“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, May 17, 2022

JORDAN PETERSEN ON "THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING ETHICAL"

Below is a link to a lecture by Dr. Jordan Petersen this past month at Stanford University, Graduate School of Business on The Importance of Being Ethical. Dr. Petersen is a clinical psychologist, best-selling author, and lecturer. I highly recommend it for your viewing. (Warning there is one swear word near the end.)

"What do you want to have on your side when you are contending
with the unknowable future and its vagaries? How about
truth? How about beauty? How about justice?"
—Dr. Jordan Petersen


 

Sunday, May 15, 2022

EMMA IS SO ANGRY ABOUT ROE V. WADE

I received a note from a young woman in her early twenties who I’ve known since her early childhood. She’s a Canadian but so angry with the potential overturning of Roe v. Wade. I think her computer must have been absolutely smoking as she punched at her keyboard! She wrote:

 

"What about all the women that have died in forced pregnancy’s every year? Do their lives not matter, over the live of some unborn cells?

With Roe v Wade being over turned it just shows that the governments (mostly men) care nothing about women and only care about a fetus. The fetus would not even be a thing without a women.

If there was a ectopic pregnancy, with Roe v Wade over turned, they are forcing women to continue with the pregnancy, even though the pregnancy is not viable and the mother more then likely will die.

Just goes to show that governments, and you people really don’t care about women at all. You just care about controlling someone else’s body.

I truly have always respected you Mark and I will always respect your choices, as they are yours, but I don’t respect that you don’t respect my choice for my OWN a BODY!"


After reflecting on her angry but uninformed note, I responded to Emma (not her real name): 

 

Dear Emma – Sorry about the delay in responding. Before I begin, I want to preface my remarks by letting you know you are one of LaRee’s and my favourite people. We have loved your spunk and joie de vivre from the time you were a toddler. We have fond memories of you and your brother. I remember you and a little friend raiding our apple tree and then running off down the street. I couldn’t help but smile. 

 

I really do believe in the old saying “It takes a village to raise a child.” A community has a responsibility to its children, its families, its old people. Everyone deserves a place within the greater human family. Yes, I am pro-life, Emma. I’ve spent most of my adult life espousing and advocating for the equality and worth of every human life. I believe that a truly civilized society includes in its tender embrace every mother and her children (whether born or unborn) and helps them to rise to their fullest potential. Genuine community values and nurtures every person with a mental or physical disability, those with terminal conditions, derelicts, the old, and people who are not even loved by anybody. 

 

I’m curious, Emma: Where are the women you refer to who are dying from forced pregnancy? A Handmaid’s Tale? The conjured fiction of Margaret Atwood’s imagination? You asked me if women’s lives matter less than unborn cells? First of all, Emma, those unborn cells you refer to is a new human life. New human life begins at conception. This is not a matter of opinion or religious contention. It is plain experimental biological evidence. Nobody’s life is any more or less important than another. 

 

Emma, you said, “… you people really don’t care about women at all. You just care about controlling someone else’s body.” Is that really what you think I’m like? Do you really think I don’t care about women, that I only care about controlling women’s bodies? No, I want the inclusion of every member of the human life from womb to tomb—and every stage or state between those two points. Why do you think I don’t care about women?

 

Did you know that in the mid-1980s, I co-founded a pregnancy Care Center in Edmonton? Its purpose was to support women in crisis pregnancies so they could make life-affirming decisions and choices for themselves and their babies. The center helped find housing and employment for women, childcare and community supports, life-skills training when needed, adoption services if that was their choice, and mentoring. We assisted women we served who wanted academic upgrading to pursue their career of choice. That pregnancy care centre still exists and has helped literally thousands upon thousands of women throughout more than 35 years! I am not anti-woman, Emma. I am pro-woman and pro-child and pro-LIFE for every life. 

 

That was not always the case. Fifty years ago, as a teenager, I pressured my girlfriend to have an abortion. Don’t think that my opposition to abortion is pointing a finger at any woman for having an abortion. If I did, my other 3 fingers would point back at me.  My teenage girlfriend was LaRee. We have regretted that terrible decision for more than half a century. That’s one reason I helped start the pregnancy care centre. I wished such a service had been available to LaRee and me in 1971.

 

Abortion advocates say they are pro-choice … but they do not finish the sentence. What choice? The choice of what car to buy? Which college or university to attend? Which career they should pursue? No, they are referring to the choice to kill their unborn child.  

 

I want real choices for women when they contemplate what to do in their unexpected, inconvenient or unwanted pregnancy. If the choice is between abortion or not to abort, I don’t want the choices stacked against choosing life.  I’ve worked to support positive life-affirming choices for women and their children (both born and unborn). How is that anti-woman, Emma? 


I know it's fashionable to be pro-abortion (particularly amongst liberals and the left), but our better angels call us to something higher, and that higher calling is to love every child regardless of their circumstances, development, wantedness, or inconvenience.


God bless.

