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Padre Pio, Saint Therese de Lisieux, and my First Surgery

I had a very vivid dream about a year ago. I was in a church with a bunch of saints, some I recognized and some I could not. Among them, I distinctly remember Saint Therese, the Little Flower. In the midst of our conversation, she told me that I would suffer greatly in the time to come but that she and the other saints would pray for me. Since this dream, I had a panic attack in front of my PI, was hospitalized a few times for excruciating pain, prepared for my qualifying exam, took my qualifying exam, was hospitalized for a bad reaction to a prescription, and those are just a few examples that come to mind. Two weeks ago, I had my first surgery....a few days following my first dissertation committee meeting.

I have to say, surgery is not a pleasant experience. Two weeks ago, I got to spend a whole week a t home simply waiting for pain to subside as I tried to let the pain slowly disappear. Breathing hurt, lying down hurt, laughing hurt, moving hurt, walking hurt, re-positioning myself hurt. In short, I felt like a big bruise. I am not in pain anymore, but my body is still healing from the incisions and stitches.

And still, I feel blessed.

In my dream, though Saint Therese told me I would suffer greatly, she also assured me that I would not suffer alone. I had an army of saint to pray for me. I also had a loving God who would always watch over me. However, I'm not perfect and I know all-too-well just how hard it is to always remember just how much God loves us and how we should just put all our trust in Him....especially when there's surgery involved.

One of the last things I did before surgery was go to confession....just in case. As much as I knew I would be okay, I felt like I should still keep all of my bases covered. Boy am I glad I did so, because this confession was quite an experience for me. Have any of you ever been in a confessional with a priest who knew exactly what you needed to learn and hear at a particular point in your life? Well, that was the kind of priest that confessed me on the day before my surgery.

I think Padre Pio must have been looking out for me that day. During the lowest points in my life, he tends to make an appearance. I have dreamed of him several times and each time, he has helped me find the wisdom, strength, faith, and courage I needed to overcome an obstacle. This Monday preceding my surgery was a pretty low point for me between pre-surgery stress and a fight that I had gotten into the previous day. Both of these together had me feeling down and asking God for help and forgiveness. I dreaded each moment before my confession (as any Catholic can relate to if they ever find themselves in line for confession weighed down by sin and discord). It seems like the more I mess up in my prayer life and in my personal life, the less worthy I am of forgiveness and the less worthy I am of coming back to God. Yet, as distant as God may seem to be at these times, He never fails to prove to me just how close He was the whole time.

After confession, I felt a wave of peace and forgiveness wash over me even though I had stumbled through much of what I wanted to say. I am sure it wasn't the most calm, collected confession I have ever made. No, this one was definitely me in my most pathetic, ugly-cry Catholic mode. 

God proved to be merciful that day and I did not fail to notice his sense of humor. Not only did I end up being stuck in a room with a statue of Padre Pio as I waited for confession (for the record, I was also the only person waiting for confession that was sent there)...but I could have sworn I saw Padre Pio sitting in a pew of the church as I was leaving. I wish I could have had the courage to stare at the man longer, or even approach him....but I did not want to stare or interrupt his prayers. However, I did do a double-take on my way out. He was still there as I was leaving and he still looked like a modern-day Padre Pio.

Fast-forward to the operation day and there I was in the hospital. Surgery was delayed, but I was in pretty good spirits. My fiance was with me, keeping me in good spirits. We both have a pretty great sense of humor and you could probably hear our shared laughter throughout the entire wing. When the time came for the injections to begin, I gritted my teeth as best as I could, looked up at the cross above my bed, and offered it all up. I ended up offering up the pain for the souls in purgatory, uniting my own sufferings with that of Christ. It was a powerful experience and it certainly was a great help throughout the healing process.

I may have suffered in all kinds of crazy ways this past year. However, in this time, I have learned quite a few lessons in patience and humility. I have learned to accept imperfections. I have learned to stop turning science into a god of sorts (even with qualifying exams, it's just not healthy to allow science to take over every moment of your life). I have learned to ask for help. I have learned to tell people that I need a break every once in a while. I have also learned to trust. If God has a mission for you, he will give you everything you need to complete this mission. This has been a hard lesson to learn, but it has been one of the most powerful and sustaining lessons.

I still have quite a few lessons to learn, but I have to say that I have been feeling better this past year (even with the suffering) than I have in a long time.
Saint Therese, a perfect example of how we should deal with suffering
"....it is suffering that draws us near to God. Trials help us detach ourselves from the earth; they make us look higher than this world. Here below nothing can satisfy us. One cannot enjoy a moment's rest save in constant readiness to do the will of God. Life passes so quickly that it is better to have a most splendid crown in heaven and a little suffering than an ordinary crown and no suffering. I realize that one will love the good God better for all eternity because suffering borne with joy! And, by suffering one can save souls... Sanctity lies not in saying beautiful things, or even in thinking them, or feeling them; it lies in truly being willing to suffer. It is so sweet to serve our Lord in the night of trial; we have only this life to practice the virtue of faith. I suffer much but do I suffer well? That is the important thing."
-Prayers and Meditations of Therese of Lisieux
Pax Vobiscum

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