Sister Martha Buser, OSU, age 92, who had falls at home in March and June that resulted in a broken cheek in March, a broken hip in June, and a lengthy recovery, recently reflected on how this injury, along with her loss of eyesight due to severe glaucoma and the effects of the fall, has affected her in her relationship with God and others.
In reflecting on my life experience, there are so many things to say. But one of the most important is “So what?” and I don’t mean that in an unpleasant way. Just, “So what.” So, you have lost your eyesight, so what? You can’t walk like you used to be able to, so what? In other words, now what are you going to do? Because I’m not going to die, I’m not dead, I’m still alive. What am I going to do now? Because I can’t do the things I used to do. I used to be able to write. I wrote a couple of books and articles, and it was wonderful. I love doing that. Some people even read some of them, I can’t believe it! (Sister Martha is the author of two books on Saint Angela Merici and traveled the world speaking about her.)
I’ve been telling people who want to know that St. Angela was a woman just like women today. She had a great love for God. Not because she had an easy life, because she didn’t. She was a farm girl of very modest means, but she learned God loved her because of the way she looked at life. She suffered many losses in her young life—she was orphaned at 10-years-old, and her sister died very young. So, the question then becomes, how do you know God loves you? I’ll tell you what Angela did. She paid attention to the signs around her, and she sought opportunities to live life to the fullest. She looked for meaning in life, seeking God and loving everyone she met.
One of the things I reflected on when I lost my sight, was that Angela lost her vision too. Not because she had an accident, she just suddenly lost her sight while traveling in the Holy Land. We don’t know why. And the question for Angela was the same question: “So what? Now what are you going to do?” And, because of her faith in God, Angela continued with her pilgrimage—she did not let this loss of sight stop her. [We are told that her sight was later miraculously restored while she was praying before a crucifix in the same place where she had become blind.]
You can’t see, now what are you going to do? Well, I think the question “So what?” is very important. There are many things that happen to us over which we have absolutely no control. One day I was going out to a doctor appointment, tripped, fell, and hit my head. The next thing I know I was in the hospital, and the fall had affected my eyesight, making it much worse. I couldn’t move too much either because I had broken my hip. So, it was like well…what I’m I going to do? I must see in order to write, so I’ll have to get someone to help me. I guess that’s always the first answer. I will have to get someone to help me because I cannot do certain things anymore. I really need to learn to see with my heart—to love more.
And for other people, whether it’s a spouse you have lost, or a good friend you have lost, or a child you have lost, the question is still there—so what? I don’t mean that in a harsh way but in a very thoughtful way. So what? So, what am I going to do with my life? I have found that many people find an answer in blaming God and thinking that God is somehow punishing them. That is the kind of thinking we find often in the Old Testament, the punitive God. So instead of looking for a reason behind loss and tragedy, or blaming yourself, you can instead learn that you are good, and God is still good. If you are a good person, what are you going to do with your suffering? How do you see with your heart?
You can sit in the corner and feel sorry for yourself, but that is not going to help with anything. But if I know God loves me, it gives me life, it gives me joy in my life. If we look for joy, we will find joy. It comes down to your image of God. My goodness is a gift from God. God made me good, in his own image.
I have discovered that even with loss, there is always something you can do. You can be a listener, a gifted listener and that can happen when your heart gets hurt or broken. You somehow get opened up in some place within yourself and you can let other people be in that space with you. So, if you are hurt or know that others are hurting and they’re longing to talk about it, I don’t think you have to be a counselor—you need only be a friend and listener with an understanding heart. If I really do love this person and listen to them with my heart, first, that’s helping me, and above all, it’s helping the other person.
When you look at the world, our world would be really, really different if everyone knew that it’s all about love, like St. Angela did. If we really believed that it’s all about love, the world would change. It would be a global conversion—a complete shift of seeing yourself and everybody else with different eyes. Because, if you don’t think you are any good, why should you think others are? And so, when you see with your heart, it really is true—it’s all about love.