Mark

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

CHRISTIAN FATHERS AND SONS

 


After reading an article in the Human Life Review blog about Fathers and son, [1] I’ve been reflecting on the fact that God the Father sent God the Son to save the world, through faith, enabling us to become children of God.[2] The love of God the Father and God the Son was prepared to go to such extremes—even crucifixion on a cross—to make us his children by adoption.[3]  He gave us the template for fatherhood. It is a fatherhood of stability and order, nurture, tenderness and support, a love for one’s children that lifts them up to find the meaning and purpose for which God created them the night they were conceived. That purpose may not be lofty or august or majestic, but whatever their purpose and meaning may be, it must be rooted in divine love, obedience and surrender to His will. 

 If possible, fathers must help make that discovery as easy as possible for their sons (and daughters). If we have brought our sons up in an environment based on loving Christian morality that has the Bible as our guide. From early childhood we must teach them to listen for the leading of the Holy Spirit—they will be well on their way. Without the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, they will be confused by an evil world, its clever but wrong temptations, and hostility to all that is Holy. They may be drawn away from Christ and that is the great tragedy. Christian fathers want their children with them in Christ’s eternal love in this life and the next. — MDP



[1] Jason Morgan, Fathers and Sons, 05 April 2022 in The Human Life Review blog. https://humanlifereview.com/fathers-and-sons/

 

[2] John 1:1, 12, John 3:16-17.

[3] Romans 8:15 & 23, Galatians 4:5, Ephesians 1:5. 

Saturday, April 16, 2022

IS THERE A DARK SIDE TO ELECTRIC VEHICLES?

 Are electric vehicles really clean? See video below. Is the reporter correct? If so, we must demand manufactures of electric vehicles stop purchasing cobalt (apparently a stabilizer in the production of lithium batteries) from sources that involve child labour and put children at risk! The move away from fossil fuels is good but we must not allow the embrace of electric vehicles to be sullied by scandal—especially when it hurts people. If it does that, then it's not clean at all. If zero emissions are to be achieved and the Paris Accord goals met, it must not achieved at the expense of the poorest and most vulnerable people on the planet.



Sunday, April 10, 2022

DOCUMENTARY ABOUT TEEN SUICIDE

 Watch for this documentary My Ascension about Emma Benoit and teen suicide. Show it to the teens in your life. Arrange a teen suicide prevention event for your community. Life is so precious. God bless. — Mark






Friday, April 8, 2022

SPEAKING OF MIRACLES

This past November I was interviewed by award-winning American television journalist Kristi Leigh about a miracle that happened to me. I walked after 15 years in an electric wheelchair with MS.  A link to that interview is below that says "Kristi Leigh interview." 

It has been viewed primarily by U.S. audiences and been shared over 3,000 times on Facebook. Kristi has a wonderful online show at Kristi Leigh TV. You can find it on Facebook.

[NB: I contracted COVID in March which put me back in a wheelchair. The COVID is gone now, and I am walking again.]

Kristi Leigh interview


Tuesday, April 5, 2022

I THINK I NOW UNDERSTAND THE WHY OF MY SUFFERING




An atheist once told me that Christianity is a crutch for weak people. He sneered and referred to Jesus as my imaginary friend. Having had

aggressive MS for decades, I think I know a thing or two about weakness, crutches, braces, and wheelchairs. Jesus is not my imaginary friend – His presence came into clearer focus the more I sank into the abyss of neurological degeneration. He is truer and more faithful to me than I have been to Him. He continually advocates to the Father on my behalf.

I have always slept well, but a few years after being diagnosed with MS, the attacks were so erratic and vicious, I found myself being awakened in the middle of the night by a Presence. It was Him. His message was unstated but clear: “It is I, be not afraid,” or more precisely, “I am. Be not afraid.”

In the first chapter of the Gospel of John, the Apostle tells us that Christ has always been with God and that all things came to be through him. He wrote, “Eternal life is in him, and this life gives light to all mankind. His life is the light that shines through the darkness – and the darkness can never extinguish it.” (John 1.4-5.)

The triune God is the Creator of all reality, life, understanding, and the source of all authentic illumination. I had to trust that Christ would somehow light the darkness of my fears and outright terror. That marked the beginning of my search for meaning in my suffering.

In my search for meaning in my suffering, I got a hint in something Saint Pope John Paul who once said, “[I]n order to perceive the true answer to the ‘why’ of suffering, we must look to the revelation of divine love, the ultimate source of meaning of everything that exists.”[1] He told us that love is the richest source of meaning of suffering and that it remains a mystery.If God is love, then I must turn to Him for illumination regardless of what is happening to me. 

The answer to the “why” of suffering ultimately depends on our ability to comprehend the perfection of divine love, beginning at the cross. The Pontiff said the reason for Christ’s Passion, and death on the cross was to settle with God the problem of human sin and evil. People suffer whenever they experience evil. The ultimate suffering is the loss of eternal life. Christ’s atoning sacrifice, his suffering and crucifixion, offering himself in our place to pay the penalty for our sins – liberating from evil all who believe this. Notice how closely evil is bound to suffering – specifically the suffering of Jesus Christ at Calvary. How we respond to His sacrifice for our sakes, can open the possibility of rebuilding goodness in the life of the person who suffers. John Paull II said this is the beginning of discerning the idea of divine mercy. 

In my case the idea of divine mercy broke my heart because I was/am so undeserving of it. It called me anew to repentance and keeping short accounts with God. It introduced me to the blessing of being “poor in spirit.” This state of spirit poverty is the forerunner of internal transformation.

