Column: Place the sick in the Master’s hands

by Father Mark Goldasich

Ever hear of Ole Bull? Yeah, me neither. I would have guessed that it was a funny, improvised name had I not come across it in a favorite book of religious stories and quotations.

Apparently, Ole Bull (1810-1880) was a self-taught, brilliant Norwegian violin
virtuoso and composer, who toured Europe and America with great success. The story I stumbled upon told of him getting lost once in the forests of Europe.

As night fell, he was fortunate enough to come upon a log hut, the home of a hermit. The old man took him in, fed him, and invited him to sit and warm up in front of a blazing fire. After getting settled, the hermit pulled out a battered, screechy violin and picked out some crude tunes on it.

When he’d finished, Bull asked politely, “Do you think I could play on that?”

“I don’t think so,” replied the hermit. “It took me years to learn.” “Please let me try,” Bull said.

Then he took that old violin in his hands, drew the bow across the strings, and the hut was filled with such beautiful music that the hermit sobbed like a child. (Adapted from “Nelson’s Complete Book of Stories, Illustrations & Quotes” by Robert J. Morgan.)

The narrator of Bull’s story, a Mrs. Charles E. Cowman, goes on to comment: “We are battered instruments. . . . Yet, if we will only let Him take us and touch us, from this old, battered, broken, shattered, marred instrument, He will bring forth music fit for the angels.” 

Those words came to mind after reading the center spread on pages 8 and 9 in this week’s issue. We have Father Tom Dolezal, pastor of Holy Trinity Parish in Lenexa, to thank for alerting us to it. And we’re deeply grateful as well to Liguori Publications for allowing us to reprint this article from the current Liguorian magazine.

So, what’s the deal? Well, all of the pink on pages 8 & 9 is a good clue. Most people today think of breast cancer awareness when seeing that color, and that’s exactly what Liguorian is promoting. Using the story of one breast cancer survivor, the magazine is launching a prayer campaign for all cancer patients, especially those suffering from breast cancer.

Father Dolezal, himself a cancer survivor, was so impressed by the Liguorian article that he called Leaven managing editor Anita McSorley to inform her of his plan to celebrate this day of prayer in his parish. He’s also going to use the day — Oct. 15 — to lift up all health-care providers in prayer. 

That started the ball rolling here. 

The Liguorian article moved me to tears. The author, Christine Kreitler Mellin, writes a captivating, first-person account of her ordeal with breast cancer. A wife and mother of two young children, she was first diagnosed with the disease in 2002.

Her words are neither flowery nor sugarcoated. She bares her heart and soul in this article. And while her Catholic faith has sustained and inspired her, it’s by no means been an easy journey. Hers is an honest and touching story, from one who’s been there.

It’s fitting that this call for prayer from Liguorian comes during October. Not only is it Breast Cancer Awareness Month, but for Catholics, it’s Respect Life Month. Praying for, visiting, and assisting those who are ill, especially those who suffer from chronic or terminal illnesses, is an excellent way to mark this month.

Christine Kreitler Mellin’s story of growth, hope and redemption will always be linked in my mind to Ole Bull and what he was able to do with that seemingly broken violin. Beautiful music can emerge if it’s in a master’s hand. As Christine Kreitler Mellin has placed herself ever more deeply into the Master’s hands, he’s brought forth “music fit for the angels” for all of us to hear.

 

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