Cancer and Faith: The Spiritual Graces and Challenges of Physical Suffering — Men’s Conference 2018

Cancer and Faith: The Spiritual Graces and Challenges of Physical Suffering — Men’s Conference 2018


I’m really blessed to be able to speak
with you all. I’ve been in this position for the past seven months, and I’ve
actually lived in this Diocese twice before that though, and I always feel
like that makes me sound flaky, but I was born in Brooklyn, New York, and then after
five years my family moved to Quantico. My dad was an instructor at the DEA
Academy there and we were parishioners at St. William of York, and then we moved
to Raleigh where we’ve lived most of our life since then. My folks are still there.
And then after college, I came I worked in DC for a while and that’s where I met my
wife and we were married at St. Andrew’s in Clifton, and I was a parishioner at
St. James, so we have lots of good history here, so it was very easy to come
back, to come home and to see so many of our friends still here. And it’s
really an honor to be able to get to meet a lot of you today, and I look
forward to speaking with you throughout the rest of the conference. So it was
actually after I left Virginia the first time, and before I came back that a lot
of my my testimony, at least the part I’ll share today, takes place. In high
school, life was very good. I had a good life. I’d been raised by very devout,
Catholic parents. I had a job as a teenager as a lifeguard and my grades
were decent and I went to a good Catholic school. I’d really very little to
complain about and obviously being raised in the faith, you know, those of
you who were, know how enriching that is as you grew up, especially as young
man discovering your manhood, your masculinity, and who you are. One of the…something I’d kind of identified with was was football I had played football
in high school when I was I was being recruited for Division One Double-A or
maybe Two school and was really passionate about that sport, and I was
getting ready for the physical. Every year you’d have to do a physical
at the doctor and just to kind of show that you’re in generally good health.
But I’d gone to the doctor about six months before I had to do this, and
expressed an issue, and the doctor said you know I think it’s fine it’s probably
this, maybe that, but he kind of blew it off, and I said okay he’s the doctor he
knows. So when I went to get the physical six months later and found out you know
or realized, you know this hasn’t gone away I should bring this up again. The doctor again was kind of cavalier about it,
but I said you know I’ve still got an enlargement in one of my testicles, and
it just doesn’t seem to be going away. He goes, well, maybe it’s a water build up, or
something called a varicocele he said, maybe it’s something like that. I said
alright, but it’s nerve-wracking, you know, and of course being a 16-year-old kid with something like that, you’re like I don’t want to tell
anybody, you know, so if I’m telling my doctor, I’m concerned. He said
I can send you to a urologist, if you would like, and they can kind of examine
that and check it out. I said okay that sounds reasonable.
So not long after that at all, my dad and I went to the urologist and met the
guy who was a nice doctor, gave me kind of a physical exam, and then his
personality kind of shifted a little bit he said hold on one sec, so he leaves the
room and he comes back about 10 or 15 minutes later and he said so here’s the deal: I’d like you to go get an ultrasound done, and get this examined. I’m like,
okay. And he said, I’d like you to go to the hospital, Western Wake was the hospital
nearby, and I’d like you to go there and actually I want you to go right now, the
doctor will wait for you there. So two things concerned me. One: Doctors never
wait for you, so there was an urgency that I wasn’t excited about. And two was
I didn’t know what an ultrasound was. I just knew that pregnant women got them, and I thought oh boy I’m in a lot of trouble. I was like, this is worse that I thought so we go my dad and I drive over to the hospital and and just like he said the the the nurses
were waiting there and the nurse did the ultrasound, and I asked her questions, and
like always they say we don’t know the radiologist will know and she pointed to
a phone in the room and said the radiologist is gonna call the results in
to your urologist and he’s gonna call you on that phone so wait until you hear
that phone ring and pick it up okay again the urgency of that felt kind of
pressing so eventually the phone rings but it took a while and my dad and I had
been sitting there my dad and I he’s my best friend
he was the best man at my wedding because I couldn’t find a better man and
he we were sitting that we always have something to say we had nothing to say
it was quiet for about 20 minutes or so finally the phone rings it picks up and
every word he he shared was just kind of one word yes his nose
okay when so he didn’t really tip his hand as to what’s going on that he hangs
up the phone and says so they think it’s cancer and they want to do surgery again
