Sunday, December 24, 2006

Hey Baby!

Hey baby…

When was the last time you saw an evil baby? Ridiculous movies like “The Omen” aside (which are little more than absurd fantasies) have you ever seen or even heard of an evil newborn?

You haven’t have you? Of course not. No one has.

Newborn babies are pure innocent beings. This is the time of year when the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life,” which I have mentioned before in this column, is often viewed. That’s the movie where George Bailey’s angel, Clarence Oddbody AS2 (angel second class as he tells us) gives George Bailey his wish - he changes the world so George Bailey had never been born. But think about that for a moment..

George Bailey doesn’t wish he was never born until some time later in his life. Not so when he was born. As a newborn, we are all God’s innocents. God is glad we are born. He always loves us. But what happens between when that same baby is born and later on when George Bailey, or anyone like George Bailey wishes he or she had never been born?

A few days ago I made one of my extremely rare excursions to a shopping mall. Not by choice, merely by happenstance. I hate shopping. It is sort of a by product of being a nun I guess. So there I was in my habit and veil, as you see me above. I was there with two other women, one of them being an elderly woman whom we take care of. I have a habit (pun intended) of wearing white socks with my black habit and black veil. I will get into how that particular habit started at a later time. The elderly woman notices my white socks and offers to buy me some black socks. She tells me I should wear them so “I look official.” Mind you, I am used to getting questions like “are you a recognized convent?” My answer is usually something along the lines of, “Yes, I recognize the convent every time I come home” or “Yes, God knows who we are.” This time I merely replied, “God hears my prayers no matter what color socks I am wearing.”

The elderly woman, whom I will call Agnes, takes this as a cue to mean that God speaks to me personally and answers all my prayers as if I had a hotline to God and could simply pick up the phone and dial up Heaven. I assured her that God hears my prayers, but the answers aren’t always what I want - good thing too. I can think back on all of the earlier times in my life when I too wished that I had “never been born” (or “never existed” as I put it). God never answered that prayer. My guardian angel, what ever his or her name may be, simply chuckled a bit, and went back to the business of protecting a rather clumsy woman who would one day be a nun.

Agnes has quite a few illnesses - she survived tuberculosis. She has emphysema, one lung doesn’t work, the other has cancer. She has also had a stroke. She is now in a wheel chair. This is the point at which Agnes turns to me and says, “well then ask God why I have all these things wrong with me.”

At this point I mentioned that I don’t have a hot line to God but she certainly could ask Him herself. “But you said he answers all your prayers,” Agnes said.

There lays the rub, as Shakespeare would have said. God may hear all my prayers but the answer isn’t always what I wanted it to be. Again, good thing too. What I didn’t mention was the obvious. God didn’t make Agnes smoke for 52 years. She did that one on her own, and caused much of the problems her self. This brings me to the second point.

Agnes certainly wasn’t born with a cigarette in her mouth. We are all born innocent babies. But a lot of what happens to us in between the time when someone is born, and the time someone may wish they had never been born is up to us. We are born innocent, but after that, even if God has a plan for our lives we are all free to “give God the finger” and go our own way. And that, my friends, is where the trouble starts.

Notice I said “a lot” above. There are times when we all say “How can God let that happen?” Well the operative word there is what ever the “that” is. The reasons are as myriad and varied as the number of people to which “that” occurs. Some times bad things happen to good people. Sometimes, they happen for a reason. My own mother was born with cerebral palsy. She told me once that she thought she would not have become the warm person everyone loved if she had not been born with cerebral palsy. As the result of mom’s “that” I also learned. To me mom’s cerebral palsy was just part of mom. It meant she needed a bit of extra help some times but it taught me a lot. On the face of it mom’s cerebral palsy might have been considered a tragedy by some. But not by mom, and not by me. We are both better people today because of it.

But what about those times when we have made a mess of our lives ourselves? When my life was a shambles and I wished “I had never been born” I did it to my self. But even if I wasn’t glad I had been born, God WAS glad that I had been born. Not only that he still had a plan for my life.

