By Kelly Wahlquist
Looking back, nursing school was a blur, though I do remember the things that made me laugh. I remember grossing out my friends during lunch as I’d sit with my textbook open, memorizing some gruesome diagram of an internal organ, and I still chuckle when I think of the sweet little 84-year old patient who sarcastically told the technician she would use the nice pictures he had taken of her colonoscopy as her Christmas card. Yet in the joy, excitement, and laughter of learning, a small nun taught me two powerful lessons that not only made me a good nurse, but continue to help me be a good disciple of Jesus.
Sr. Cassian’s lesson to our class on the first day of nursing school (and every day after) was, “Use your head to save your feet.” Pretty simple lesson; gather all your supplies before you set out. In essence, be prepared. Her second lesson also remains with me daily: “Pain is whatever the patient says it is.” Meaning, pain is subjective.
In the final chapter of “Who Does He Say You Are?”, Colleen brings us into the pain of one of my most beloved saints, St. Mary Magdalene, or… St. Mary Mag, as I call her. (We’ve become pretty close friends over the years.) In bringing us into the nuances of Mary Magdalene’s heart on that silent and dark night, Colleen leads us into the depths of the darkness of our own hearts, pointing out that we all experience suffering, each in our own unique way.
“Each of us carries different burdens of sorrow, but we all carry them. What breaks our hearts might be different, but we all have known the moment when our broken hearts compel us away to weep alone, waiting desperately for hope to come to us in the darkness.” (page 121)
In her deepest darkest hour, Mary Magdalene, carrying the burdens of personal grief and intimate sorrow gave us one of the greatest lessons of all; she taught us what to do in times of great suffering. When her Lord, her hope, her everything was dead and buried, she went to where she knew Jesus to be. Without consciously knowing it, Mary Magdalene prepared herself to experience the joy of the Resurrection. Gathering her aromatic oils and spices, she set out on foot to the dark tomb prepared to mourn and anoint the body of the man she knew to be God. Overcome with courage rooted in a deep, deep love, Mary Magdalene went to be with Jesus.
We can do this. We should do this. In our deepest darkest hour, when we are desperate to escape the grief of our breaking heart, we can and should gather our things and go to where we know Jesus to be. Open your bible and dwell in the Scriptures. Grab your favorite book of prayers and head to adoration. Pick up your rosary and ask Our Lady to comfort you and bring you to her Son’s Sacred Heart. Go to Mass and meet Jesus in the most intimate way—in the Eucharist. And don’t worry what happens when you get there. Again, look to Mary Magdalene. What was her response? She stood there weeping… and it was ok. In fact, it was better than ok! Her great love and courage to go to where she knew Jesus to be put her in a place to hear Jesus call her name, to see the risen Christ, to speak to her teacher, to receive an amazing mission to share the Good News, and to live in that for which she was created—the joy of the Resurrection! And you my dear sister, have been created for that joy too!
Toward the end of the chapter, Colleen tells us how she experienced a glimpse of that Resurrection joy as she basked in the glow of her family twisting and tumbling down a homemade water slide in Costa Rica, and I had to laugh at how the Holy Spirit works. As I read that the key ingredient was soap, nursing school memories came flooding back. The letters of the word S.O.A.P. laid out how we documented patient care.
S = Subjective
It was the first letter that was the most important when it came to pain, because, as Sr. Cassian taught, pain is whatever the patient says it is. So, my friend, know that you need not compare your suffering to others, each of us carries different burdens of sorrow. When you find yourself desperate to escape the darkness, follow in the footsteps of St. Mary Magdalene and go to where you know Jesus to be, and He will transform you into a rejoicer, a believer, and a proclaimer. He will fill you with the joy of the Resurrection —and “no one will take you joy from you” (John 16:22).
Looking back, how has Jesus turned a time of sorrow in your life into a moment of grace and a lesson you’ve been able to share to help others in their time of suffering?
Continue to go to where you know Jesus to be, and ask the Holy Spirit to help you be an apostle of joy. St. Mary Magdalene…. Pray for us!
About the Author:
Kelly Wahlquist is a wife, mother of three, inspiring Catholic author and speaker residing in Minnesota. She is the founder of WINE: Women In the New Evangelization, Assistant Director for the Archbishop Harry J. Flynn Catechetical Institute, and contributing writer for Catholicmom.com. Her book Created to Relate: God’s Design for Peace & Joy encourages and inspires women to live fully their beautiful God-given gifts for building relationships. She is the creator and editor of Walk in Her Sandals: Experiencing Christ’s Passion through the Eyes of Women. Kelly travels the country speaking to all on topics that inspire us to live the New Evangelization, but has a special love for speaking at Catholic women’s events.