“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

Tuesday, November 28, 2017


I received an email from a 30 year old man somewhere in the United States. He wanted to explain his situation.

I will call him Jason (not his real name). He has suffered from cerebral palsy since birth and has grown weary of his difficult
situation. He was contemplating suicide when he came across one of my entries on this blog. A man who does not think his life matters went to a blog called HumanLifeMatters? Was he reaching out?

What should I say to Jason? His severe disability is permanent and certainly miserable by most standards. So many people would espouse helping Jason in his suicide. They would agree with his dark thoughts of death because they think his life is not worth living. 

They would not put it so bluntly (or perhaps they would) because that is what assisted suicide is saying to a person like Jason. He is unwanted in a culture that increasingly embraces euthanasia consciousness for the sick and disabled. Jason knows that, ... and so do I. 

I have had degenerative multiple sclerosis (MS) longer than Jason has been alive! I am wheelchair bound too. I also know the stabbing pain of spasms and the frustration associated with spastic limbs (although I suspect not as severe as Jason experiences). What future degeneration is in store for me is unclear.


Granted, Jason's cerebral palsy and my MS are different. But we both know the ache of internal isolation that protracted suffering can bring and grimly reminds us that we are "different." We are both defective. We have been set aside from the ongoing productive lives the normal population enjoys.

There are agonies words cannot express. Pain of the body is just that, but pain of the heart can cut to the soul.  Jason's email seemed to ask, no - beg me to answer that somehow I understand his soul-pain, his isolation and loneliness, his agony of agonies. I'm not sure I do understand.

Is there a solidarity of brokenness? I don't know. I do know we must resist the temptation of yielding to despair. Whatever our agony may be, we must turn to God and relinquish our pain to Him. If we do this, our predicaments can turn into opportunities for spiritual growth. Loneliness becomes solitude.

In his classic book Orthodoxy, G.K. Chesterton said, "The Christian saint is happy because he has verily been cut off from the world; he is separate from the things and is staring at them in astonishment,"


The great saints were cut off from the world by acts of the will; others are cut off by circumstances. All Christians must detach themselves from the world and its corruptions, yet still live in the world. This state of being separated with God from the world (whether willfully or by circumstances) will create astonishment in us too.

We are astonished to discover that God's questions are wiser than man's answers. God's questions cut to the marrow and demand self-examination. They invite us in our anguish to draw nearer to Christ. Inasmuch as we do this, we will begin to notice we are gradually being purified and transformed to live in and for Christ.

If we allow it, pain can become a vehicle for transformation of the lower natural man within us and begin to elevate us to be be more like Christ. This is preparation for eternal glory. Saint Peter spoke of this when he wrote, "After you have suffered a little while, our God will give you eternal glory. He personally will pick you up, and set you firmly in place, and make you stronger than ever. To him be the power over all things, forever and ever." (1Peter 5.10-11)


Chronic suffering need not stretch out before us like a scorching desert. With Christ as our interior Guide and Master, a sickroom can become like a gentle cloister where intense prayer and communion with him becomes the order of each day. We can trust there is some divine meaning to our pain. Jesus told Saint Paul "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." (2 Corinthians 12.9) Rather than stewing about our anguishes, we are called to look to Christ and unite our sufferings with His.

Dear friend Jason: Have we not been told that our present sufferings are not worthy to be compared with the glory that will be revealed in those who love Christ? (Romans 8.18) God will wipe away every tear you and I have shed. (Revelation 21.4) Do not grow weary. God is with us. He will make a way.


Monday, November 13, 2017


I read a news story about a little village in Holland called Hogeway. At first glance Hogeway seems like any normal small community. It has houses, a grocery store, a restaurant, a theatre, a barber shop, as so forth. People happily stroll throughout the shops, squares and courtyards or the local park. Hogeway is a clean, orderly community with 152 residents.

They all have one thing in common: Severe dementia.
You see, Hogeway is actually a nursing home but its residents don’t know that. All Hogeway’s “normality” is not real ― it is contrived ― but again the residents are unaware of that. They are happy in their fantasy world. The goal is to make living as normal and familiar as possible within the scope of each resident’s disease. It’s an interesting concept in health care.

