Author: ks. MieczysЕ‚aw Piotrowski TChr,
"Love One Another!" 13/2009 → Eternal life
“You must undergo surgery and chemotherapy at once. Every hour counts. This disease has a survival rate of 20%.” The news hit Mariusz exceptionally hard.
The happy year of 2002
The year 2002 was an exceptionally happy one for twenty-five-year-old Mariusz. On May 11, he and Anna were joined in the sacrament of marriage. He had met Anna in high school. There they fell in love and loved each other chastely. Already then they decided to save sex for their wedding day, as God commanded. They knew sex was a sacred thing — the seal of the sacrament of marriage; only in marriage would it be an experience of Christ’s presaence in their love for each other. It was not easy; sometimes it hurt, but thanks to prayer and their working on themselves, they succeeded in making good their promise. Indeed, in doing so, they purified and deepened their love. After their wedding they were able to offer each other the most precious thing in the world — their virginal bodies and hearts, and thereby taste the indescribable joy of encountering Christ, who, in the sacrament of marriage, united them so intimately that they became “two in one flesh.” They very much wanted to have children. Alas, medical tests showed that for reasons beyond their control this would not be possible. They immediately began to look into adoption. They had completed all the formalities and were about to accept a child into their home, when the news of Mariusz’s disease put an end to their plans.
In 2002 Mariusz graduated from the Polytechnic University of Poznan in the field of electrotechnology. All through university both he and Anna had been very active in the St-Roch Center [similar to our Newman Chaplaincy Centers — ed.] Mariusz was Fr. Matthew’s right-hand man. Everyone called him “Sony.” Sony and Anna saw the chaplaincy as their second home. There they deepened their faith and strengthened their love for the Church. They came to see the Church as an exceptional community, a treasure for all mankind, for it was precisely to this community that Jesus invited all sinners that He might heal them, free them from enslavement to sin, and lead them to heaven.
Sony enjoyed great trust among his friends. “He was honest to the point of pain,” they said of him. “He was a man of few words. He despised hypocrisy. He was direct and always the first to bear a hand.” He was also very demanding of himself. His role model was John Paul II. He counted himself among the “JPII generation.” He knew that daily self-discipline, honest contact with God, and a pure heart were the means by which to become a free, mature, and above all loving person. His friends noted that Sony never wasted his time. He planned his day carefully and did not live life haphazardly. His daily schedule allotted regular times for prayer, study, and recreation. He was an avid sportsman. Every first Friday of the month he went to confession. He attended Holy Mass during the week. Though he did not wear his religiosity on his sleeve, he was a man with the courage to witness to the Faith and defend it whenever necessary.
In 2002, just before defending his Master’s thesis, he was offered a position in Love One Another’s editorial office. He accepted it with great joy. He understood the importance of the magazine’s evangelizing work in Poland and throughout the world. He valued highly the great assistance the Movement of Pure Hearts rendered to young people. He wanted as many souls as possible to come to know Jesus and join MPH. He proclaimed the Gospel as well as he was able, above all through his involvement in the work of the magazine.
“Accept everything with humility!”
In September of 2006, Sony and Anna went on a pilgrimage to Rome. There, Mariusz was able to realize many of his dreams. He prayed at the tombs of the Apostles, of John Paul II, Father Pio, and St. Francis. He visited the shrine of the Eucharistic Miracle at Lanciano and gazed on the Face of the Risen Jesus on the Napkin at Manoppello. The pilgrimage strengthened him spiritually and prepared him for the most important mission of his life.
One day he noticed a large swelling on his left leg. Medical tests revealed that it was a bone tumor (osteosarcoma). The doctor told him straight out: “You must undergo surgery and chemotherapy at once. Every hour counts. This disease has a survival rate of 20%.” The news hit Mariusz exceptionally hard.
But Mariusz knew you could not be a man of faith and walk through life with Christ without accepting suffering. Behind him were the resistance, revolt, and protestations that had accompanied his first bout with cancer ten years earlier. “That was a year before he graduated from high school in Ketrzyn,” his mother recalls. “He was eighteen years old….Despite prolonged stays in hospital undergoing chemotherapy and radiation and the frequent tests that followed, he did not drop his studies. He struggled with his illness for over a year — and he won.” This time there was no rebellion or questioning of God’s will. He meekly accepted the suffering and offered it up for others. Offered it up! This means that he joined himself with Christ in bearing the cross. “You have to accept everything with humility,” he would say. “I suffer because I must. Evidently God chose me, for I am able to bear this suffering and offer it up for others. When I fell ill in 1996, I used to ask God, “Why me? Now I do not ask ‘why?’ because I trust God. You have to accept everything with humility.”