It was important for me to resist the temptation to become bitter, not to focus on my predicament, and simply surrender to the perfect and divine love of Christ. Through my Redeemer’s outstretched arms on the cross, He invited me to unite my suffering with his suffering.

Imagine that! I was invited into Christ’s redemptive suffering. This marked a critical transition point in my acceptance of suffering and stop resisting what I could not control. It required me to relinquish to Him ownership of my pain.  It required that a shift take place in my spiritual mindset in order to realize that it is more important to understand than to be understood.

I was being called to set aside self-interest and ego and follow Christ with complete abandon. This is complete antithesis to my egotistical and self-absorbed nature. Christ was calling me, in my sorrow and pain, to transcend beyond myself and unite my suffering with His at the Cross (just as he calls you to transcend yourself). 

Jesus told us that we must be willing to take up our cross daily and follow Him. It is not easy for us to take up our cross, but it is necessary if truth means anything. It requires us to daily recommit ourselves to bear up under the weight of our cross and follow him. But follow Him where? 

I my own weakness I have been so irrationally afraid to take up my cross and follow Christ because I feared it might lead to a Golgotha. Yet divine logic assureds me I can rest in Christ’s embrace as a child of God. I remember those words: “Be not afraid. I am with you.”

If I carry my cross of suffering in union with Christ’s redemptive suffering, it does not lead a Golgotha. It leads to the understanding that Christ raised human suffering to the level of redemption in Him – if we will accept it; a sharer in Christ’s redemptive suffering.

This is what Pope John Paul called the eloquence of the cross. Death for the believer completes the eloquence of the Resurrection.

Suffering in unison with Christ has helped me to see Resurrection in a whole new light. My hope in, and anticipation of the Resurrection helps me to go through my darkest days of humiliations, my agonies, my doubts, my fears.

The Apostle Paul said, “to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God.” We can, through faith, discover that Christ’s redemptive suffering gives us insights into our own suffering.  I am convinced this is what St, Paul meant when he wrote: “I have been crucified with Christ; yet I love, no longer I, but Christ lives in me; insofar as I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God who has loved me and given himself for me.”

A suffering heart can rest in the hope of God and comfort of the Holy Spirit. The sufferer begins to realize they are mysteriously being transformed and made fit for heaven. If we open our sufferings to Christ’s love, it will inevitably begin a spiritual transformation. 

Throughout the ages it has been observed that suffering has the concealed power to draw the sufferer toward Christ, if the sufferer allows it. I have discovered that Christ grants a special grace that transcends my suffering. Suffering has the capacity to strip away all things extraneous to life leaving only that which is essential.

Suffering has taught me that at the center of existence lies a beautiful mystery. Once that mystery has been glimpsed everything else becomes an irrelevance, a diversion. That mystery is the light of Christ which creates a renewed quality of Christian conversion. Many people throughout history have discovered this truth including, Saint Francis of Assisi, John Milton, John Donne, and millions of ordinary people. 

The 17th Century metaphysical poet John Donne wrote his immortal 17th Meditation while convalescing from an illness that nearly killed him. Most people are aware of that Meditation’s passage: “No man is an island entire of 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.”

Later in that same Meditation he speaks about the refining effect that suffering can have on one person but wasted on another. He wrote, “No man  and hath affliction enough that is not matured and ripened by it, and made fit for God by that affliction.” Is this the case for all people who suffer? No, and Donne acknowledged this a few lines later when he wrote, “Another man may be sick too, and sick to the death, and his affliction may lie in his bowels, as gold in a mine, and be of no use to him.” 

John Donne’s believed that suffering could be a blessing to the individual or others, if allowed to ripen a person’s spiritual character.  These were insights from a man who defended suicide 15 years earlier in a scurrilous book Biathanatos. Why the change of heart ? Could it be that his suffering, interior throes of his soul, had a purifying effect on his spiritual character? 

Suffering is not what defeats people, suffering without meaning is what does that. All humanity longs for belonging. Our true belonging lies in surrender and resting in in the light of Christ. That is all I really know. In my suffering I have received a glimpse of the truth and the truth is setting me free. Not even crippled legs, a useless arm and wheelchair could take that from me. 

As I move into the last phase of my life, I think I understand the Why of my suffering and the meaning of my life. I was born to love God and my neighbour as myself. Christ wants me to take the hope that is within me, and the message of Christ's divine love, to others in their suffering, whether it be physical, emotional or spiritual. — Mark Davis Pickup


[1] Saint Pope John Paul II, Apostolic Letter, Salvifici Dorolis, On the Meaning of Human Suffering, 11 February, 1984. https://www.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/apost_letters/1984/documents/hf_jp-ii_apl_11021984_salvifici-doloris.html

 

Saturday, April 2, 2022

CREATIVITY THAT TRANSCENDS SUFFERING AND DISABILITY

In 2012, I was scheduled to give a keynote address in Newark, New Jersey about disability and creativity. The address was not delivered. I had to cancel because my mother-in-law was dying. Below is part of that address about the vast treasury of contributions people with disabilities have given to the world.

