Everyday Saints and Martyrs!
Do saints and martyrs still walk among us? Who do we consider a saint and who do we think of as a martyr?
Interesting questions triggered after coming across someone whose strength of character and resilience was worth emulating. In human interactions each contact leaves an imprint, some barely perceptible while others are deep and profound. If only we soften and are more receptive, allowing freedom for the other person to express without clouding the interaction with our own prejudices and preconceptions, we can gain a deeper understanding.
A few days ago, one such interaction has left a deep impression. A woman in her forties who seemed to have finally woken up to her own needs after giving so much of herself to others.
Born in a close knit, traditional catholic family in the USA, she spent a few of her childhood years, scarred by a chronic disease with frequent incarcerations in hospital and several operations, in a Muslim country when her father was posted in Iran. This was before the Islamic revolution of 1979, yet the call for prayer reverberated in her young years and she saw her friends praying five times a day. Deeply traumatized by the events of the revolution and saddened by the loss of life, she still recollects her earlier years with fondness despite the fact that she was uprooted and had to return to USA. Its hard to imagine the impact her struggle with her own illness and the trauma of witnessing violence left on her young mind. Did it make her bitter or give her the strength to face the hardships she had to endure later in life.
Struggling to stay in an abusive relationship with an alcoholic husband. Finding strength to be there and care for her own mother during her struggle with the pain of cancer and its treatment. Acting as a pillar of strength to her younger siblings following the arrest, prolonged legal battle and final imprisonment of her father. Yet not a single bitter word came on her lips during the entire consultation.
What gave her the strength to bear the cross of so many misfortunes? Was it her Catholic upbringing which made her remain in a dysfunctional marriage as divorce is frowned upon? She was afraid of the disapproval of others including her parents. However when she finally divorced her husband, her father expressed a sigh of relief. Was it the meditation which she learnt during her frequent incarcerations in hospital as a child. We are complex beings and our beliefs are a result of so many influences, myriad teachings, experiences and upbringing. It is hard to single out one factor or one influence as the formative one.
Standing outside someone’s life, their struggles and heart ache, we sometimes are tempted to be critical of their choices and condemn them for putting up with hardship and violence for such long periods. However unless we have walked in their shoes for a few miles, stumbled and risen, developed callouses and accepted them, how can we pass judgement on their choices. To each soul it’s own path! All we can do is to keep our eyes and hearts open, our minds clear and our ears receptive. Then we will be able to recognize the saints that walk among us and learn compassion and patience from them!