By Elizabeth Fisher
Special to the CS&T

I know a little boy who was not popular in school. He was the butt of jokes, insults and pranks. Many of the boy’s closest friends began to distance themselves from him, fearing that this small band of miscreants would target them.

Through all the taunting, this 8-year-old never lost his bearings. He remained happy and personable and polite. He never once complained. Through his isolation, he learned to be content with himself, playing with his helicopters or reading books. Not to say he withdrew. He was active in extracurricular activities including Boy Scouts. {{more}}

When his parents heard what was happening, they offered to transfer him to another school, even a public school, where he would have a fresh start out of the reach of his tormenters. He refused because he liked his school and, “I want the religion,” he told his mother. It was as if some internal voice calmed him, assured him everything would be all right.

I wondered at this kid’s attitude. I thought he might have been a magic child – a phrase used by Father Andrew Greeley in describing a child who rose above incredibly difficult circumstances in one of his novels. But true insight surfaces at unexpected times.

Mine came from reading “The Holy Longings,” by Father Ronald Rolheiser, an author and columnist, and a member of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate.

It would be impossible to sum up such an inspirational book in a few words. It’s simpler, perhaps, to describe its impact through the tribulations of the 8-year-old. In one of the last chapters, Father Rolheiser discusses the importance of “sweating blood” for the sake of love, as Jesus did in the Garden of Gethsemane. In other words, live with the “tension” that difficulties bring, rather than seeking “premature” solutions to problems.

Rolheiser reminds the reader that Jesus was “hated but hated no one; he was met by anger, but he did not respond in anger; he was killed by jealousy, but he was jealous of and hurt no one.” He noted that we all sweat blood for the sake of careers, health and bank accounts, but seldom for the sake of love.

Reading those pages, I visualized Jesus sweating blood in preparation for death, even knowing the glory of resurrection would follow. Straight from those same pages came the smiling face of a little kid who managed to accomplish what I as an adult still struggle to attain: maintaining the balance between the demands of daily life and strife and keeping the faith – while smiling and believing that God is in charge.

For New Year’s, I resolve to try to better emulate the example of Jesus as so beautifully outlined by Father Rolheiser, and by an 8-year-old who instinctively listened to that inner voice that told him to wait it out.

Elizabeth Fisher is a freelance journalist and member of St. Mark Parish in Bristol.