__________________________

It is important for society to help the chronically ill and disabled to reach their full potential. While adversity or suffering with a disability may have the terrible effect of isolating people, it’s important to realize that their creativity may continue unabated and even blossom in the midst of suffering. 

I think that suffering can sharpen creative perceptiveness and expression.  Art, literature, music, the sciences have records of suffering people making colossal contributions to human creativity despite their suffering (or maybe because of it).  History records many suffering people whose creative contributions enriched our world. They have so much to bring to the table of human experience despite their disabilities – and sometimes because of their disabilities. 


John Forbes Nash Jr. Brilliant American mathematician and Winner of the 1994 Nobel prize for economics. He suffered from paranoid schizophrenia. The movie A Beautiful Mind was made about his life.

Virginia Woolf (1882-1941) English Novelist, is widely acclaimed as one of the great innovative novelists of the 20thCentury.  She was manic depressive (which we call bi-polar today). Her psychosis ultimately led to her suicide in 1941. 

Maurice Ravel's Pianoforte Concerto for the left hand was
written for an Austrian pianist (Paul Wittgenstein) who lost his right arm in the First World War. 

Imagine Wittgenstein's grief! Music was the centre of his world. He grew up in a prominent Viennese household visited by composers such as Johannes Brahms, Gustav Mahler, and Richard Straus: as a boy, Paul Wittgenstein occasionally played duets with them. He was close to 30 years of age when he lost his arm. It must have been a terrible shock! 

Despite losing his arm, Wittgenstein did not give up and went on to a successful career as a concert pianist. He commissioned various works that he could perform from composers such as Benjamin Britten, Paul Hindemith and Richard Strauss. Wittgenstein was a wonderful example of the human capacity to triumph over adversity. 

Paul Wittgenstein was probably just as skilled a pianist before he lost his arm as after. Yet the public loved him most as a one-armed pianist. (Everyone loves an over-comer!) Did Paul Wittgenstein play Ravel's Pianoforte for the left hand better than any two-armed pianist. Probably not, but the public wanted it played by someone who had earned the right to play it. 

The musician's suffering was as important to a composition for the left hand as the notes themselves; together they made the music more beautiful and compelling - and that was true. It's still true. 

Thomas Alva Edison (1847-1931). He lost almost all his hearing at the age of twelve. Yet that is not why we remember him. We remember Thomas Edison for inventing phonograph, the movie camera, the light bulb.

Henry Ford – (1863-1947) American industrialist and pioneer automobile manufacturer. He also had a severe hearing impairment.

Vincent Van Gogh (1853-90) His career as a painter began at the age of 27 and lasted a brief ten years ending in his suicide.  His works are perhaps better known than those of any other painter and yet during his lifetime he was virtually unknown. He suffered from mental illness. 

His mental illness drove his moods from the highest pitches of enthusiasm and creativity – which he called the “rage of work” to periods of discouragement which he called his “fear and horror of madness.”[1] Van Gogh produced over 2,000 pieces of art.  Do you know how many of those pieces he sold during his lifetime? One. His brother Theo had to beg somebody to buy it.

Vincent Van Gogh’s attempts at romantic love were rebuffed which drove him further into isolation and internal anguish. He often suffered seizures, hallucinations and delirium for days or weeks at a time. On one occasion Van Gogh cut off part of his ear. 

Van Gogh captured the suffering of mental illness in glittering, agitated canvases.  His internal turbulence and anguish is clearly evident seen in most of his paintings, which set the stage for the direction of a new style of painting we call Expressionism.  Vincent`s emotional turmoil did however bear artistic fruits in the form of a remarkable gift for perception - seeing powerfully what most others did not observe at all He projected onto the canvas what he experienced internally. [2]

Van Gogh wrote more than 800 letters.  If you haven’t read his collected correspondence, I would recommend it. Not only is it a good autobiographical account of Vincent Van Gogh’s life, it’s great literature.

Vincent Van Gogh lived in barren rooms of rural cottages and the wards of mental institutions. His loneliness and isolation were almost larger than his life. Yet that is not what we remember about Vincent van Gogh. When we think of him we are apt to think of “Starry Nights”, Cafe Terrace, or his stunning series of Sunflowers, just to mention a few. 

His last dark Painting was entitled Wheatfield with Crows.  That’s the field where he shot himself in July 1980 at the age of 37. He died three days later. Van Gogh’s last words summed up his sadness. He said, simply, “The sadness never goes away. I think I want to go home now.”

In one of his last letters to Theo, Van Gogh had written, 

"I feel...a failure. That's it as far as I'm concerned...I feel that this is the destiny that I accept, that will never change."

He was not a failure. Look what he left humanity! 

John Milton (1609-74) was blind when he wrote Paradise Lost – the story of Satan’s rebellion against God and the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden. Paradise Lost is generally considered the greatest epic in the English language.

John Keats (1795-1821) Is considered one of England’s greatest poets. He died at the young age of 25 with tuberculosis. His poetry is unequalled for dignity, melody and richness of imagery. He once said, “I have loved the principle of beauty in all things, and if I had time, I would have made myself remembered."

He didn’t need more time to create beauty. John Keats is remembered.

Elizabeth Barret Browning (1806-61) An invalid and recluse, yet her gift for lyrical poetry is with us to this day.