Residents live in one of 23 houses with about six others, according
to lifestyle. Each house has one or more health care workers to oversee and assist with life.  Residents are free walk where they wish in the town because they can’t get lost. Special two-seater bikes allow residents and workers, or a family member, to ride throughout the village.  They live protected lives and they are happy.

A Hogeway employee, Yvonne van Amerongen, was quoted as saying, “We protect our residents from the unsafe world. They do not understand the world outside this because the outside world doesn’t understand them.” Hogeway is partially funded through taxes and residents contribute according to their income.

The Hogeway approach and philosophy to dementia care is so successful that it has generated interest in other countries including Canada. A Hogeway style village is located in Penetanguishene, Ontario. Families and residents are very happy with the facility.  
Julian Hughes
But as with any good idea there will always be naysayers and the Hogeway approach to dementia care is no exception.  English bioethicist and deputy chair of the London based Nuffield Council on Bioethics, Julian Hughes, is troubled about being deliberately artificial.  In 2009, the Council issued a report that stated the Hogeway approach “serves to undermine the remaining grip the person with dementia may have on the everyday world.”

O please!

I disagree with the position of the illustrious bioethicist and his Council. Hogeway is for people with severe dementia. If they are happy living in a pretend world, let them. Is the Hogeway philosophy and approach to care condescending or patronizing? I don’t care. We are talking about irreversible progressive dementia. The patient’s happiness, safety and quality of life are the important issues. Let them live in a fantasy!  Is Hughes against it because he didn’t think of it? Someone please give bioethicists something constructive to do with their time.

Goodness! We should welcome innovative ideas in nursing home care. The 
Hogeway philosophy is a breath of fresh air and a far cry to how so many of people with severe dementia are institutionalized in sterile nursing homes. These settings may be safe but they are unfamiliar to the patient. (I know of cases where dementia patients were essentially warehoused until they died.)

As the population ages, society will face increases amounts dementia. We need to welcome creative or novel approaches to their care that gives them increased quality of life.

According the Alzheimer’s society of Canada, one in twenty people over the age of 65 has dementia. The numbers steadily increase to one in four Canadians over the age of 85 have Alzheimer’s disease. I suspect the the numbers are similar in the U.S.

We need innovative ways to care for this population. I think the Hogeway approach is worth considering. It’s not for everyone but it
allows some people with severe dementia to live in healthy, happy, safe and stimulating environments that resemble normal community life. And that taps into the Common Good about which I have previously written and spoken about across Canada and the United States. 

The common good involves EVERYONE and that includes the physically, developing disabled, the aged, and those yet to be born. Communities that exclude anyone are not really communities at all because the common good is not being served. The dignity of people with severe dementia involves protection from the harshness and cruelties of the world. Not only does it involve protection but it also involves creating environments for people to thrive as individuals and groups. Reaching fulfillment means different things at different times, stages and states in people’s lives.  

Fulfilment for a person suffering from severe dementia may simply mean being happy and as free as possible from anxiety.  If we can put in place environments to help achieve that goal, let’s do it. If reality is beyond reach or too fearful, let them live in a fantasy. 

When even memories fade, all that matters is to be loved.


Sunday, November 5, 2017


Wesley J. Smith
My long time friend Wesley J. Smith wrote an interesting blog post about a recent case in Canada. Apparently a doctor tried to refer a patient to a neurologist and was informed it will take over 4 years to get an appointment. 

Canadians can quickly get abortions or lethal injections -- all paid with tax dollars -- but real medical appointments can take years. See Wesley's blog post here.


Wednesday, November 1, 2017


Below is a keynote  address I delivered at Saint Matthew the Apostle Cathedral in Washington D.C., Rally and Mass for Life, 2016 U.S. National March for Life in the nation's capital. 

For booking to speak about Life issues, disability or a Christian perspective on suffering contact me at HumanLifeMatters@shaw.ca