16 year old kid enlarged testicle doesn’t want to have surgery
no not excited about that I said okay when do they want to do surgery tomorrow
morning again it’s urgency it’s like I was it do I went to that physical security for football season so all of a
sudden I’m seeing my football career flash before my eyes and saying could
this be over could all this be it and the unknown is so so horrifying so we
drive home and we had family visiting from out of town I was like I’m not
interested in hanging out with family right now so I grabbed my lifeguard
shorts and whistle and took off and was gonna go work a shift at the pool and I
was sitting at a stoplight in my 1978 Pontiac Phoenix and I’d never
experienced what I’m about to describe to you I had heard of it but I never
experienced it it was bursting into tears and usually you feel it welling up
and you kind of find it back oh you know you know what if you only cry you can
maybe sometimes pushed off or you at least know what’s coming I went from
zero to 100 and like a tenth of a second just tears flooding down my face and I
finally cleared the tears away and realized the lights green and I said
well I can’t I can’t go work a shift at the pool I don’t think parents would be
too confident in their lifeguard if he’s sobbing like a baby from a lifeguard
stand so I said okay time to go home so I took a u-turn and went home the next
morning when we went to the hospital for surgery I was walking in and I remember
this feeling I walked through the doors you know how there’s the wind
that kind of sweeps down you know it keeps the bugs out I remember I was in a
t-shirt and gym shorts I remember feeling it kind of whooshed
by my legs and just kind of looking down and I’d been working out like a madman I
had been lifting weights all summer I had been running constantly I was in the
best shape I had ever been probably even to this day and thinking of that irony
or the juxtaposition of being so physically fit and yet so unhealthy
usually we think of them going together but I was not I was clearly not healthy
at least to a certain degree and we didn’t know what was coming next
hopefully this was it but we didn’t know I remember thinking that so I have this
surgery and as I’m pulling out of the anaesthetic fog as I call it and I got
all too familiar with that feeling over time I looked at the doctor and he was
sitting right there and I said so doc how’d it go and he said well the surgery
was successful and then the next thing he said haunted me for years because it
was so true and usually doctors don’t editorialize they just give you kind of
facts of the matter he said but we found cancer trailing up into your abdomen
and it’s gonna be a long fight Wow so he didn’t pull any punches he told me as it
was so that was obviously very scary young man and thinking wow so this is
really all gonna be it like everything that I know everything that I attached
myself to athleticism, sports, this might all be gone and we move on and we had
heard that there are we lived in being in North Carolina especially in the
Triangle we were very lucky UNC hospital systems and the Duke hospital system are
two of the best in the world and they’re 25 minutes apart from each other so we
were very lucky and being 16 I was recommended to go to UNC because they
had a great and a juvenile ontological unit and this great board that would
review everything so we went met with them they came up with this plan and
they said so for what you have and I had cancer basically throughout my abdomen
with a softball sized tumor behind my kidneys they said I had have been
experiencing back pain that summer I thought it was just because I was
lifting a lot of weight and squatting and deadlift and all that kind of stuff
I thought it was just you know from overworking it so they came up with this
plan they said nine months of chemo maybe more and then at least one or two
surgeries that’s what their thinking was and my heart was broken I was like this
everything I’d worked for everything I’d ever wanted is gonna go away there’s no
way I can get ready for another season if I’m doing a year’s worth of treatment
so we said you know let’s go to Duke and just get a second opinion I mean there
was a phenomenal board of doctors that had come of this plan so we were
confident and it really let’s run down the road and coincidentally the doctor
at Duke is world renowned for testis cancer he’s one of the best if
you’ve if you are practicing that medicine today you probably studied
something he wrote because he really pioneered the field in a lot of ways but
he mostly deals with adults so we went to him Dr. Philip Walther he’s a
phenomenal doctor and he looked at the plan and we explained to him what UNC
was gonna do and he looks at and he goes again we’re here for a second opinion
and he goes “dumb, dumb, dumb” Doc I’ve had enough I just got out of a
surgery you know for testis cancer could we you lighten that a little
bit you know his marketing skills weren’t too good so I said alright
what’s going on he said they’re treating you like a child he goes you’re what 6′ 1″
