Suffering with Christ - A Letter from Frances Parsons
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My dearest, deepest dream died on Good Friday and it remains the greatest gift ever given to me.
At the ripe old age of 26, I was diagnosed with Premature Ovarian Failure. It is extremely rare, affecting 0.1% of women underthe age of 40. The primary symptoms are infertility and osteoporosis as well as other pitfalls of menopause, specifically those associated with mental health. My body is that of an old woman yet I have none of the stories she could tell. I can no longer commiserate with women my own age. Hopes of being a mother have flown out the proverbial window. To this day, my doctors remain unable to determine the cause of my condition.
It is easy and comfortable to say that God robbed me. He robbed me of my fecundity. He robbed me of my mental faculties. He robbed me of my body. He robbed me of at least knowing why. He robbed me of a precious dream. Instead, He left me with loneliness and guilt.
Christ never preached that following His Will would be easy or comfortable or without pain. All He asked is that we accept His love. An essential part of this acceptance is embracing difficulties, in whichever form given. Being diagnosed on Good Friday is not lost on me. The Lord reached down from the Cross and tenderly asked me to partake in His Passion in a very intimate and set apart way: He asked me to suffer.
(Page 2) We have to understand that suffering does not have to be a bad thing. Yes, it is painful and wretched. I cannot put into words how isolating and heavy my cross has been. However, suffering can be seen as an essential part of what makes us human and can be a way to unite ourselves more fully to our sweet Jesus. He is present, in each sorrowful moment, with every heartbreaking step. He is there. God embodies the greatest act of love through His Passion, the ultimate example of what it means to suffer with your entire mind, body, and soul. The glory of the Lord’s suffering and death showed us the astounding depth of His mercy and His willingness to give it to us. When He asks us to suffer, Christ is offering to teach us how to love as He does and extends His mercy to help us along this path. The God of the Universe, the Creator of sunsets, babies, and E minor, wants us, fallen creatures that we are, to see what He sees, to understand the truth that He is, to catch a glimpse of the Beatific Vision. When we view suffering as a road to Heaven, paved in Christ’s mercy and guided by His Most Sacred Heart, can this not be seen as a beautiful journey?
"When we view suffering as a road to Heaven, paved in Christ’s mercy and guided by His Most Sacred Heart, can this not be seen as a beautiful journey?"
It would be easy to run away and drown ourselves in the pleasures of the world...but we are called to something greater. Do not run away. Embrace the Cross and the love and mercy poured forth from the side of Christ. Strive to embrace suffering. Accept it for the gift that it (Page 3) can be. Let us give everything to God, even our bodies, as our beloved offering on top of Mount Sinai. The Lord will always provide a ram in the thicket.
I leave you with this passage from Romans 12:1-2. It has become the touchstone of my hope.
"I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and pleasing and perfect."
May the peace of Christ rule in your heart. Ponder love, rejoice in truth. St, Thérèse of Lisieux, pray for us!
Totus tuus Maria, Frances
Get to know Frances
Tell us a little bit about yourself!
I’m the only female Frances you’ll meet under the age of 65 or not someone’s great aunt. Washington, D.C. has been my home for the past four years and hopefully many more. I work for my family’s contracting business and it delights me to no end that I can say we embody the American dream. My great loves are art, literature, dogs, and pottery, the latter of which I have been doing for almost 20 years!
How does your Catholic faith affect the way you live your day-to-day life?
My faith colors how I view the world. Everything is seen through the lens of the Lord’s will and mercy. Every moment is an opportunity for continued conversion.
From one Catholic woman to another, how have you discovered your sense of belonging in the Church?
I found my sense of belonging in the Church through my relationship with Mama Mary and the saints. Such normal, every day people were called to do great things for the Kingdom. The Lord qualifies the called; He does not call the qualified.
What’s the most empowering piece of advice you’ve been given as a Catholic woman?
Christ is our bridegroom and He will do anything for His beloved. He chooses me every day, can I not do the same?
Tell us about a woman who inspires you. What lessons have you learned from her? How has she influenced your life?
My mother is the greatest source of inspiration for me. She is a testament to perseverance and courage in the face of insurmountable and discouraging realities. I admire so many things about this dear woman: her devotion to Christ and the Blessed Mother, her consistent prayer life, her commitment to her family, her exceptional sense of humor, her red hair, her friendliness, her strength, her creative problem solving, the list goes on. I can only hope to be half the woman she is.
What's your favorite way to pray?
My favorite way to pray is participating in the sacrifice of the Mass.
What's a dream you'd love to achieve in the next 10 years?
I hope to be a better, more successful potter within the next ten years. Be it by honing my technique or selling my pieces, I would love to share this beautiful part of my life on a larger scale and with more people.
What's the best smell in the world to you?
The best smell is absolutely that of new rain on pavement, petrichor if you’re feeling fancy. Lilacs are a close second.
Fill in the blank
A typical day in my life looks like…
faith and works.
My favorite quote is...
“The world is thy ship and not thy home.” – St. Thérèse of Lisieux
I feel most inspired when…
I can witness the infinite of beauty in a small moment or detail.
The Catholic Church is…
Keep up with Francis on Instagram at @dappledpottery