In Australia last week, the Supreme Court ruled that 49 year old quadriplegic Christian Rossiter has the “right to die” if he so wishes. The problem is Rossiter is not going to just die, he’s going to starve himself to death by refusing to be nourished with food and fluids through a feeding tube.
What is most heart-breaking about this story, of course, is the fact that this man thinks that his life has little to no value because of his physical limitations. In a statement read by his attorney Rossiter told the court:
“I am unable to undertake any basic human functions. I am unable to blow my nose. I’m unable to wipe the tears from my eyes.”
This reminds me of a “conversation” I had on Twitter recently:
@giannajessen: i wonder how long i will be considered valuable? i have already been told to my face (at 14) that i’m “a burden to society”….
@czParalytic: I hear you…I was once told by someone that they would kill themselves if they were in my situation
@giannajessen: people don’t know how beautiful physical weakness can be. within it are eternal lessons that can be learned in no other way.
@czParalytic: “My grace is sufficient for you for power is made perfect in weakness. I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses, in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me, for when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinth 12:9-10
The beauty of physical weakness that Gianna mentions is that the awareness of the limits of our human nature is meant to lead us to put all our trust in God who wants us to rely on Him for absolutely everything. When we place our trust in God alone His divine power will shine forth in us, sustaining us in our weakness (St. Josemaria, Friends of God, 194). In other words, Jesus uses our weakness to reveal His glory.
How difficult this is for such a prideful world to see! So many of us like to think, as the “right to die” movement encourages, that each of us owns our own body and should be able to be masters of our own death. And yet not one of us can boast of having any input whatsoever in the circumstances that brought us to life in the first place. As Gianna said another time, “what arrogance!…Don’t you realize that you cannot make your own heart beat?”
In this is true strength, that we learn to abandon our own will and embrace the will of God, even if it does not make sense to us. For then we will be sustained by the Author of all life, free from our own selfish pride and able to endure affliction with a smile.
“In this you rejoice, although now for a little while you may have to suffer through various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith, more precious than gold that is perishable even though tested by fire, may prove to be for praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Although you have not seen him you love him; even though you do not see him now yet believe in him, you rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, as you attain the goal of (your) faith, the salvation of your souls” (1 Peter 1:6-9).
Pray that Mr. Rossiter, who told reporters, “There’s a possibility I could still be dissuaded,” realizes this – soon!
Do not grow slack in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, endure in affliction, persevere in prayer (Romans 12:11-12)
“I rejoice in my sufferings, because in them I fill up what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ, for the sake of His Body, the Church.” (Colossians 1:24)
I’ve heard it put that “our suffering, when united to the cross of Christ, sealed by the Holy Spirit and offered to the Father, is the spiritual coinage which our Father gladly accepts on behalf of His other children.”
I pray for you and for Gianna both, daily! God bless you (and your families) both, and keep up the good spiritual fight (cf. Ephesians 6)! You both encourage me, daily…
Thank you so much for writing and sharing this! I very much needed to read this (and I’m sure the Holy Spirit had a hand in making sure I found it). I have a recent diagnosis of an incurable, disabling disease, but it is far milder than what you and Gianna and Mr. Rossiter live with. (Also non-progressive, which is another blessing.) I know all crosses we carry bring us closer to God, but am still learning how to understand this particular one.
Some people commit suicide in order to prove to themselves that they are not helpless. The more you try to force them to remain alive, the more powerful their suicidal desire grows. The thing to do for these people is tell them how to commit suicide quickly and with very low risk of failure (take cyanide rather than jumping the bridge) and remind them that they won’t be able to enjoy the freedom they achieve by doing it. This maximizes the likelyhood of them chickening out and DECIDING to remain alive.
Spot on, as always.
This is a serious issue. You might like this article on the same subject http://insidecatholic.com/Joomla/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=3558&Itemid=48
I live in Sydney Australia. My family has a dear friend who is now 52 years old and who was injured in a rugby union football accident when he was 19 years old, 32 years ago, and became a quadraplegic. He has been and continues to be a great inspiration and you are too.
It was wonderful to read what you wrote about Christian Rossiter who has been in our family’s prayers since we heard of him.
A Catholic Passionist Priest friend of our family wrote this to us about Christian Rossiter: “I will certainly keep Christian in my prayers. He is involved in the continuing suffering of Jesus in our world today. A hard message but a most important aplstolate.”
You and another friend have reminded me of what St Paul wrote: 2 Corinthians 7-10: “…To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
God Bless you Chelsea and your apostolate. PaxAndJoy2U
Hi! I was surfing and found your blog post… nice! I love your blog. 🙂 Cheers! Sandra. R.