205 pounds he goes you’re an adult you don’t need to be doing that you guys we
can compress that nine months of chemo into three months and then one or two
surgeries after that and I’m thinking I like what I’m hearing cuz I’m here in a
shorter timeframe I would find out what nine months of chemo in three months
would really feel like but my dad again he is his specialty with law enforcement
was rates and entries he was a big he look like Lou Ferrigno sitting there
next to me and he said but this chemo regimen would kill your dad you know so
it’s gonna be intense you need to know that going in but all I heard was three
months so I’m thinking okay you know carry the one I could get back for the
next season maybe so we get into the hallway my parents and I were like
cross-eyed with confused what do we do what do we do and one thing that we had
asked the doctor was well what about the fact that there’s this board at UNC that
would review it and he said when you know what you’re doing you don’t need a
board oh boy I love Dr. Walther but I was like either he’s the most arrogant human
being to ever walk the face of the earth or he’s got reason for that confidence
it was like if he’s a Duke University and he’s that confident or arrogant he
might have a reason to be they wouldn’t keep him around if he was that tough so
we talked about and I said I really feel like dr. Walters the guy so we went we
went with Duke and that’s where I did all of my treatments so we started chemo
very quickly thereafter and most people when they do chemotherapy they’ll do a
few hours a day every week something like that order day of
chemo then they’re off for a week the way they did it was six days of chemo
12-hour drips and then I would take three weeks off and then come back and
do the next one so it was three like that it was brutal really really brutal
the way that’s way I can I can describe the feeling of chemotherapy is imagine
you take like every household cleaner you can find dump it all into a bucket
and replace your blood with that cleaner it’s just this horrible toxic toxic
feeling the whole time the second it starts you know something’s going in ooh
that’s just not meant to be and it’s a poison it’s a poison that kills all
kinds of cells it kills cancer cells that accuse your hair follicle cells it
kills your immune system it kills all kinds of stuff that’s why it’s it’s so
brutal it can target to some degree but it’s really a shotgun approach it’s
gonna catch a lot of other things along the way so I start chemotherapy and when
within just a few hours I start throwing up just getting violently nauseous
violently nauseous and then the next day I’m throwing a pile and then by day
three it’s blood and I did that for six days and I didn’t eat in fact if I heard
the food cart coming down the hall I threw up the thought of food let alone
the smell or you know the taste was just it wasn’t gonna happen well I lost 25
pounds in six days I put on as much weight as I could coming into the second
round lost another 25 pounds and then you know
rinse and repeat did that a third time and there was always this question of
whether or not I need four rounds of chemo but luckily three of that was
enough and that’s about all I could take but I went from 205 pounds of mostly
muscle to 160 pounds of just frail old man that’s what I look like I just I was
just in really really bad shape so I learned what nine months of chemo looks
like in three months and I don’t think they do it anymore and if you have the
chance if you get cancer and you have a chance to spread it out do it but you do
what you got to do to get healthy at the same time and throughout chemo it was so
agonizing and so brutal I envisioned it as the devil I said the devil is trying
to break me so by envisioning the tumor as the devil I was able to to drive
through a little bit because you have to dig deep to get through something like
that it’s so intense that would be very easy to
get disillusioned to be very easy to get really negative a really pessimistic so
I had to find a way and that was my way was I envisioned it as the devil and I
have so many people praying for me I got prayer cards from all over the world you
know folks that would you know share my name on different prayer lists they tell
my story and I was getting stuff I remember people were sending me books I
got more copies of Lance Armstrong’s book that I’d know what to do it I
probably got a case of them somewhere if anyone would like but people were
sending so many you know prayer guides and resources and just letting me know
that they were they were praying right and I really felt it too I really felt
in that time all those prayers come in my way because there was something
unique about the way I was able to handle it that was no credit to me and I
feel that people would say I don’t know how you I don’t know how you do this I
don’t know how you go through somebody well I didn’t choose it
this isn’t like a journey I’ve selected I’ve got to go through this but there is
something to the idea and I’ve heard this quote a long time ago is God
