occupied his heart. His true followers cannot but adopt the same attitude.”
People talk about a right to death. There is no right to death regardless of what Canada’s corrupt Supreme Court or Parliament decrees. Death is an eventuality that will come to us all. The Canadian Charter of Rights of Freedoms, the American Declaration of Independence, the United Nations declaration of Universal Human rights all declare a “right to live.” None declare a right to death. And even if they did, there is a higher law no human court or government can override or eliminate.
Grief can distort our perceptions. Let me illustrate with an example from my own life: A number of years ago my mother was dying of bone and brain cancer. Her physical pain was well controlled. Her suffering was of an emotional or spiritual nature. But overall her symptoms were well controlled yet I heard friends and loved-ones talking about her terrible pain. When I would rouse her and ask if she was in pain, she consistently said No. You see, friends and loved-ones observed her dying through the lens of their own sorrow. Sorrow and grief can distort reality.
My mother died without intractable physical pain, thanks to a skilled family doctor who knew modern pain control methods.

Medical assistance in dying is palliative care not euthanasia.

In 1984, Pope John Paul II wrote his 1984 Apostolic Letter Salvifici Doloris (The Gospel of Suffering). It was written the year I was diagnosed with MS and contains such profound truths that I find myself continually returning its wisdom. If you want to a Christian meaning of suffering, I suggest you get a copy.  Much of what I am saying is rooted in the spirit of that document.

I said unsolved grief is a fuel for assisted suicide. Here’s a reason why:
The sufferer can begin to perceive a perverse solace with his despair of life. His despair can masquerade as destiny. It is a twisted perception, granted, but it is a dangerous state because death can become preferable to life. Fait accompli.  Suicide is seen a deliverance from physical, psychological, emotional, spiritual agony. Detachment from living can create a rejection of life.

My journey through chronic illness and disability and paralysis involved a re-discovery of the natural human dignity that is the possession of every human being beginning at the spark of life we call conception. The source of that natural human dignity is God and the image he planted in us all. Jesus Christ will make sense of our anguish if we invite Him into in to our lives and remain surrendered to His leading and sensitive to His voice and love, for He is the light of the world.
But even those of us who have met Christ may not allow his full penetrating light into every corner of our being. His light is so intense and perfect. As with any intense light, its full intensity may be too bright for our current state to take in. We squint and cover our spiritual eyes ― we may be too spiritual unprepared, too immature to take in the true and full vision the light reveals.
We cannot yet accept Christ’s perfect light and divine love. It may only come later, as our Christian pilgrimage toward the Celestial City progresses. Our spiritual maturity develops and Christ’s love continually transforms us to be more like Him.

God is a God of love. He wants to forgive us and purify us. He wants all humanity to come to know Him and be conformed to the image of his Son. The most famous words in the Bible tell us this:
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten  Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3.16)

But it goes on from there and address darkness and enlightenment.

“For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. 

“And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For  everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been  done in God.” (John 3.17-21)

We are people who follow Jesus Christ. He is the light of the world. In Him there is life not death. He offers hope to humanity not despair. The most important decision for a person with a serious disability or chronic illness is to choose to cross their river of grief to the opposite shore to see what awaits them. It is the choice to live and redefine their new sense of self within their new reality and within the identification of their human community. The old self is gone as surely as if he died. A new self can emerge. At a personal level, I discovered the new Mark could be just as vital as the old Mark as long as that new self was interconnected in some way with community and responsible to the greater common good.

Whether I am disabled or not, sick or well, in the prime of life or the end of life, I am still responsible to the greater common good of the Human Family. We are not autonomous beings.
I have no right to death. If there are any rights they lie with the right to life, its care and nurture ― not only my own but others around me and those yet to come.
It was John Donne wrote these immortal words:

No man is an island entire unto itself, every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main; … any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind. And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”

There cannot be personal autonomy if we also cherish community. There cannot be personal independence if we desire human interdependence. Lovingkindness is what defines civilized societies. But love needs the Divine. Love without God becomes selective, coercive and arbitrary – turning the lives of the weakest and the unwanted into hell on earth. Human benevolence on its own is fleeting and fickle.  The brotherhood of man needs the Fatherhood of God.

After more than 30 years with chronic degenerative MS, I am convinced that human enlightenment is impossible without God. Pain, sorrow and grief are often the vehicles for spiritual maturity.

Here is the hope that surprised me: I have been invited to unite my sufferings with the sufferings of Christ. Tears of anguish and tears of joy can run together. Paul wrote to the Colossians about Christ. He said: “For in him were created all things in heaven and earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers; all things were created through him and for him.” That includes me. I was created for him.

