Reflecting on my Appendicitis Mishap with Bl. John Henry Newman

Recently, I was reading from Meriol Trevor’s book, Newman: The Pillar of Cloud, and the chapter titled, Sicilian Purgatory, gave me an inspiration to reflect on my appendicitis that occurred over the summer with the several complications that arose from being misdiagnosed 3 times, and resulted in spending a week in the hospital, having a percutaneous drain in me for 3 weeks, and still am waiting on another surgery.

Blessed John Henry Newman, on whom the book is based, “always associated three feverish illnesses with three spiritual crises in his life” (139). The third and worst sickness, which nearly killed him,” he regarded as the one of deepest importance to him. I really enjoyed reading these two sections from the chapter about Newman’s reflection after the sickness:

  • “The fever acted as a purge of the heart and spirit. Through it he recognized the evil at work in himself and instead of refusing to admit his guilt and dismissing the whole thing as a sick fancy, he confessed the worst and set about living in a new way: one step at a time, God leading, he submissive to experience. Of course it took long to learn, but really he had already begun to live like that, putting deeds above words; now it only became a deeper and more sensitive and more conscious obedience” (141). 
  • “The Adversary uses the weaknesses of men to destroy unity, personal and communal… God allowed him to be sifted like St. Peter… The realist of the attack, physical and spiritual, was a man renewed, on his guard against the most subtle form of inward corruption and psychological sterilization, and more determined than ever to give the whole of himself to God as an instrument in His work” (142). 

Like Newman, my time in the hospital challenged me to admit my own weakness, physically & spiritually, and set about living in a new way – “putting deeds above words”  – praying instead of just reading about prayer – loving instead of just reading about loving.

Whether God actually did allow me to be sifted like St. Peter – I don’t know – but I was certainly renewed spiritually from such a challenging situation and I am more determined than ever to give myself wholly to God as an instrument in His work.

Next time you go through suffering, whether physically and/or spiritually, remember how Bl. John Henry Newman connected the three most important spiritual events of his life with his three worst illnesses.

Jesus I trust in You!

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