doesn’t call the qualified he qualifies the called this is true for a
circumstance like what I was going through but it’s also true for vocations
I look at the life of priests being in my position I have the the blessing of
seeing the the work of priests the day-to-day work that they have to do for
us and it’s so much more than what we see on Sundays or when we go to
confession that’s like a fraction of what they have to do on a daily basis
how do they do that how do you manage a schedule manage all these need people
needing things from you it’s grace of the vocation God gives the grace he
qualifies the individual through his love and His grace marriage and for
those in this room that are in that that work constantly divided between work and
home that’s a tough thing you’re costly being pulled by one from the other how
do we do that I think it’s grace my wife is at home with three little kids right
now how does she do that day after day after day dealing with all these little
things that are so unfulfilling in many circumstances and in many ways how do
they do it I think they’re given the grace they need to fulfill the vocation
in circumstances we have that same opportunity in different struggles you
know you might be in a job you hate but there’s something in that there’s some
grace that you can draw from that that can really enrich your soul
there may be some other circumstance you’re dealing with issues of family
babies almost passed away and there’s like an estate dispute whatever it is
there is a Grace and an opportunity but you do have to sometimes look for it
it’s not always going to be apparent so I went through this this experience and
one of the hardest realities of the consequence of this chemo was I was told
you wouldn’t be able to have kids and it was a definite there wasn’t a doctor not
a resident that would ever have disputed that that fact and that wore on me for
so long and when I met my wife I told her this is this is not gonna be a
reality of ours unfortunately and she was okay with that we would adopt I’d
like to introduce you at some point to Liam and Angela and Anna Kate our 4-year-old, 3-year-old and 1-year-old that God has blessed us with despite
everything that we’ve seen here all of the chemo all of the the testimony that
through that God was able to provide these enormous blessings to us so when
you’re going through a struggle and you’re told some some facts some
definitive sometimes there’s there’s a lining in there where God can really
work and do something amazing so my faith that carried me through this
experience III I was so blessed I think it was the
enrichment of prayers but I had been raised with faith I’d invested in faith
I went to a Catholic school where with prayer and the mass and the sacraments
were a deep part of our life but after cancer I got a little cocky about my
faith and I felt a little bit like I was a mountain-climber where I climb I’d
been climbing this mountain you know my whole life and I got to a point where I
was like I’m gonna hang out here for a while and I got fat and lazy and then
when you got to climb the mountain again you’re not ready for it what got you
there God got to that point you stopped doing it’s like any training regimen we
got to keep doing that to keep progressing or you got to do more even
and I kind of stopped I saw faith as like a fact of the matter rather than is
like this organism that’s always growing or shrinking you’re never really
stagnant in faith you might feel stagnant in faith but if you’re
investing and you’re pushing through that and continuing your prayer life
your exposure to the sacraments maybe having a spiritual director then
you’re actually growing you just don’t see it you just don’t know that it’s
growing but if you’re not investing in it I guarantee you which direction it’s
going: and it’s shrinking and it’s moving backwards you’re that mountain climber
that’s kind of gotten stagnant decided to get fat lazy in the middle of the
mountain so I was still intellectually able to defend the faith in fact in
college especially I was a constant apologist for the faith but there was
something inside that wasn’t quite there there was this relationship with God
that really wasn’t being fed at least on my side and that hurt me later because
when I was in college I…the football thing never happened the…it never worked
out coaches are not interested in a guy that’s you know survived…you know who’s
survived cancer and gone through everything that I went through I wasn’t
a real attractive candidate at that point and then I thought well maybe I’ll
go to West Point or join the army and then I was medically disqualified so
these kind of other setbacks of things that I wanted to do and then going to
college and I was a college cheerleader at East Carolina University and I was
getting ready for practice one day and I threw on my t-shirt and when I was
putting on my gym shorts I felt this lump and I just kind of like slowly
closed my eyes and look down and right on my hip right above my waistline it
was like an egg size lump that I hadn’t seen before and I felt it for a second
