faith · fall · learning · Orthodoxy · saints

A faith like Saint Martin

There is great suffering in this world, and it is hard to take sometimes.  I woke up this morning, Samuel snuggled up close, nursing, contented, safe.  I made myself a cup of tea, prayed, made lists and to-do’s.  Warm Cream of Wheat filled bowls and everyone is well, clean, plump, happy.  I said thank you over and over.

In my heart I feel a swell of hurt sometimes.   It’s only a thought away, my mind wonders onto the suffering of others and instantly I feel a weight…the true weight of this world.  Death and suffering are all around us, we do not have to look very far…our neighbor, our kinfolk, our brethren.

 My great aunt from Virginia is visiting this week.  She was recently diagnosed with terminal cancer.  When I see her on Saturday we will share a meal, warm conversation, and say our goodbyes.  Until we meet again…

I saw the link last night…Typhoon Haiyan, and I was scared to click.  It is hard to look upon another’s suffering and not DO something, to feel helpless.  I pray, I pray with a heavy heart.  My heart hurts for the Philippines.

I saw a man in the grocery store who could barely walk, his size and weight almost too much for him to bear.  I wondered who loved him, who touched him, who cared for him.  His basket was full of healthy items; vegetables, fruit, a package of chicken breasts.  He is trying…he sees his own weakness…he wants to change.  I began to tear up, and I fervently prayed that he would find success in overcoming his passion.  Lord please help him.

Today is Veteran’s day…need I say more?

I remember when I became aware of the fact that suffering is a universal experience, that everyone suffers.  It was the day that I got a call from my mom, “Mandy, pray.  Papa has been in an accident.”  Our world changed in that moment.  My grandfather, the patriarch of the family, fell into a grain auger.  His children were all there, some desperately trying to free him, some watching in horror, others praying for a miracle.  One son cried, “Dad what happened, how did this happen?”   My grandfather’s last words were, “It just happened, son.”  Another son had been the one who flipped the switch, not knowing that his father was on top of a mountain of wheat inside the barn.  When the auger began to turn it pulled my grandfather into its rotation.

“It just happened.”

I have thought about that over and over.  Is that statement true?  Is suffering a happening that just is?  My grandfather did not struggle or resist.  He did not feel separate or exempt.  His last words were humble.  Death and suffering touch us all.  “It” happens to all of us.

But sometimes the suffering I see seems unbearable.  And in those times I cry to the Lord, who knows our suffering.  He suffered too.  That is a mystery and a consolation.

Today as we celebrate Martinmas, I hope the crafts and gifts and fun do not dull the raw and vulnerable message of Saint Martin.  A man lay at a gate, freezing to death, and Martin shared his cloak.  The reality of that story is horrifying.  Most of the stories of the saints are.  But, it is the response to suffering that make saint days worth remembering.  Saints meet suffering with faith.  They look suffering straight in the eyes and believe.  Faith takes action in compassion, forgiveness, martyrdom, and courage.  It takes courage to face a world of suffering and unbelief.

May I not look away in fear, may I not shrink back in cowardice, may I touch the unlovely and befriend the unfriendly.  Let it never be said that a Christian is squeamish or afraid.  The Gospel demands that I walk by faith.  Death and suffering do not negate the Resurrection.  Who better to care for the dying, sick, and suffering than the people of The Way.  We are a Resurrection people.  In Him we live, and move, and have our being.  We live in a sober expectation of Christ’s return.

I want to shake off despondency and recommit myself to a life of prayer and sacrifice.  I want to be courageous and faithful.  I want to journey toward the Nativity with a gift in my heart…a gift of faith.  True faith.  A living faith.  A faith that redeems suffering.  A faith like Saint Martin the Merciful.

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5 thoughts on “A faith like Saint Martin

  1. Good reminders here – though you wrote it earlier, it corresponds to what we learned this week about the good Samaritan, and about St. Nectarios of Aegina — people who responded to those who were suffering. Most of the time mothers are helping alleviate the small sufferings of their children, and we learn and teach compassion and service at the same time. May the Lord prepare us, and make our hearts ready, for all the opportunities He gives us in our homes or out. In the meantime, Lord, remind us to pray!

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