Remember the article I wrote about life not coming with a contract? Well it may not come with a contract, but it DOES come with promises. The great thing about those promises is that the ones that life comes with - the ones that are “installed at the factory” before we are born - is that they are made by God. The great thing about promises made by God is that, even if we don’t live up to what God expects of us, He ALWAYS lives up to His end of the deal. God always keeps His promises. Even if we have spent part of our lives giving God the finger. He always forgives us. He always takes us back.

So why is God so generous? Why does He do all this? Because my friends, of one very special baby…

The baby Jesus.

Merry Christmas everyone


Anonymous said...

"She told me once that she thought she would not have become the warm person everyone loved if she had not been born with cerebral palsy."

It would be of interest to the reader to know the severity of her mother's CP.

Often CP is an impediment to becoming a warm person, because it makes speaking to be understood difficult to impossible.

Sr.Julie said...

The extent of moms cerbral palsy didn't matter a fig to anyone around her. Consider for example Dr. Stephen Hawking. Despite having developed motor neurone disease as an adult he remains one of the most brilliant scientists of our time.

Let me tell you a story to illustrate. I once knew a man named John. John lived in a county nursing home. The staff thought he was stupid merely because he could not see or hear. They made no attempts to get to know John. But when my family got to know John after mom got to know him, the John I got to know was warm, friendly and had a wondeful sense of humor. Once the staff took the time to get to know John, it also turned out he was a master craftsman. He could restore antique caned chairs, and began to do so from that point on.

Go with God,

Sister Julie

Anonymous said...

Sister Julie-
Thank you for your thoughtful reply.

1) I have CP. I find that it generally causes people to look at me as outside "their circle."

2) I believe CP is generally caused by a portion of a person's brain not getting oxygen when he (or she) is a fetus. The portion of the brain not getting oxygen in a CP-afflicted person controls voluntary movement (e.g., arms, legs). But since that portion of the brain is probably contiguous with other portion(s) of the brain that control intellectual, social & emotional functions, perhaps part of those brain areas also didn't get oxygen. If the above is correct (I am not a physician or medical professional), then perhaps at least some persons afflicted with CP also have a deficit in intellectual, social and/or emotional abilities.

Sr.Julie said...

At least as far as I am concerned I do not think of anyone who was born with cerbral palsy, or any other similar condition for that matter, as having any sort of a "deficit in intellectual, social and/or emotional abilities." Think of this. St. Bernadette Soubirous" would be one of those people whom "modern" thinkers would be tempted to think of as being "deficit in intellectual, social and/or emotional abilities." When Mother Mary appeared to her she spoke in terms that St. Bernadette would understand - as God comes to us all - in ways we can best understand and to which we can relate. The path to God for one person might not be the best path for another. In fact when Mother Mary spoke the words "immaculate conception" St. Bernadette had to memorize the words. She didn't understand them. Yet the fact that some might consider her "intellectually challenged" didn't stop God from loving her immensely. In fact, as an incorrupt, she has been dead for more than 100 years, and her body looks better than mine does now.

God Bless you,

Sister Julie

Anonymous said...

What Other Conditions Are Associated With Cerebral Palsy? by Wilbert Brians

Many individuals with cerebral palsy have no additional medical disorders. However, because cerebral palsy involves the brain and the brain controls so many of the body's functions, cerebral palsy can also cause seizures, impair intellectual development, and affect vision, hearing, and behavior. Coping with these disabilities may be even more of a challenge than coping with the motor impairments of cerebral palsy.

These additional medical conditions include:

Mental retardation. Two-thirds of individuals with cerebral palsy will be intellectually impaired. Mental impairment is more common among those with spastic quadriplegia than in those with other types of cerebral palsy, and children who have epilepsy and an abnormal electroencephalogram (EEG) or MRI are also more likely to have mental retardation.