and I said I know what this is and I was right they did a quick biopsy and it was
cancer but it was not related to the original cancer this one is what’s
called a desmoid tumor as a sarcoma and I went back to Duke where they had taken
such good care of me before and they came up with a plan but luckily this one
would not require chemotherapy it would not require all that intensive treatment
but it would require two major surgeries one to remove the tumor but in order to
get what they call negative margins which means they basically take a little
extra to make sure they get all the cancer they had to reconstruct my hip so
they took tissue and muscles from throughout my leg to reinforce my hip to
give it the strength of that it needed so between my sternum and my knee I’ve
got four feet three and a half inches of scar on my body and the the hip surgery
was very intensive it was very painful I had
10 days in the hospital and then I had to basically train my leg to walk
without the muscles and the tendons and ligaments that they used in the hip it’s
stunning what you can still do though I’d done martial arts throughout my life and
I competed in judo after that which requires a lot of like hip motion leg
strength and those kinds of things it’s a medical miracle quite frankly what
they’re able to do and this was a little while back
faith wise though something was very different because I’d gotten lazy in my
faith because I had kind of gone stagnant and just let it be intellectual
my faith didn’t carry me through this time I was really really angry at God I
said you know I did this I’ve been there I’ve got the t-shirt why am I going back
why do I have to do this again why is my life uprooted like this all over again
and then of course fears of well what if I get it a third time what if I don’t
survive the next time all that stuff starts really plaguing me and I said you
know I did this with you and I got cancer again so let me try it without
you and see how that goes and I lived about a year kind of like intensely
rejecting God from my life and just living however I wanted to and fell to a
lot of the things you would expect a young man to fall to in that time and it
was a long year and I remember one point my mom asked me if I was still praying
because she could I think tell that something wasn’t right and I looked at
it was like disgust like how stupid do you think I am after everything I went
through I gave talks and testimonies kind of
like this about my faith about you know how it carried me through this this
horrible experience and he gave it to me again he would do that to me well if he
does this to his friends I’d hate to it think what happens to his enemies I was
so hurt I was so hurt by that so no I wasn’t praying no I wasn’t. I was going
to Mass, though, because I didn’t want my sister to know what was going on she
went to the same College I was like alright I’ll keep up appearances and you
know make sure she’s still getting to Church but the inside there was there
was really nothing going on there so after a year I remember I was laying
in my dorm room looking up at the ceiling just living in this misery I
built for myself all the depression on all those kinds of things I said to
myself well I’m fairly analytical and I said well how’s this working out for you
and it wasn’t and it was clear and it had been a long time coming that I’d
asked that of myself and I prayed for the first time I had prayed in a long
time and this was the prayer God please don’t let me die tonight and I’m going
to hell if I do and it wasn’t that God didn’t want me it’s that I didn’t want
him that was worried he was gonna give me what I was asking for I had been
pushing myself away so aggressively I said well isn’t that the logical end of
actively rejecting what he so badly wants for me it was scary it was a scary
reality so before that second cancer when I’d stopped investing in my faith
that was mostly intellectual it I remember reading from James chapter 2
verse 19 and I think it in some ways defines the faith struggle I was going
through it says you believe that God is one you do well and what that means is
you believe in the truth of God he’s the Lord of Lord the king of kings these
facts about him it’s not about the relationship side but it’s just the draw
truth of who God is you believe that God is one you do well even the demons
believe and shudder that is haunting isn’t it that even the demons believe in
God to a certain extent obviously there’s no relationship there they
haven’t internalized the faith but they know he’s one they know the victory of
Calvary they know the truth of the Eucharist they know the power of
confession and forgiveness and mercy they know that maybe better than we do
so if even the demons believe that what does it take for us to really believe
what do we really mean when we say believe we’re not talking about what the
demons believe we’re not told me that kind of belief we’re talking about
something else so what is that I think it’s defined in
Matthew Jesus is asked why he speaks to the crowd and parables and it’s
