Love in the Ruins

The July issue of Commonweal is rich and varied. Sidney Callahan's reflection on Alzheimer's disease has particular resonance and poignancy for me.My brother and sister in law, their children, and I accompanied my mother for twelve years of increasing memory loss -- years of deep sadness, but also of grace.One of the realizations that I came to is that "spirit" transcends "mind;" that affection and touch communicate even when words fail.I remember vividly (and continue to be inspired by) the last full sentence my mother ever spoke. She was watching television and saw a young boy crying. The sight impelled from her the exclamation: "Oh, he's crying, please help him!" The spirit of compassion did not abandon her.Here is some of what Callahan writes:

As a human being, I am created in Gods image and can never be separated from the love of Christ, even by Alzheimers. Pride resists, but our faith affirms that all life is a gift and has dignity, no matter how deformed or vulnerable. Receiving love and care unawares is also a calling, as babies demonstrate. I can aspire to receive love, and perhaps give love, to the bitter, bitter end. Love among the ruins is still love.

Finally, Christians possess the belief that a future light exists beyond all present darkness. In faith I can also hope that my sufferings (and joys) are taken up into Christs work of birthing the renewed creation that is groaning toward fulfillment. In traditional theological language, this is described as offering up ones sufferingsin, with, and through Christ. To my mind, our present awareness of evolutionary processes makes faiths hope in future transformations easier to understand.

Robert P. Imbelli, a priest of the Archdiocese of New York, is the author of Rekindling the Christic Imagination.

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