Some scholars have speculated and surmised that Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart may have suffered from Tourette syndrome.[3]

Robert Schumann (1810-56) A leading composer of the Romantic movement. As a young pianist he damaged his right hand, which ended his dreams of becoming a concert pianist, but his output as a composer for piano, orchestral works and chamber music was prodigious.  Schumann suffered from depression and mental illness that worsened with age. Robert Schumann suffered from auditory hallucinations. During one of his bouts of mental illness he attempted suicide. He admitted himself to an asylum where he died in 1856. 

Ludwig Van Beethoven (1770-1827) Is universally acknowledged as one of the greatest composers who ever lived. 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.[4] It was detectable when he began composing his 1st symphony in 1798, and 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 26.[5] 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. His beloved Moon Light Sonata was composed in serious deafness. The same is true for his opera Fidelio and Creatures of Prometheus.  It is doubtful he heard much of his 5th Symphony, his concerto for violin and orchestra, his Masses. 

Beethoven was tormented by his inner and outer troubles, his disappointment with life, his isolation brought on by his disability. He mentioned this in a letter he wrote to his brother Carl in 1802.

“[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 acceptance only won by strife, and a wisdom only suffering can teach. 

In this 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 185 years later. 

Now, for the next 30 minutes please enjoy the 4th movement of Ludwig van Beethoven’s 9th symphony, The West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, conducted by Daniel Barenboim.




[1]John Rowan Wilson, The Mind, (New York, Life Science Library, 1964) p.146.

[2] Vincent Van Gogh, The Art History Archive, Biography and Paintings. Accessed online at http://www.arthistoryarchive.com/arthistory/expressionism/Vincent-Van-Gogh.html

[3] Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart may have suffered from Tourette's Syndrome,  The Medical News, 31 August 2004. Http://www.news-medical.net/news/2004/08/31/4423.aspx. Accessed from Internet 6 February 2011.  

[4] Peter Latham, “The Music Masters: From the Sixteenth Century to the Time of Beethoven”, ed. A.L. Bacharach (London: Pelican Books, 1957), p.66.

[5] Ludwig van Beethoven – The “Heilgenst├Ądter Testament”. 

Monday, March 28, 2022

TIME SENSITIVE: RE-AIRING TELEVISION INTERVIEW


 In October 2021, I gave an interview to Canadian national Christian talk show, 100 Huntley Street. At that time I spoke about a miracle God gave me in 2018. He answered a prayer from me to walk again, even briefly, after many years in an electric wheelchair.  I've walked for four years. 

Earlier this month I contracted COVID, which triggered the MS and put me aback in the wheelchair. I wrote about this disappointment in the US based Christian online magazine The Stream. Tomorrow, March 29th, 100 Huntley Street is re-airing the October interview when I was still walking. See the schedule and links below.


Will I have to stay in the wheelchair or will I return to walking? I have asked myself if it really matters? My hope is not in this world. If I remain in my wheelchair, I will praise God for giving me these four years. If my legs regain their strength, I will praise God for letting me continue to walk. Either way, I will praise God. 

"For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on[a] we may not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee. So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. . . . " (2Corinthians 5.1-9.)

This is my hope whether I walk or not. And regardless of my state, I must use whatever tools are at my disposal to proclaim the Good News God entrusts to Christians to take the same eternal destiny given to us through Christ to a lost, hurting and loveless spiritual landscape

" ... in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.  Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2Corinthians 5.19-21)

Either way, I will use whatever tools are at my disposal to witness for him. We are called to bring others to God through Christ.

Wednesday, March 23, 2022

TO WALK OR NOT TO WALK: THAT IS NOT THE QUESTION. I'M BACK IN MY WHEELCHAIR


 

I have contracted COVID. It has effected my lungs — that's to be expected — but it has also raised havoc with my multiple sclerosis (MS). My legs are so weak and spastic again that I can't walk. I'm back in my wheelchair. It is emotionally difficult to go back in it. But then I remember my prayer in 2018, before Christ in the Blessed Sacrament: "Lord, if it is possible could you let me walk again, even for a short time, even with a cane(s) or a walker." 

I had been in an electric wheelchair for so many, many years—I wanted to feel what it was like to walk again, to use my right arm and hand and hand-write love letters to my wife LaRee again before the end of my life. I wanted to dance a slow dance with her. We did that, dancing in our living room one cold Canadian winter night. Two life-long lovers slowly moving in the low light of flickering embers of a dying fire in our fireplace. Our bodies moved to the gentle rhythm of her favourite love song. It was the last song that we danced to many decades ago before the cold bars of crutches, wheelchairs and leg braces put an end to it. LaRee is once, twice, three times a lady to me, even if we come to the end of our rainbow.

I've written love letters to LaRee every day since I got the use of my arm and hand back in 2018. She has dairies full of them.

God granted my prayer. I regained the use of my arm and hand and walked from 2018-now. It was longer than I expected. Was it a miracle or a sign that God has always been in control? What happens to me is for my own spiritual good. 

Hopefully when COVID passes, I will get back the use of my legs. If not, and I must remain in the wheelchair, I will still praise God for letting me walk again, for giving me back the use of my arm and hand, for being with me throughout 38 years of aggressive and terrifying MS. 

