Friday, 18 March 2011

Please pray for Hilary White

Many readers will be familiar with the excellent work of Hilary White of Life Site News and the Orwell's Picnic blog.

On Ash Wednesday she was admitted to hospital in Rome with cancer.

But despite all the emotions this necessarily invokes, she has, with her customary aplomb, written a great, very honest piece about the experience for Life Site News (see the link above).  Here is an extract on the lessons she is drawing:

"In the last few weeks, I have had to confront my dependence on God and on others. At the risk of being accused of sharing too much, I will admit that I left home very young, at fifteen, and have grown so accustomed to fending for myself in the world that I have taken it for granted that I am dependent only upon me. I have assumed, as a product of the 1960s sexual revolution and the divorce generation, that I am alone and must survive without help.

This great social revolution, the turning away from ancient social assumptions like the indissolubility of marriage, the duties of parents to children, of families to their elders, have inculcated in me a presumption of abandonment, and as a result I am shocked by the care and love I have suddenly experienced. I am, in a way, typical of the modern world that holds “autonomy” as its highest principle, in that I have learned to expect nothing from it.

Abortion and euthanasia, and all the modern abuses of human life and dignity, all assume the same thing about our natures: that we are alone and that no help is coming. We have made of our society a Hobbesian dystopia in which only the strong and rich win.

...In the Gemelli, I learned what a difference a worldview makes. In Italy, especially in a Catholic hospital, one learns the great strength of the Italian national character, so deeply formed by the Catholic faith in the personal. There is a commitment here to the person that results in warmth and kindness, a gentleness that I have never experienced in any North American or British health care facility.

I have had a sharp lesson in the last few weeks, and I am under no illusions that I have yet learned deeply what I am being taught. A lifetime of the presumption of cold, Anglo-North American self-reliance will take a while, and probably more Italian hospital visits, to undo. But the lesson is the same as the one the pro-life movement is trying to teach the whole world, that God does not abandon us and we are not free to abandon each other. That love is the higher law than autonomy."

Go and read the whole thing. And please, pray for Hilary White.


R J said...

Yes, as Belloc confirmed, there is all the difference in the world between countries (Italy, France, Spain, Portugal, Belgium, Ireland) where Catholicism is the default mode - and where even atheists often insist on having their kids baptised! - versus, on the other hand, countries (England, Australia, New Zealand) where Catholicism has for ages been equated with some sort of "foreign mission" freakishness.

If one has to endure the miseries of cancer, like Miss White, one might as well do so in a more-or-less Catholic land. I'll keep remembering her in my nightly prayers, and I hope that if I am afflicted with so terrible a disease as she has been, I can show comparable courage.

PM said...

Indeed a very deep and moving article. She is indded a person of great faith, intelligence and courage. Thank you for the link - I'll keep her in my prayers.

She is onto something here in her remarks about Anglo-American culture. There is a fascinating study by an ANU linguist, Anna Wierzbicka (English: Meaning and Culture) which shows how Lockean individualist assumptions are so deeply embedded in English that we don't even notice them. I recall an interview in which she said she was launched on this line of theoretical inquiry by noticing, as a Pole with young children in Australia, how cold and detached English baby-talk was compared to Polish.

What Wierzbicka's insights mean for liturgical translation might be a stimulating line of inquiry.

And what Hilary White's comments about a Hobbesian dystopia in which only the strong and rich win mean for Anglo-American economics is also tantalising. I hope she doesn't find herself flamed from the US as a godless euro-communist.