Every day he prayed the chaplet of divine mercy. The image of “Jesus, I Trust in You,” accompanied him always — when he felt well, but especially later when he was seriously ill and preparing to leave this world. Doubtless he knew well the words of Jesus in St. Faustina’s Diary: “There is no way to heaven except the way of the cross. I followed it first” (1487); and also His words to the mystic Rozalia Celakowna: “Suffering is so great a grace that no man can fully comprehend it. It is greater than the gift of working miracles, for through suffering the soul gives to me that which is dearest to it — its will.” In this most difficult time of his life, Mariusz entrusted to Jesus what was dearest to him; he allowed his Savior to lead him.
“In suffering there is concealed a particular power”
As soon as the sarcoma was diagnosed, Mariusz underwent chemotherapy. In February of 2007 the surgeons removed a part of his femur and the knee joint of his left leg and inserted an endoprosthesis for cancer. After this operation we underwent a another round of chemical treatments. Since it was discovered that cancer cells had spread to his lungs, he had to undergo a total of three operations. For a while it seemed that everything was going to be all right. But then later tests indicated that the cancer cells had once again
attacked his left leg. There was no choice but to amputate the entire leg, which took place on January 16, 2008.
Throughout all this enormous suffering, Mariusz showed exceptional peace of mind. He was confident that with God everything would be all right. Despite all the pain, joy sprang from his heart. Where did this incredible strength of spirit come from? Throughout all this time Mariusz received Christ in the Eucharist daily, confessed his sins regularly, received the sacrament of the sick several times, and constantly prayed the rosary and the chaplet of divine mercy. But the deciding factors were his acceptance of his illness and pain, his uniting of himself with Christ, and his consent to carry out the most important mission of his life: accepting his suffering meekly and offering it up for others. “As the individual takes up his cross,” explains John Paul II, “spiritually uniting himself to the Cross of Christ, the salvific meaning of suffering is revealed to him… It is then that man finds in his suffering interior peace and even spiritual joy” (Salvifici doloris. 26).
Mariusz found this peace and joy, for he united himself with Christ’s suffering for the salvation of others. When I asked him once to remember the editorial staff of Love One Another Magazine in his prayers, he replied in a faint voice, “I am offering everything for you, all my suffering.” While suffering, he thought of others. He continued to show a keen interest in the work of the editorial office. He issued instructions and offered advice. Knowing that he did not have long to live, he found someone to take his post at work. In joining himself with Christ, he partook of the mystery of His redemptive suffering. He participated in the salvation of the world, which Christ
accomplished on the cross.
Speaking on the meaning of suffering, Servant of God John Paul II observed: “In bringing about the Redemption through suffering, Christ has also raised human suffering to the level of the Redemption. Thus each man, in his suffering, can also become a sharer in the redemptive suffering of Christ” (Salvifici doloris, 19). “In suffering, there is concealed a particular power that draws a person interiorly close to Christ, a special grace…. the individual discovers the salvific meaning of suffering; above all, he becomes a completely new person. He discovers, as it were, a new dimension of his life and vocation. This discovery is a special confirmation of the spiritual greatness, which in man transcends the body in an incomparable manner. When this body is gravely ill, totally incapacitated, and the person is almost incapable of living and acting, all the more do interior maturity and spiritual greatness become evident, constituting a touching lesson to those who are healthy and normal” (Salvifici doloris, 26).
Indeed, precisely such a touching lesson Mariusz imparted to all those who had the good fortune of knowing and praying with him during his illness. Suffering wasted his body, but thanks to his uniting of himself with Christ, his spiritual maturity and moral greatness became manifest to all who knew him. By his courageous example he taught us how to suffer.
“Thy will be done”
After the amputation of the leg, chemotherapy was the last resort for destroying the cancer cells that had re-invaded Mariusz’s organism. But by this time his body was too weak for such treatment. “Medicine can no longer help me; I’m counting on a miracle,” he observed with his usual optimism. At the same time, he prepared himself for the eventuality of death. He trusted in the Lord to the end. He was ready to accept everything from the hand of God. “Thy will be done.”