The course of my life has been within his plan.  I have discovered purpose and meaning in and through my suffering. It has increased my desire for the kingdom of heaven and to be with Christ. I have discovered that by placing my trust and reliance in Christ, and His promises – even when my body was being ravaged by disease – there has been grace and consolation through the help of the Holy Spirit. Our Catechism reminds us to “Hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.”  And that the Holy Spirit … he poured out richly upon us through Jesus Christ our Saviour. (CCC.1817, cf. Heb.10.23, Titus 3:6)

The hope I have found in Christ has lifted me from discouragement. It is hope against hope, hope in what at times seems hopeless. The Cross and Resurrection of Jesus Christ (and how people respond to them) defines human destiny.

The illumination of my sickroom taught me that it is not suffering that destroys people, rather the bitter experience of suffering without meaning. My own experience with protracted suffering has come in the form of seven spiritual blessings:

1. Surrender. My first spiritual blessing came in the form of surrender: I asked myself how Jesus handled suffering. My answer came from Christ’s agony in the Garden. Luke tells us Jesus was in such agony and prayed so fervently that his sweat became as blood. Three times he asked that the cup of suffering be lifted from Him. He said, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup away from me; still not my will but yours be done.” (Luke 22.42). “Not my will but yours be done.” That’s the key. God wants us to totally surrender to Him, regardless of circumstances. That led to my second spiritual blessing:

2. Humility. Multiple sclerosis stripped away my foolish illusions of self-sufficiency and autonomy. It’s hard to be Proud and puffed up when I couldn’t even dress myself and had to get someone else to tie my shoes. Yes, at times I had to rely on others for simple personal, daily tasks. It mortified me and gave rise to honest, sometimes brutal self-examination. With my insidious Pride shattered, the light of Christ started to shine deep into my heart, and my love for Christ began to grow. And that paved the way for my third spiritual blessing of suffering.

3. Trust. Having a degenerative disease has given me the opportunity to trust God when the stakes were horribly high. The example of Christ’s Passion taught me that fear and pain sharpened my focus on Him.

4. Patience and perseverance: My 4th blessing found in suffering with my chronic disease helped teach me to patiently persevere.  Long days, months and even years spent convalescing have encouraged these virtues (and boy do I need them). The silence of the sickroom gives context to the Scriptural exhortation: “Be still, and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46.10).

5. Faith: My 5th blessing found in suffering is that it teaches Faith. In so many ways, my Christianity was shallow and counterfeit and would likely have remained that way if it were not for the MS. Even in the midst of calamity and tragedy, however, I have learned that God abides with me.

6. Courage. My 6th spiritual blessing found in suffering is that it rouses courage in cowardly people, like me. Courage develops as we begin to understand that our hope lies elsewhere. Rather than cower in disease and defeat, I learned to strive confidently on in my journey toward the gates of the Celestial City.

7. Eternal perspectives. My 7th spiritual blessing in suffering was it gives a desire for eternal perspectives. Suffering cuts away those things that are extraneous in life, leaving only bare essentials. My loss of physical things (like body function) awakened a desire for eternal perspectives and God.

The deep valley of anguish and paths of trials, have raised my eyes toward the celestial city – which is the hope and reward of every believer. As the Catechism states, “…through the merits of Jesus Christ and his Passion, God keeps us in the “hope that does not disappoint.” Hope is the “sure and steadfast anchor of the soul. … that enters where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf.” (CCC. 1820). This is not just theological teaching of the Church. It is true. It has real applications in real lives, in my life. I am here to bear witness to this truth.

I began this presentation telling you about a young woman named Kimberley with MS. 

She is at the edge of her river of grief. She must choose what she will do with her life. Life as she previously knew it is gone. Will Kim muster the courage to cross the river of grief to discover what awaits on the other side? Or will she refuse to cross, choosing instead to cling to memories of yesteryear, growing increasing bitter at the loss of previous function? The journey across the river of grief is risky. There are eddies and undercurrents that threaten to drag her under the waves of their circumstances.
But is it so different for any of us? We all face our own rivers of grief. Perhaps it is the loss of health, the loss of a mate or a loved one, a career, a fortune or a reputation. What will you do when you encounter a river of grief?

Use it to draw nearer to the Saviour. Use it for your good and the good of those in your circle of influence, and those who will come after you. In other words, the Common Good for today and tomorrow.  Thank you and God bless.