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ss nucleus - autumn 1999,  Blessings (Tape Review)

Blessings (Tape Review)

Blessings - Mary Craig - Hodder Christian Audiobooks - £7.99, playing time three hours

I find using books on tape advantageous because they can be played in the car, on the train, whilst walking or even late at night in bed when tired eyes cannot focus on the words of a page. Listening to a cassette seems tireless effort and if, like myself, you are slow at reading, enables you to digest a whole book in no time.

Recently I listened to Blessings read and authored by Mary Craig. This lady had two handicapped children - one had Hurler's syndrome (gargoylism), the other Down's syndrome. She speaks openly and frankly about her feelings towards these children, the frustrations, the 'Why me?' as she struggled to raise a total of four children, and the lack of any hope to help her situation whilst lapsing as a Catholic. During her life she travelled to Poland and Germany with the founder of St Anthony's Cheshire homes and spent much time working with survivors of the Nazi concentration camps. Through the stories she heard and her own life experiences, she eventually concludes that no essence of suffering is wasteful but instead provides a unique learning opportunity. Ultimately she realises it is God who provides hope. At the very heart of Christianity is a man dying in pain, suffering for our iniquities, and at that point on the cross sharing with all mankind the desolate fear of our lives being without meaning. For Mary Craig, Christ's death demonstrates self-offering love as the greatest force overcoming death. She clearly acknowledges that Jesus' redemptive love is no placebo and that the cross helps us not to hide from pain but to face it:

'Suffering is the key to what we are and what we have in us to become'.

In essence the concentration camp survivors and her children taught her so much because of what they have endured rather than in spite of it.

As future doctors entering a vocation all too familiar with suffering, this tape provides a compelling pronouncement on the value of suffering being in what we make of it. This needs to be humbly conveyed to those in our care - patients, relatives, colleagues - through the Gospel and its evidence in our lives. 'And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose' (Rom 8:28) is Mary's concluding theme. She exhorts listeners to learn to accept, not resent, pain and persecution because God is with us.

I highly recommend this tape for an absorbing, fluent, inspiring account of courage, compassion and personal growth through the experience of intolerable tragedy.

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