interesting what he says here Jesus says they look but they do not see
and hear but do not listen or understand he then reaches back into Isaiah’s
prophecy which he says is going to be fulfilled you shall indeed hear but not
understand you shall indeed look but never see gross is the heart of this
people they will hardly hear with their ears they have closed their eyes lest
they see with their eyes and hear with the ears and understand with the heart and
be converted and I heal them my problem was that I had not understood with the
heart intellectually I was defending the faith I understood it to a certain
degree and I let that become my faith life I let the facts of the matter
become my faith life but look at the formula here understand what the heart
and be converted and I heal them my spiritual suffering was considerably
worse than my physical suffering considerably worse but if I understand
what the heart and experience that conversion of faith then there’s healing
that internalizing going beyond the facts of the matter beyond the
intellectual is what and really entering into a relationship with God that’s what
feeds the soul that’s where the conversion happens that’s where the
healing happens that’s where God’s mercy really penetrates through penetrates
through our weakness it penetrates through right there and after my second battle
with cancer and he actually before that too I had the opportunity to counsel a
lot of cancer patients Duke has a program where I was able to go back and
talk to men who are experiencing a similar cancer to what I had experienced
and it was fascinating and it was a really good learning experience for me
because I realized there is no silver bullet when they asked the tough
questions why in the world is this happening to me
I met men that knew they were gonna die I met a child one time who had leukemia
and a heart disease and they didn’t know which one was gonna kill that child
first. What’s strange is that kids don’t ask a lot of those questions it’s the adults
that do the kids have this strange like sixth sense almost about them where they
see the big picture better than we do I don’t know what I don’t have an answer
for you as to why that is but it’s just an observation but a lot of the men I
would talk to would struggle with why why is this happening to me some were
headed multiple times why why twice why do I have to go through treatment this
intense why am…why do I have to be so sick why’d I have to lose my job because of
this it puts enormous strain on everything…the whys and there wasn’t
a perfect answer but I do know this the reason I was effective with them is
because when they looked in my eyes they knew if I understood with the heart they
knew if I really believed it or if I just come up with a good line for them
and isn’t this the real power of evangelization when we talk about
sharing our faith it’s not about having the perfect answer that’s part of it
we’re intellectual beings but also spiritual beings we’re also emotional
beings and if your answer doesn’t reflect that – it’s not gonna do you
much good that witness is gonna be what’s effective with your children it’s
gonna be affected with your spouse your your friends family anybody that you
want to believe in the faith you have to go beyond the understanding with just
the mind just the intellectual what the demons believe to something much deeper
where you understand with the heart and you’re converted and healed the healing
those cancer patients saw in me came from walking that line and when I didn’t
it fell apart and I was useless to them for that time I had nothing really to
offer and I could tell something was not clicking when I would meet with them and
talk to them I could tell man they’re not buying it it’s good I didn’t really
have it I didn’t really have it the most attractive quality in any person is
confidence this is true in dating this is true in friendships isn’t true and
you know leadership and your you know in an organization or business
confidence but confidence I think comes from an intellectual knowledge that is
rooted in that understanding of the heart and genuine conversion you know
people that are trying to convince you even if they’re trying to commit you to
buy a product you kind of know if they really like the product by the way they
respond right you could tell if it’s just sales or if they really believe
what they’re saying how much truer is that with the faith how much truer is
that when we’re talking about salvation how much truer is it then so the answers
to the questions aren’t sufficient it takes something a little bit more and
sometimes I would feel especially as I reverted back so after that experience
in my dorm room where I…I said that prayer for the first time that was the
beginning of a long process back to faith it was not instant some people
talked about like a conversion experience and it’s one day they’re
wretched the next day bang they’re on they’re a devout Catholic and it just
was never better since then you know and they move on for me I’m not that smart
it takes me a little longer to catch on so it was a long process for me and it