On May 2, 2008, the first Friday of the month, four days before his death, he began his final preparations for leaving this world. He confessed his sins and received the sacrament of the anointing. He asked that the following message be conveyed to the entire editorial staff after his death: “Thank you for everything. Working with you was the most beautiful time of my life on earth. With such a team, you can win the whole world for Christ. I beseech you: always be ready for death. The worst thing is not to be prepared for it.” He settled his affairs. When the doctor at the hospice asked Father Matthew how he might help Mariusz to prepare for death, the priest replied, “I wish I could be as ready and prepared for it as he.”
Like John Paul II, Mariusz strove to live out with dignity his wasting illness and powerlessness in the face of death. Said Fr. Matthew addressing Mariusz during his funeral mass on May 10, 2008: “John Paul II was your inspiration in living out the Gospel by working daily at the editorial office and enabling our readers to embrace a pure and beautiful love in the manner of St. Caroline Kozka, about whom you often spoke to me. You lived the Movement of Pure Hearts that young people, loving life, might value their dignity. John Paul II was your model, and now you are united with him in eternity. You counted yourself among the JPII generation. During our last talk together you expressed your wish to have these words inscribed on your gravestone: ‘The JPII generation’….You prepared everything perfectly. You did not fear death. You prepared yourself with the holy sacraments and the prayers of so many people. You died in the arms of your father, while Anna and your mother held your hand. The words of the rosary accompanied your final moments.”
Mariusz fully carried out the mission to which Christ had called him: to unite himself with His suffering for the redemption of the world. Although suffering in itself is an experience of evil, Christ turned it into the path of eternal salvation. By His suffering on the cross “He reached to the very roots of evil, sin, and death. He conquered the author of evil, Satan, and his permanent revolt against the Creator.” In this way He opened up for all of us the way to heaven. To that world, where there is no more pain, sin, or death, where there is perfect happiness and undying love, Christ slowly but effectively led our pain-wasted Mariusz “through the very heart, as it were, of his suffering,” which he meekly accepted and offered to God for the Love One Another apostolate, the Movement of Pure Hearts, and the salvation of others. Because of this, Mariusz’s suffering was transformed by grace from within, and Christ Himself was able to abide in it through His own redemptive suffering and act upon it by the power of His Spirit of truth, his consoling Spirit (cf. Salvifici doloris, 26).
Fr. Mieczyslaw Piotrowski SChr
Do not squander the treasure of suffering!
Dear reader! If you should happen to experience any form of pain or suffering, remember to offer it up at once to God, uniting yourself with Christ’s suffering on the cross. Suffering will then not destroy you, but become “so great a grace that no man may fully comprehend it. It is greater than the gift of working miracles, for through suffering the soul gives to me that which is dearest to it — its will.” Thus said Jesus to the mystic Rozalia Celikowna. Nothing better disposes a person to God, and nothing can so transform him as the unselfish gift of suffering. Let no one, then, waste the smallest occasion to offer up every suffering to God, be it physical or spiritual. Offer up to Him especially every crisis, revolt, discouragement, every fear and physical pain. Remember also Christ’s words to St. Faustina: “You will save more souls through prayer and suffering than will a missionary through his teachings and sermons alone” (Diary, 1767).
When offering up your suffering, i.e. uniting it with the suffering of Jesus on the cross, you may wish to say the following prayer:
“Jesus, Divine Savior, through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I offer you my physical pain and mental suffering for the intentions of Holy Mother Church, her priests, unbelieving souls, alcoholics, drug addicts, slaves of pornography; for the intentions of Love One Another Magazine, the apostolate of life (other intentions). Grant, we beseech you, the fullness of eternal life to children who are prevented from being born. Surround all families with your loving care, that through your grace they may resist the snares of the Evil One, accept every new life with love, and protect it from the moment of conception to natural death. Grant that this cross, which I bear, may become for me a source of courage, freedom, and strength, that my sufferings may not deprive me of hope, that my faith may not be extinguished, that my love may never flag, And when my life draws to its end, may the consoling angels minister to me and take me into your Kingdom. Amen.”
If you are not in a state of sanctifying grace, confess your sins to Jesus in the sacrament of reconciliation and forgive everyone everything, so as not to nurse grudges. If you have had recourse to psychics, touch therapists, or resorted to other occultic practices, remember that you have given yourself to the powers of evil by breaking the first commandment. Confess your sin to Jesus at once and break off all ties that bind you to these powers.
To all those who contributed one percent of their taxes for Mariusz’s prosthesis, we express our heartfelt thanks. In accordance with its statute, the “Urgent Help (Zdazyc z Pomoca) Foundation will redirect the funds collected to other people in need.