Back in my Catholic school days–far longer ago than I care to contemplate–we would hear the stories of saints whose faith was unshakeable–indeed, actually made stronger–through suffering so seemingly unbearable it might have been expected to cause a loss of faith and trust in a loving God.
Such stories, while inspiring, always seemed far removed from my personal experience of faith. Certainly, given my low tolerance for pain, they seemed beyond my spiritual capacity.
But over the years, my family and I have been gifted with the personal witness of people who, similarly afflicted with extreme, protracted suffering, have transformed their trials into opportunities to draw closer to Christ by joining their suffering to His, and to bring more souls to Jesus by offering their suffering for others.
Such has been the witness of our daughter Clare’s dearest friend, Adelaine, her freshman roommate, household big sister, and an incredible young woman of faith during their years together as students at Franciscan University of Steubenville. For ten years now, Addie has borne the cross of intense, unrelenting suffering brought on by a most severe case of Lyme disease–and done so while exuding a faith and trust in God even more intense, more unrelenting, than the suffering that has so tested her.
Let Clare, from her Facebook page, take it from here:
“Many of you have heard about and prayed for my dear friend, Adelaine, over the years. Ten years ago [near the end of their time together at Franciscan], she contracted Lyme disease. Her case is the worst her doctors have ever seen. Since 2015 she’s been totally home bound and, during that time, lost all ability to communicate. She was no longer able to speak, read, or write and was hyper-sensitive to stimuli, such that any noise or movement could send her into painful seizures. The one consolation she had was an incredible new artistic talent that developed. Adelaine had never taken a single art class but suddenly began to produce masterful drawings. For several years, this was her only means of communication, until she lost that ability as well.
“Praise God, over the past year she’s begun improving! Though still very sick, she is regaining the ability to communicate, including through her artwork. With the help of her family, she has just opened an Etsy shop to sell some of her incredible drawings. She is so excited to have an occupation again! Please check out her shop and share with anyone you think may be interested. You can also read more about her situation in the “About” section of the shop.”
I should add here that Addie’s artwork is all “faith inspired,” deeply spiritual Catholic imagery.
Some eight years ago, as Addie’s condition continued to deteriorate, Clare wrote that her friend “had to give up her dream of entering religious life as she will never be well enough for it.” Yet “through all of this she has displayed astounding trust in the Lord and surrender to His will.”
Surely the Lord’s will was for Addie to join her terrible sufferings to His, and to offer those sufferings for others. Now it seems–having gifted her with at least some measure of healing, and with a talent for art she never before experienced–He also wills that she use that gift to spread His word and evangelize the faith.
“When I say she is a saint,” Clare wrote eight years ago, “I don’t mean that metaphorically. Everyone who has met her knows that she will be canonized one day.”
We should also note the courage and saintliness of her parents. I think the one thing most of us would find more challenging to our faith than our own suffering would be watching our children suffer unbearably. Yet Adelaine’s parents have been there with her throughout this ten-year ordeal, loving her, caring for her, bearing this cross with her, and affirming her own incredible faith and trust in God with their own.
We are so thankful that, through our daughter, our lives have been blessed and our own faith deepened by the love, the witness, and the depth of faith of this extraordinary Catholic family.
The powerful image above this post, of St. Dominic and St. Francis, titled, “Wake Up the World,” is one of my favorite examples of the aesthetically breath-taking, spiritually inspiring Catholic imagery from Adelaine’s hand–and her heart. There are many others.
During this Lenten season, give yourself the spiritual gift of a visit to her EyesoftheHeartStudio-Evangelization Through Sacred Art.
And please keep Addie and her family in your prayers, that God will continue her healing, and continue to give all of them the strength to bring others to Him through their inspiring witness.