felt overwhelming at times if I like it was all on me I did do all of these
things and part of the…one of the greatest troubles was allowing room for
grace allowing room for God to work for him to really love me
when I was trying to again just go back to the intellectual I got to know more I
got to know more instead of just sitting and prayer and quiet on how do I need to
pray you know I’m researching all these things don’t over complicate it
especially early on especially if you’re struggling in faith just be quiet
like God do some of that work I read the book The Hobbit from J.R. Tolkien and
it’s a wonderful book I love the book it is a long book but it’s worth reading
but there’s a point at the end of the book where Bilbo Baggins who’s the main
character of the book is a new person and his friends don’t even really
recognize him it’s like Father Mike was saying earlier about being different
being unique you’re gonna stand out you’re gonna look different he did he
went through this this profound experience in this whole book where he
had survived near-death experiences with almost killed by trolls and spiders and
goblins he needed fought bitter cold he was almost drowned just countless
experiences of near-death that suffering though is what really
transformed him that’s what really converted him into something else and by
the end he was he was so transformed he looked at adversity differently and his
friends and companions saw him as a different person they treated him
differently they understood it was he was not the same person and in the last
page of the book Gandalf who’s the a good friend of Bilbo’s is discussing the prophecies that predicted the success of their journey
kind of like Isaiah predicted what Jesus was saying as I mentioned earlier about
conversion of the heart seeing with the eyes and hearing with the ears again
Bilbo asks then the prophecies of the old songs have turned out to be true
Gandalf replies of course and why should they not prove true surely you don’t
disbelieve the prophecies because you had a hand in bringing them about
yourself you don’t really suppose do you that all your adventures and escapes
were managed by mere luck just for your sole benefit you’re a very
fine person Mr. Baggins and I’m very fond of you but you were only quite a little
fellow in this wide world after all and Bilbo responds thank goodness I
encourage you to find your thank goodness moment where in your journey of
faith as you’re working to understand with the heart did you find that thank
goodness moment we realize it’s just not all on you
yes know the faith better I’m not telling you don’t have an intellectual
standing of the faith but don’t let that supersede or create kind of a veneer
over a gap in the relationship you have with God because those are the roots
that’s the real foundation of the structure that you build your faith on
and if you don’t and the storms whether they be suffering or anything else just
doubt maybe it’ll break that structure apart in no time and it’s in that
suffering that you really know where your faith is and that’s an opportunity
in suffering I do not regret for a moment the things that I’ve gone through
as bad as they were as brutal as they
were and the things that they took away from me I was never gonna gain from
these other things what I gained in learning more about my faith and trying
to find a way to understand with the heart how much more will that benefit me
in the long run than the things I lost and suffering the devil wants to use
that suffering to bring you down what’s amazing is how God can use that server a
suffering and turn it on its head and use it for your salvation it’s an
amazing it’s an amazing thing Saint Josemaría Escrivá who was mentioned
earlier reacted to suffering by calling it the Christian revolution Saint
Escrivá said the great Christian revolution has to been has been to
convert pain into fruitful suffering and to turn a bad thing into something good
we have deprived the devil of this weapon and with it we conquer eternity it’s one of most beautiful quotes I’ve
ever read especially as it relates to suffering to convert pain pain which we
see as a pure negative the beauty of God is he turned it into fruitful suffering
he can create something out of that mess and it’s a weapon we’ve deprived the
devil of this weapon and with that we can conquer eternity
everyone suffers everyone goes through something it’s not typically cancer
sometimes it is maybe it’s your marriage maybe your your kids are acting in ways
that you just wish they wouldn’t and it’s painful it’s painful to see
maybe you’re experiencing an addiction of some sort some compulsive behaviors
you just wish you wouldn’t do any more but it’s just so hard God wants to deprive the devil of that
weapon and with it he wants to conquer eternity not just do some good conquer
eternity with it gentlemen that is the opportunity we have in suffering
whatever your suffering is rip that sword out of the devil’s hand and with
it will conquer eternity thank you so much God bless you

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