I will one day understand Why?

"For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I will know  just as I am known. And now abide in faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love." -- 1Corinthians 13:12-13. 

Sunday, March 20, 2022

THE MOST SERIOUS CRISIS THE WORLD HAS EVER FACED!

 

"We are at a really dangerous point in human history, probably the most dangerous time since the end of World War 2. ... He [Putin] is a Hitler with nuclear weapons." -- Dr. Malcolm Davis, Senior Nation Representative, Defence analyst, Australian Strategic Policy Institute, in 60 minutes Australian panel discuss on the Russian war against Ukraine. (See below.)

"This is the most serious crisis humanity has ever faced." -- Dr. Robert Horvath, Russia Specialist, LA Trobe University, quote from same video link below.

There is a very real threat that the war Putin is waging against Ukraine may spread into an international conflict. This will open the terrible possibility of thermal nuclear war! I am convince that Putin is unhinged—and as stated in the documentary panel in the video link below—a very dangerous psychopath. Are we facing the threat World War III, or are we in the early days of World War III? 

I fear we are in the latter. If my suspicion is true (and I hope it's not) then all human life is in danger. Does this sound alarmist?  I hope I do. This is time for serious alarm.

Each one of us must examine our conscience to see if there is anything we need to set right with anyone, or with God—through His Son Jesus Christ. Lay everything at the foot of the cross, including your future, whatever that might be. If you give your life to Christ and live for Him, whatever happens in coming days and months will become quite secondary to the knowledge that the perfect love of God waits for you and me in eternity. I want you to understand this. The state of our relationship with Christ is whole point of your lives and deaths. 

Now, I ask you to view the 60 Minutes panel discussion on implications of Russia's war on Ukraine. -- Mark



Wednesday, March 16, 2022

UNITE YOUR SUFFERING WITH CHRIST'S REDEMPTIVE SUFFERING

 Many years ago I was asked to give a workshop at a U.S. Catholic conference dealing with assisted suicide. I was at a particularly harrowing point in my own journey with multiple sclerosis so thought I shouldn't go. On the other hand, I felt that was possibly the best time to speak to why disabled and incurably ill people consider suicide (assisted or otherwise). As I had done on other occasions, I thought that if I went, it was the for the Lord's business so He would take care of me and get me back to my home in Canada, just as He had done so many other times. At the same time, my wife's mother was in a nursing home and she was afraid to leave her mother for fear she would die while we were away. We didn't go. I did not give my presentation. What would I have said? Below is part of what I wanted to say.

_______________________

For people with degenerative disabilities or terminal conditions, life can be filled with terrifying twists and turns. We need to know that we are part of a community that places God’s unconditional love at its center. We need to know the touch of love (both human and divine).

I remember in the Spring of 2005, Pope John Paul II made his last public appearance on the balcony of the Papal apartment above St. Peter’s Square. He tried but could not speak. For a few agonizing moments the Pope struggled to say something to the expectant and adoring crowd ― but he could not. The Pontiff was wheeled back into his apartment. It was evident that he was near death. To me, it was his most eloquent moment, yet he did not say a word I could understand.

But even though he was clearly dying, Pope John Paul showed, by his example that Christ is always near, especially in what may seem like hopeless circumstances. I believe the chronically ill, disabled and dying of the world took notice. I know I sure did.

Pope John Paul proclaimed, through his faithful witness, Christ’s solidarity with the world’s suffering people. His final witness was for a culture of life and inclusion ― and that blessed witness continued to the end of his life. It still resonates with me. To know that Christ stands in union with the world’s disabled, chronically and terminally ill, is of profound importance to us.

Pope John Paul told us that Jesus Christ is the path to authentic personal freedom, the source of love and joy, despite our physical circumstances, and no matter how desperate life’s circumstances may become or how close we may be to death’s door. Christ and his Mother wait for his followers at the end of our last hour as we step across the threshold from this life to the next. And I remember my rosary: “Holy Mary Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death.”

Many of my observations and conclusions about suffering are rooted in the wisdom and truth of Pope John Paul II as he his 1984 Apostolic Letter Salfivici Doloris on the Meaning of Christian Suffering.

At Pope John Paul’s funeral, then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger and later Pope Benedict V1, said that John Paul showed us that by “abiding in the love of Christ, we learn at the school of Christ, the art of true love.”

The true love of Christ and His Mother, is there anything so sweet to the human soul? Their love has existed beside a crimson thread of human suffering that can be traced throughout the course of human history for the last 2,000 years. Suffering seems to be inextricably linked with the essence of the nature of humanity. We are ultimately drawn to ask a fundamental question: What is the meaning of suffering?

If there is no God, then there is no purpose to suffering. The logical response to suffering is suicide. If there is bad or sadistic God, then the response of Job’s wife is reasonable: “Curse God and die.” If, however, there is a good God then there must be some redeeming value to suffering. For nearly 30 years I have contemplated and meditated upon the meaning of suffering, from a Christian perspective.

People suffer in different ways. Suffering encompasses more than physical sickness. This because there physical, emotional, and spiritual aspects to human beings. It is imperative that a distinction to be made between physical suffering and emotional, moral and spiritual suffering. I have experienced all of these forms of suffering. It is my opinion spiritual suffering is the most excruciating.

