Enjoy this Easter reflection from Fr. Rich Frechette
I just came off the roof of St Damien hospital. I was sitting up there with a dying baby rabbit, and my bible, in that order.
The rabbit is very small, and was abandoned by its mother, and became very dehydrated. Ironically, I was able, through the graces of the visiting father of one of our volunteers, to get phone linked with veterinarians abroad who rescue wild animals, to get a quick lesson on how to try to save the small rabbit from shock. I tried everything, but to no avail. So I brought the rabbit to the roof, to hold it until it died.
I had read a long time ago, in a nature magazine, about someone who was snorkeling and was surprised by a close encounter with a dolphin. I remember the point of the story was that their eye’s locked, and the author felt the eye of the infinite God was looking at her through the eye of this beautiful creature.
Something similar happened to me with the rabbit. During my attempted rescue, the rabbits right eye set on mine, and our eyes locked together, and I felt like the whole universe was looking at me through that tiny rabbit’s eye. It’s probably clearer to say, I felt united with God’s whole created world through that eye, held steadfast on me on me by this dying rabbit. It didn’t seem right to put the rabbit down somewhere to die, but seemed more natural to hold my small friend until the end, while reading the bible as the sun set.
When the rabbit died, I was struck by this image. Here was the symbol of springtime, of fertility, the commercial image of Easter, dead in the hands of a priest.
Far below, a mother started to wail a loud lament. Her vigil with her dying child had just ended, with the departure of her tiny love from this life.
The sunset, the last breaths of this tiny creature in my hand, and the terrible loss this mother was now enduring, all took place at the same time. I went downstairs to speak to the grieving mother my useless words of sympathy, to close the lifeless eyes of her daughter as I gently gazed at their emptiness.
If Advent and Christmas have a more natural tendency to aim us toward joy, Lent and Holy week aim our gaze at sorrow. During all the liturgies of Lent, both mass readings and the liturgy of the hours, we widen our gaze to grasp the sufferings throughout history, and the present sufferings throughout the world, and can’t help but wonder if Resurrection is possible, and what it could really mean.
The Resurrection of Christ has been symbolized by the rising of the sun. For centuries, Catholic churches were built with the altar facing due east.
Yet the Easter joy does not work miracles, changing and healing life in an instant, so that we no longer need this hospital, or our home for orphan and vulnerable children down the street, or our therapy center to help children overcome incredible physical and mental disadvantages.
A more realistic picture of Resurrection, from our side of the grave, is the image of the sun
Like the sun sending fleeting rays through the heavy clouds of a stormy morning, or lighting up a pale winter sky pregnant with snow, with no direct evidence of the sun’s place in that sky, so it is that the sun striving to rise represents a world striving to be risen.
It is easy to see this light, in the children who come to our homes and schools from brokenness and sadness, and then show so much strength as they strive to thrive.
It is easy to see this light in the children and staff who fill our rehabilitation rooms, sharing apprehensions and encouragement, sharing patience and hope, as first steps are taken after the legs had been knocked lifeless by illness or tragedy.
It is easy to see this striving sunlight in the children of our hospitals, fighting to breath, fighting to live, fighting for health, fighting for strength, and in their mothers who are fully in this battle with them.
Life striving to live, fully and always. This is a great cause of our joy.
Here is another sign of resurrection. You striving to help me, and me striving to help you. Even when we ourselves feel low, empty, useless. We are just like sun striving to shine, when we live out the deepest teaching of faith: we come to be fully alive, by spending ourselves so that others may live.
The season is soon upon us. Christ has died, Christ is Risen. Alleluia!
The Christ has shared with us the power of his Resurrection. The God of Life is in our striving. The sun, in truth, never sets. It only changes horizon.
Let us thank God together for these perennial gifts: for the light of faith, and the power of hope, for the joy of love.
Let us see be able to see in each other’s eyes, and in the eyes of all creatures, at least once in a while so we don’t forget, the brightness of eternity.
May God bless you and your families at Easter, with special thanks for your much needed support for all the children in the strong and tender arms Nuestros Pequenos Hermanos.
Fr Rick Frechette, CP