Perspective

Thoughts of a Catholic convert

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Saturday, August 26, 2006

Blind Man's Vision

Sorry if my blog entries have been kind of dismal lately - it's because I've been feeling dismal myself. Today's no exception - my mom's car, which has been sitting in the driveway since she died four years ago, was given away to a neighborhood kid, who will pick it up tomorrow. Don't know why, but this makes me very sad.

I decided to find something upbeat to read, and I searched The Tablet, and instead found an article about a guy who has a degenerative eye disease similar to mine - Blind Man's Vision. The blurb says ... Inevitably a blind person asks, ‘Why me?’ A writer and journalist at present resident in Rome explains how he spent years of thought and prayer in trying to answer that question, and the part his Catholic faith played in helping him to do so. .... I read it, because misery loves company, but I found he had some insights. Here's some of the article ...

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... The fading of the retina, and the rods and cones that transmit to it from the front of the eye, is today the major cause of untreatable loss of sight. The body fails to replace the cells, as they die ahead of the rest of you. MD (macular degeneration), the most common form, is a result of ageing, likely to affect anyone who lives long enough, but it can occur in one’s fifties. It attacks your central vision. You can board a bus but not see its destination sign, stroll down country lanes but not recognise people you know. At meals, you may see the people around you, but not their faces or the plate of food in front of you. Life becomes an exhibition in which you see only the frames.

My own blindness comes from retinitis pigmentosa, which affects about 25,000 people in Britain. It is inherited, in my case, after by-passing generations. It often begins in childhood by blinding one in dim or bright light, then narrows one’s sight, as though one were looking through the cardboard tube of a roll of lavatory paper, which becomes a pin-hole. Each new, marked deterioration creates shock, depression and often resentment, followed by adjustment.

When I was 18, my parents asked my headmaster to deputise for them in telling me I was going blind. I went to the eye hospital at Moorfields, where I was told that I would probably have no useful sight after the age of 30, should learn braille, and not trouble them again ....

Dealing with the emotional turmoil of losing any of one’s faculties can be one of the greatest obstacles to regaining independence in practical matters. People losing their sight are often assured, by those who aren’t, that it brings a sense of inner calm. Contributors to the St John’s forum about retinitis pigmentosa more often express bewilderment, fear, isolation, loss of identity and, sometimes, anger. There is mass irritation towards those who come up with psychological or spiritual panaceas. Jesus did not say, "Blessed are the blind, for they shall enjoy peace of mind". He gave them sight.

I did not turn to Catholicism from my atheist background in the expectation of such a miracle. But prominent among my conscious motives for doing so was a search for an answer to the ageless cry, why me?

A priest in London preached in a sermon that disadvantaged people were paying for the sinfulness of their parents at the time of their conception. It was an initiation into the theological breadth of the Church. But though he was so flawed in his misanthropy, what was right? Was disability a vocation? If so, what was God calling one to do? To become a spiritually and intellectually diminutive version of Helen Keller or Stephen Hawking?

After years of questioning, prayer and meditation, I have come to a conclusion: why not me? Yet through my blindness I have gained a living memory of a glimpse of God’s presence in my life, as I was and am ...

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6 Comments:

Blogger david said...

A priest in London preached in a sermon that disadvantaged people were paying for the sinfulness of their parents at the time of their conception.

I met young man with Muscular Dystrophy whi swore he would never enter a church again because a Protestant minister said something like this to him.

Temporarily Able Bodied people can be so brutally stupid in their ignorance -- then give one an MDiv and they call their ignorance ministry.

Better a millstone be tied around their necks and tossed into the sea as the Teacher once said of such.

4:11 AM  
Blogger Susan said...

Beautifully written, Crystal, in every way.

5:53 AM  
Blogger crystal said...

Hi David - thanks for the comment. When I read this article, I thought of you.

Susan, thanks, buddy :-)

11:33 AM  
Blogger Jeff said...

Hi Crystal,

A Catholic priest said that?? Oh, brother...

If they can't be empathic, if they can't be spiritual, if they can't be pastoral, if they can't be intelligent, can that at least try not to do any harm? Sheesh.

Apparently he never read Ezekiel 20:

Only the one who sins shall die. The son shall not be charged with the guilt of his father, nor shall the father be charged with the guilt of his son. The virtuous man's virtue shall be his own, as the wicked man's wickedness shall be his own.

2:35 PM  
Anonymous Mike L said...

My wife and I were talking a bit about this tonight over dinner, does God send punishment? As you know I found Wright's belief that Christ was calling His people to a new convenent, and warning them of the disaster to come if they did not change. But I see it not as a punishment sent by God, it was just the natural results of their own actions.

A priest in London preached in a sermon that disadvantaged people were paying for the sinfulness of their parents at the time of their conception.

Yeah, I have heard this type of stupidity, it was certainly around when AIDS hit the world. And I am hearing some of it again in the premise that our sins will be punished by Islam. Maybe, but I don't think that God will be the cause, I think that we will.

Crystal, I don't know "why you," I don't know why bad things happen to good people, or even why good things seem to happen to bad people. I do find it interesting that some people have used their misfortune to become saints, others have let it destroy them.

I am beginning to realize that you have been through a lot, and despite it all you are a pretty wonderful person. All I can do is pray for you, and that I shall certainly do.

Hugs,

Mike L

7:58 PM  
Blogger crystal said...

Hi Jeff, I hadn't seen that passage from Ezekiel - thanks for mentioning it.

Mike, thanks for the kind words :-)

8:54 PM  

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