Physical pain is easiest to treat with modern pain medications and techniques. Emotional, psychological or moral suffering cut to the soul. They are more excruciating and harder to reach and treat.

Psychological, emotional or spiritual suffering often show up in sadness, disappointment, or despair. Psychological or spiritual can develop physical manifestations such as elevated blood pressure, heart attack, ulcers and digestive disorders, insomnia, weight gain or loss.

Chronic suffering creates its own world for the individual. It is like an internal exile in which the sufferer of disease or sickness feels cut-off from his community, friends and even those he loves most. This suffering is highly personal, and his deepest agony is inexpressible which intensifies his sense of isolation. It is a dangerous state because it can spawn despair of life.

It is even possible to find a perverse solace with despair of life. Despair can masquerade as destiny. It is twisted and distorted perception whereby death is preferable to life. Fait accompli.   Suicide is seen as deliverance from physical torment or a way of stopping psychological or emotion agony.

There is a 3rd lower level of despair which the medical and psychiatric professions have referred to as chronic melancholia. People in this horrible form of mental illness cease to take an interest in their own existence, the existence in the rest of humanity, or anything in the world. They cannot be roused or moved to care. For these people suicide is a very real possibility.

The brilliant Catholic apologist and author, G.K. Chesterton (1874-1936) said that suicide is not sin, rather the sin, precisely for the reasons I have just mentioned. He felt that suicide was an affront and defilement of all creation by the person’s sheer disinterest. Chesterton said that suicide insults everything on earth. Chesterton said this about the suicidal man: “There is not a tiny creature in the cosmos at whom his death is not a sneer.” I am a huge fan of G,K, Chesterton, but on this point I think he was uncharitable and quite possibly erred in his harshness. He presumed there is no despondency below a final sneer at existence. In fact, there is and it is that dreaded state of chronic melancholia. The individual is utterly defeated; he cannot muster even a passing sigh at existence let alone a sneer. His despondency permeates every corner of his mind, every cell of his being. Regarding such cases we must reserve comment and trust those people to the tender care of the Almighty.

However, to assist in their suicide (or any suicide) is to endorse the abyss with a cruel bon voyage. People who advocate or participate in assisted suicide act with the logic of darkness. They are brutes sniffing over the waiting graves of the defeated. Any civilized society must always condemn assisted suicide in the strongest terms and never legalize or permit it.

The isolation of the sufferer is observable by others, especially his family. This creates an isolation for them too. They feel cut-off from their loved-one’s suffering. It can be excruciating for them to helplessly watch the sufferer.

Loved-ones of the sick can confuse their sorrow and pain with their loved-one’s pin. The family of the sick or dying person can perceive agony where none exists or is much less than they perceive. 

Let me illustrate this with an example from my own life. My mother was dying of bone cancer. Her physical pain was well controlled. Her suffering was of an emotional and spiritual nature – but overall her symptoms were well controlled. Yet I heard family and friends talking about her terrible pain. When I roused her and asked if she was in pain, she consistently said, “No.” Friends and loved-ones observed my mother’s dying through the lens of their own sorrow. Sorrow and grief can distort reality. My mother passed away without the agony in intractable physical pain, thanks to a skilled doctor who knew modern pain control techniques.

With my own disease, gradual paralysis has been the main issue. Earlier LaRee said she believes that her pain of observing my situation and struggles, unable to alleviate them is as excruciating as my pain. I think she is probably right. To imagine things the other way round is too unbearable for me to contemplate.

Reflected or observed pain contributes to families considering euthanasia or assisted suicide. I cannot state this too emphatically.  Reflected pain can create a vicious cycle of torment for observer of degenerative disease or disability; on the other hand, fear of being a burden for the actual victim of the debilitating condition.

Throughout my decades with MS there have been times when it was only Christ who kept me from sinking beneath the waves of my circumstances. In moments of my deepest fear it has been the real presence of Jesus Christ that has consoled me.

An atheist told me that Christianity is a crutch for weak people. He sneered and referred to Jesus as my imaginary friend. Having aggressive MS, I think I know a thing or two about weakness, crutches … and wheelchairs too. Jesus is not my imaginary friend – his presence has come into clearer focus the sicker I become. He is truer and more faithful to me than I have been to Him. He continually advocates to the Father on my behalf.

I have always slept well, But a few years after being diagnosed with MS, the attacks were so erratic and vicious, I found myself being awakened in the middle of the night by a presence. It was Him. His message was unstated but clear: “It is I, be not afraid,” or more precisely, “I am. Be not afraid.”

In the first chapter of the Gospel of John, the Apostle tells us that Christ has always been with God and that all things came to be through him. He wrote, “Eternal life is in him, and this life gives light to all mankind. His life is the light that shines through the darkness – and the darkness can never extinguish it.” (John 1.4-5.)

The triune God is the Creator of all reality, life, understanding, and the source of all authentic illumination. I had to trust that Christ would somehow light the darkness of my fears and outright terror. That marked the beginning of my search for meaning in my suffering.

Again, I got a hint for my search from Pope John Paul who once said, “[I]n order to perceive the true answer to the ‘why’ of suffering, we must look to the revelation of divine love, the ultimate source of meaning of everything that exists.” He told us that love is the richest source of meaning of suffering and that it remains a mystery.

