Lin Weeks Wilder

Lin Weeks Wilder

atheism, Books, Christianity, conversion, faith, fear, Gospel, Happiness, Martyr, peace, politics, Prayer, public speaking

How Do They Do It?

How do they do it?
Be happy. It drives people crazy.

How do they do it?

“You have two children, don’t you?”

The casual question prompted an unnerving reply. “Yes, I had a son who died at thirty-seven and a daughter who died at forty-one.”

Homilist, Pastor Eric Ritter at Tuesday’s six AM Saint Matthew’s Church question, “How do they do it?” was implicit.

“How do you lose your children?”

“Your freedom?”

“Or your health?

Without anger, hatred, resentment, or depression? Accepting horrific losses with charity, exuding happiness to those they encounter?

“My faith, Father, my faith gets me through everything.”

Thinking of Father Eric’s powerful anecdote of the heroic acceptance of suffering, recalls two women from the last century. And a letter from the first.

Catholic convert and former Jewish atheist Edith Stein is one of my friends in heaven. Not just because of her towering intellect but her steadfast resolve to find the truth.

Despite a mind filled with anxiety and doubt,the woman who would become St. Teresa Benedicta, Carmelite nun and Auschwitz martyr, faced her fears and made the trip to Gottingen. Rather than encountering a woman bereft of hope, desolate and incapacitated with grief, Edith Stein met instead, a woman of courage and profound faith.  Edith was “awestruck by Anne’s courage and loving submission to God’s will, which seemed to manifest the power of Christian faith.”

“This was my first encounter with the Cross and the divine power it imparts to those who bear it … it was the moment when my unbelief collapsed and Christ began to shine his light on me – Christ in the mystery of the Cross.”

The walls of our unbelief

A Radiance in the Gulag

Sister Nijole Sudunaite was two years old when the Soviet Union absorbed her country and packed 38,000 Lithuanian leaders, intellectuals and peasants to deport them to Siberia. It was the beginning of mass deportations: for the next decade, one out of every ten Lithuanians was exiled in Siberia.

Their crime?

Devotion to Christ and the Catholic Church, not the state.

Sister Nijole published A Radiance in the Gulag in 1987. Her 148 page diary chronicles her persectution, torture, Siberian exile with…radiance.

“This is the happiest day of my life. I am being tried on account of the Chronicle of the Catholic Church in Lithuania, which is struggling against physical and spiritual tyranny. That means I am being tried for the truth and the love of my fellow man. What can be more important in life than to love one’s fellow man, his freedom and honor?”

She continues, “Love of one’s fellow man is the greatest form of love, while the struggle for human rights is the most beautiful form of love. May this hymn forever resound in our hearts and never fall silent…I will joyfully go into slavery for others and I agree to die so that others may live…”

Hers is the story of a pure soul. One so inflamed with the love and trust of Jesus Christ that nothing can dim her love for Him and the souls he died to save. Nothing but pity, sympathy and love for the “poor atheists,” leap off the pages. Lightly, humorously, Sister Nijole expected nothing and accepted everything. Reading her anecdotes about the KGB agents and criminals she was imprisoned with is achingly relevent–and instructive– in our increasingly Communistic government and atheistic culture.

“People from whose hearts God has been torn sink relentlessly into a morass of rottenness, considering evil to be good, and being ashamed of the good. Only when I ran into those unfortunates did I appreciate what a great treasure is faith in God and how great is our resulting responsibility.
Are we doing everything possible to help others?”

A Radiance in the Gulag

From A Letter to Diogenetus.

Christians are indistinguishable from other men either by nationality, language or customs. They do not inhabit separate cities of their own, or speak a strange dialect, or follow some outlandish way of life. Their teaching is not based upon reveries inspired by the curiosity of men. Unlike some other people, they champion no purely human doctrine. With regard to dress, food and manner of life in general, they follow the customs of whatever city they happen to be living in…

  And yet there is something extraordinary about their lives. They live in their own countries as though they were only passing through. They play their full role as citizens, but labour under all the disabilities of aliens. Any country can be their homeland, but for them their homeland, wherever it may be, is a foreign country. Like others, they marry and have children, but they do not expose them. They share their meals, but not their wives. They live in the flesh, but they are not governed by the desires of the flesh. They pass their days upon earth, but they are citizens of heaven. Obedient to the laws, they yet live on a level that transcends the law.

  Christians love all men, but all men persecute them. Condemned because they are not understood, they are put to death, but raised to life again. They live in poverty, but enrich many; they are totally destitute, but possess an abundance of everything. They suffer dishonour, but that is their glory. They are defamed, but vindicated. A blessing is their answer to abuse, deference their response to insult. For the good they do they receive the punishment of malefactors, but even then they rejoice, as though receiving the gift of life…

  To speak in general terms, we may say that the Christian is to the world what the soul is to the body…The body hates the soul and wars against it, not because of any injury the soul has done it, but because of the restriction the soul places on its pleasures. Similarly, the world hates the Christians, not because they have done it any wrong, but because they are opposed to its enjoyments.

  Christians love those who hate them just as the soul loves the body and all its members despite the body’s hatred. It is by the soul, enclosed within the body, that the body is held together, and similarly, it is by the Christians, detained in the world as in a prison, that the world is held together. The soul, though immortal, has a mortal dwelling place; and Christians also live for a time amidst perishable things, while awaiting the freedom from change and decay that will be theirs in heaven. As the soul benefits from the deprivation of food and drink, so Christians flourish under persecution. Such is the Christian’s lofty and divinely appointed function, from which he is not permitted to excuse himself. [Italics mine]

My faith, my faith gets me through, Father…

A simple five letter word noun meaning confidence or “belief in a religious system.”

Or the theological virtue that eclipses the satanic lie of self-sufficiency?

How do they do it?

Father Eric’s unnamed friend, Edith Stein and Sister Nojole’s capacity to accept wrenching sorrows and suffering comes not from their inner strength, intelligence, money or anything the world can offer but through the Person [not a system] of Jesus Christ. Along with his spirit breathed into us at our Baptism.

Faith, hope and charity are called theological to distinguish them from the cardinal virtues. Prudence, temperance, fortitude and justice known by ancients long before Christianity as the doorway to happiness.

This is the great paradox of the Christian life: by surrendering our lives to God, we find true freedom and peace. As Don Dolindo assures us in the Surrender Novena:

“I perform miracles in proportion to your full surrender to me and to your not thinking of yourselves. I sow treasure troves of graces when you are in the deepest poverty. No person of reason, no thinker, has ever performed miracles, not even among the saints. He does divine works whosoever surrenders to God.” (Day 7)

The path of surrender is not always easy, as it requires a constant dying to self and a willingness to embrace the cross. But as Don Dolindo reminds us, it is precisely in our weakness and poverty that God’s strength is made perfect (cf. 2 Corinthians 12:9). By abandoning ourselves to His will, we allow Him to work miracles in our lives and transform us into instruments of His love and grace.

2 thoughts on “How Do They Do It?”

  1. Complete surrender and trust in God’s mercy and providence.
    I shared this with some friends who are having difficulty with their family. I have no doubt that miracles will happen when they fully surrender to Gods will ????
    Blessings, Michael

    1. It’s so terribly simple while at the same time being so terribly difficult! Our Father yet we don’t trust Him and man does our enemy know just where to slither in…

      Happy Easter Micheal!!

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Lin Wilder

Lin Wilder has a doctorate in Public Health from the UT Houston with a background in cardiopulmonary physiology, medical ethics, and hospital administration. 

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