Monday, July 31, 2006

Good Grief!

Good Grief

Everyone who has ever read peanuts has met “good old Charlie brown” and everyone who has ever met the overwrought Charlie Brown has heard him utter the now immortal phrase – “good grief”

Yet stop and think about this phrase for a moment.

Good Grief

Can our grief be good? I don’t ever remember seeing Charlie Brown say this phrase with a happy smile on his face.

Followers of the old television show “Night Gallery” often hear Rod Serling present each show using the phrase – “We offer for your consideration.”

And so…

I offer for your consideration the life of a woman that to many would seem a nightmare in every waking moment – the life of Blessed Saint Margaret of Costello.

“Yes sister,” I hear you ask, “but what has the life of a short Italian woman who has been dead for over 900 years got to do with anything?”

That, my dear friends, is easy to answer. This was a woman born into a wealthy noble Italian family. Normally she might have lived in the lap of luxury as it is said. But God blessed her – she did not.

“How is it then,” you ask, “that she was ‘blessed’ by missing out on the easy life?”

Margaret was born a midget, lame, a hunchback, and blind. All this features where matched by her lack of good looks. She spent the first thirteen years of her life imprisoned by her own parents so they could hide her away from the world so they would not have to be ashamed of their daughter. The last of those thirteen years she was forced to live in a prison in a catacomb. When finally God refused to take away all this from their daughter so her parents would no longer have to feel shame, they abandoned her, blind, and alone, on the church steps of Costello, Italy (and hence Margaret of Costello).

She may not have been a ‘looker’ as they say, but, oh my friends, she had a beautiful soul. She had a wondrous, glorious soul. Even if you discount the time she is said to have levitated 20 inches off the floor of a Costello prison Cell while praying for a prisoner; even if you discount the time, after hear death, after an autopsy where three pearls where found in her heart when it was cut open. Even if you discount that…

After her death, at her funeral, in front of a church full of people, including witnesses from the Vatican, she moved her arm and healed a young girl.

Over 900 years later her body has not decayed. Long after all those who abused her have turned to dust, her body just looks like it has a really, really good tan. She is an incorrupt. Other saints that where so holy that God has kept their bodies from decaying in death include Saint Bernadette Soubiros who looks better more than 100 years after her death, then I do now when I am alive.

Yes, my friends, Margaret had a life that was the living embodiment of the phrase, “life is a bitch and then you die.” Yet was she filled with anguish and hate for the way she was born and the way she was treated? Not a bit of it. When she originally came to Costello, Italy, forced into the life of a blind beggar, she was despised by everyone she met. Yet she walked down the street with a smile on her face.

By the time she died?

By the time she died she was universally loved by everyone in Costello, Italy. Do you know the phrase used in high school when it comes to “girls” like me? They say, ‘but she has a great personality’. Well, my friends, when it comes to having a great personality, Margaret was the proverbial ‘IT’ She is the one for whom the expression was originated.

She spent the later years of her life as a nun. One day one of her sisters came to her in despair. It seems the sister had just found out that she was going blind. Now, mind you, as we have said, Margaret was born blind. So at this point it was very much a case of preaching to the choir.

At first Margaret admonished the sister to accept Gods gift. Margaret was no stranger to suffering. She was, in fact, well acquainted with the concept of redemptive suffering. That is, suffering for the sake of others – as did our dear Lord, Jesus. This is suffering for Christ. In other words – ‘good grief’.

The sister was incredulous that Margaret could view blindness as a gift from God. In the end, Margaret healed the sister of her blindness.

To most people, myself included, Margaret of Costello was one of those rare individuals who set the pole so incredibly high that few people would be able to jump the spiritual hurdle.

There are some of us, such as myself, that God has blessed with being the target of more than the usual amount of bigotry and hatred. The world is full of people who are full of themselves; people who have a set view of the world and how it – and everyone in it – must be. When someone, such as myself, born a hermaphrodite, doesn’t fit into that view of the world, they insist on telling others so. Most often they do so loudly and long. It may be a matter of a total stranger telling me “you need to have a dick shoved up your ass.” It may be a co-worker who screams “I am not going to use the bathroom with that THING”. It may be something as subtle as a co-worker who refuses to ride an elevator that has me on it. I have had a lifetime of such treatment.

Yet, you may ask yourselves at this point how one endures such grief and even consider it “good”? I will tell you, it isn’t easy; especially when it is going on – and continues to go on, on a daily basis. There is a darn good reason why many people born such as I was kill themselves.

So how does one endure such grief? How does it become good grief?

As granddad used to say, “It is hard to remember that your original intent was to drain the swamp when you are up to your ass in alligators” – or in this case, bigots.

It is also something else. It is the subject of my next blog.

© 2006 Sisters of Embracement. All rights reserved.


SrFrances said...

Well, I really liked this story sister, but there are a couple points you might have included. First is, you were born a hermaphrodite, but you are now 100% had corrective surgery when you were 29 or so. Second, you are telling us how well Margaret of Costello dealt with her pain and suffering, yet you offer no advice to the rest of us who would like to deal with suffering a little better. Yes there is redemptive suffering...such as what Christ went through, but what if the person reading is not Christian? As a Buddhist (and a Christian), I look at my own suffering two ways: First, if I'm suffering probably I had done something in the past that earned me this negative karma that I must now suffer. So, if I can grit my teeth and persevere through this pain, I know in my heart, that is one less negative karma thing I have to pay for...i.e. less suffering to go through in the future. Second, as a Christian, if I offer my sufferings to God/Jesus for the sake of others, then my suffering becomes valuable to others and God makes it valuable for my He counts it as a blessing I am giving with my heart to others. I like what you wrote...keep it up!

Kath said...

I have a skeptical Christian friend who refuses to believe that their could be such a thing as an incorrupt body. I never doubted it's authenticity. Have you seen the body yourself or are their any pictures posted on the web?. By the way, my sister Margaret was named after blessed Margaret- she was abandoned in Puson Korea, with Tuberculosis. She is less than 4 feet tall and was (once) fully paralyzed from the waist down. God performed many miracles on Margaret – restoring her leg function, and restoring her failing reconstructed spine)- to name a few.
Keep it up!
God Bless,

Sr.Julie said...

Hi there Kathleen,
Thanks for your comment. There is actually a book that we have at the convent here somewhere that is all about saints and blesses who are incorrupt. I will try and find it and leave a post about it for you. Thanks for your comment and your wonderful story about your sister.

Sister Julie