If God is love then I must turn to Him for illumination in the midst of my slow destruction. The answer to the “why” of suffering ultimately depends on our ability to comprehend the perfection of divine love, beginning at the cross.

The reason for Christ’s Passion, and death on the cross was to settle with God the problem of human sin and evil. People suffer whenever they experience evil. The ultimate suffering is the loss of eternal life. Christ’s atoning sacrifice, his suffering and crucifixion, offering himself in our place to pay the penalty for our sins – liberating from evil all who believe this. Notice how closely evil is bound to suffering – specifically the suffering of Jesus Christ at Calvary. How we respond to His sacrifice for our sakes, can open the possibility of rebuilding goodness in the life of the person who suffers. This is the beginning of discerning the idea of divine mercy. In my case the idea of divine mercy broke my heart because I was/am so undeserving of it. It called me anew to repentance and keeping short accounts with God. It introduced me to the blessing of being “poor in spirit”. This state of spirit poverty is the forerunner of internal transformation and transcendence.

It was important for me to resist the temptation to become bitter, not to focus on my predicament, and simply surrender to the perfect and divine love of Christ. Through my Redeemer’s outstretched arms on the cross, He invited me to unite my suffering with his suffering.

Imagine that! I was invited into Christ’s redemptive suffering. This marked a critical transition point in my acceptance of suffering and stop resisting what I could not control. It required me to relinquish to Him ownership of my pain.  It required that a shift take place in my spiritual mindset in order to realize that it is more important to understand than be understood.

I was being called to set aside self-interest and ego and follow Christ with complete abandon. This is in complete antithesis to my egotistical and self-absorbed nature. Christ was calling me, in my sorrow and pain, to transcend beyond myself and unite my suffering with his at the Cross (just as he calls you to transcend yourself). 

Jesus told us that we must be willing to take up our cross daily and follow Him. It is not easy for us to take up our cross but it is necessary, if truth means anything. It requires us to daily recommit ourselves to bear up under the weight of our cross and follow him. But follow Him where? 

I my own weakness I have been so irrationally afraid to take up my cross and follow Christ because I feared it might lead to a Golgotha. Yet divine logic assureds me I can rest in Christ’s embrace as a child of God. I remember those words: “Be not afraid. I am with you.”

If I carry my cross of suffering in union with Christ’s redemptive suffering, it does not lead to the understanding that Christ raised human suffering to the level Redemption in him – if we will accept it – a sharer in Christ’s redemptive suffering.

This is what Pope John Paul called the eloquence of the cross. Death for the believer completes the eloquence of the Resurrection.

Suffering in unison with Christ has helped me to see Resurrection in a whole new light. My hope in, and anticipation of the Resurrection helps me to go through my darkest days of humiliations, my agonies, my doubts and my fears.

The Apostle Paul said, “to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God.” We can, through faith, discover that Christ’s redemptive suffering gives us insights into our own suffering.  I am convinced this is what St, Paul meant when he wrote: “I have been crucified with Christ; yet I love, no longer I, but Christ lives in me; insofar as I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God who has loved me and given himself for me.”

A suffering heart can rest in the hope of God and comfort of the Holy Spirit. The sufferer begins to realize they are mysteriously being transformed and made fit for heaven. If we open our sufferings to Christ’s love it will inevitably begin a spiritual transformation. 

Throughout the ages it has been observed that suffering has the concealed power to draw the sufferer toward Christ, if the sufferer allows it. I have discovered that Christ grants a special grace that transcends my suffering. As I said before, suffering has the capacity to strip away all things extraneous to life leaving only that which is essential.

Suffering has taught me that at the center of existence lies a beautiful mystery. Once that mystery has been glimpsed everything else becomes an irrelevance, a diversion. That mystery is the light of Christ which creates a renewed quality of Christian conversion. Many people throughout history have discovered this truth including, Saint Francis of Assisi, John Milton, John Donne, and millions of ordinary people. 

The 17th Century metaphysical poet John Donne wrote his immortal 17th Meditation while convalescing from an illness that nearly killed him. Most people are aware of that’s Meditation’s passage: “No man is an island entire of 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.”

Later in that same Meditation he speaks about the refining effect that suffering can have on one person but wasted on another. He wrote, “No man  and hath affliction enough that is not matured and ripened by it, and made fit for God by that affliction.” Is this the case for all people who suffer? No, and Donne acknowledged this a few lines later when he wrote, “Another man may be sick too, and sick to the death, and his affliction may lie in his bowels, as gold in a mine, and be of no use to him.” 

John Donne’s believed that suffering could be a blessing to the individual or others, if allowed to ripen a person’s spiritual character.  These were insights from a man who defended suicide 15 years earlier in a scurrilous book Biathanatos. Why the change of heart ? Could it be that his suffering, an interior throes of his soul, had a purifying effect on his spiritual character? 

Suffering is not what defeats people, suffering without meaning is what does that. All humanity longs for belonging. Our true belonging lies in surrender and resting in in the light of Christ. That is all I really know. In my suffering I have received a glimpse of the truth and the truth is setting me free. Not even crippled legs and wheelchair can take that from me.