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The Gregory-Arritola Family

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Via Crucis - The Way of the Cross

A LENTEN REFLECTION:  MARCH 2006

Our family was asked to speak at  Via Crucis 2006 held at the Gwinnett Arena in Duluth Ga this past Lent.  This event was sponsored by the Leadership Institute, an apostolate of the Regnum Christi.

Our son Anthony Emmanuel Arritola was diagnosed with a condition in which every cell in his body has an extra 13th chromosome in his DNA which continues to replicate with each new cell.  From what we understand, the 13th chromosome is responsible for the development of the body’s major organs.  Sadly, the medical community has labeled this syndrome as "Incompatible with Life" meaning infants are incapable of surviving outside of the womb.  For those that do survive, they are labeled "Failure to Thrive" meaning these children are incapable of growing and surviving to any development milestone. 

 

We learned at 15 weeks gestation that our little boy had calcium deposits on his heart, cysts on his kidneys, fluid in his brain ... and what looked like a sixth digit.   

 

I still remember when we got “the call” confirming the findings.  The doctor told us on the phone that this was “worse than he expected”.  (and I quote) “This is one of the two worst chromosomal disorders that can go to full term without spontaneously miscarrying”.  “This is incompatible with life".  He scheduled us to meet with a geneticist.  My husband looked as if he fell two stories through the floor; he began to hold back huge tears which broke like a flood gate as soon as the phone hung up.  “We have an obligation to baptize him”, I whispered.  Rick was lost, distant for a while.  And I was numb. 

 

The geneticist reiterated what we had already learned from the Internet.  If our infant son did make it to full term, he had a 60% chance of stillbirth and an 80% chance of death before his first 30 days.   Most babies live an average of 8.5 days.  Survival to the first birthday is less than 7%. 

 

Anthony was born with a smile that will brighten even the darkest of souls and every now and then he gives a look of wisdom in his face that makes even a skeptic ponder.  He is unconventional and will not fit into any “textbook” stereotype.  He is Anthony.  And we love him just the way God made him.  In Gods eyes, he is complete. 

 

The next few months after his birth and discharge, we felt informed, overwhelmed, out of control of his situation and so much just humbled that all we needed to do was love … nothing more and nothing less.  Ironically, there was comfort in that we could do nothing.  If I could have done something more, I’d have been more hysterical to do it – instead of gaining peace and acceptance.  Today Anthony is 8 months old. 

 

And What has this cross done for our life?

It has given us more insight as we meditate on Christ’s life and helped us gain a deeper insight into His passion and why he did this for us, specifically, why for me?

  • This cross has allowed me to contemplate Jesus’ Condemnation.  How could an innocent child of God suffer such an unjust death?  How could Jesus have been condemned unjustly?
  • The gravity of almost losing my own life after giving birth led me through the shadow of the valley of death.  I was faced with selfishness in my own expectations and my own desires.  I was challenged to press on despite adversity for the sake of my other children.  My husband was faced with his worst fears and he too was challenged on how to cope with his career, family and future during these dark days. 
  • We have struggled with human emotions that have redefined pain and they have bred perseverance.   
  • We have been stricken with almost unbearable grief, only to be comforted by the words I pray in the Rosary.
  • Humility has been a daily lesson where we have found courage and strength in the help of others.
  • I have learned that no matter how strong I am or try to be, there will always be something or someone ready to beat me down.  And only Gods grace can keep me moving forward even when I feel I am too exhausted.   
  • I have been made aware of how many others, children and adult alike, are afflicted with similar struggles … and my heart pours out for them and the hurdles they are facing.

 

But more importantly, Christ’s servant love represented via crucis has humbled me, taught me patience, and brought me to His cross in contemplation comparing every part with my own suffering.  I have found encouragement from the cross I bear in meditation of Christ’s journey. 

 

Our entire family is dependent on Gods grace and so thankfully in Gods care.  We do not regret bringing this child to a life of love and we are not ashamed to show him off to a world that doesn’t understand the way of the cross nor understands the decisions we’ve made.  Anthony is a child of God and he reminds us everyday of how our trust in God is enough to sustain our very existence. 

 

Duluth, GA, Lent 2006:  Via Crucis Exposes Humanity In Christ’s Passion


For information on the Via Crucis:

What is Via Crucis?  http://landru.i-link-2.net/shnyves/via_crucis.htm

 

How can I participate in the Stations of the Cross from my computer?  There are many versions online; here are a few for you to pick your favorite in terms of reflective meditation:

 

Catholic Stations of the Cross:  http://www.catholic.org/clife/prayers/station.php

Scriptural Version of the Stations of the Cross:  http://www.domcentral.org/life/stations.htm

The Cross of the Family: http://www.ewtn.com/library/PRAYER/FAMCROSS.TXT

Living the Way of the Cross:  http://www.ewtn.com/library/Mother/MA32.htm

Listen to the Stations of the Cross:  http://www.creighton.edu/CollaborativeMinistry/stations.html

Young Children Lenten Project:  http://www.ewtn.com/library/PRAYER/CROSSWAY.TXT

For very young children:  http://frpat.com/stations.htm

 

 

We encourage all to contemplate the way of the cross. 
No one who meditates on the passion of Christ is left unaffected. 

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