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 | By Mary D. Dillard

A Quiet and Humble Suffering

“I love going to church,” shares JoAnn Lorino Guarino, an 82-year-old, widowed mother of three. “I never missed Mass when I was younger,” she insists. However her attained age has brought with it a multitude of physical ailments and the subsequent absence of Guarino in the pew. Her Parkinson’s makes walking difficult. In her own home she is relegated to the living room, her bedroom, and the bathroom. Making matters worse is her significant loss of hearing which gives rise to the frustration of silence and a feeling of isolation.

Being faced with the reality of ever mounting limitations is, in and of itself, a heavy burden. However, in Guarino’s heart, the fire of love for God burns bright. Without fail, Guarino has her television tuned to the Eternal Word Television Network for daily Mass and the Rosary. “I know it’s not in the church,” she remarks, “but I get so much out of that.” For her, the ability to feel connected to her faith is comforting.

Unfortunately, her comfort is tempered by the guilt she feels for not attending Mass in person. Add in the awareness of lessening ability and the notion of being a burden and Guarino’s suffering has the potential to become debilitating.

“I try not to be depressed,” she explains, “because that does nothing but hurt my three daughters. … But it is depressive.” When she isn’t watching Mass, praying the Rosary, or reading one of her many prayer books, she tries to stay positive by talking to family on the phone or sitting on her living room sofa and crocheting. “I am not going to be that mother that expects my children to come visit me all the time,” exclaims Guarino.

Indeed, the temptation to fall into a deep depression is ever-present, but she attests that her faith gives her strength. “I pray for strength; otherwise, I wouldn’t be able to do it. He is here with me. He’s holding both of my hands.” Her faith is further fortified when Priscilla Davis, long-time pastoral associate of the Cathedral of St. Paul, visits and brings the Blessed Sacrament. “I look forward to her coming every Monday,” proclaims Guarino. “I just love every minute of it. I feel so blessed that she can bring me Communion because that is what I miss by looking at the TV.”

Being so grounded in belief in the Lord and His saving power is powerful. Her unwavering faith in the midst of suffering serves as a steadfast witness to Guarino’s family. “As a daughter, my mother is inspiring because she has so much faith in the face of all her suffering,” says Christina Wright, Guarino’s daughter. “If I pop in and she didn’t know I was coming, she’ll say that the Lord knew to send me. She’ll say, ‘Look how the Lord sent you over here today. I needed that today.’”

Age, sickness, weakness, or vulnerability can all be vehicles for separation from or closeness to the One Who made us. For Guarino the choice is simple. “I ask Jesus to hold my hand and show me the way to live, and He shows me what He wants me to do.” May we all have the courage to do the same.