This is Part II of a series, see part I. This conversation will contain spoilers. If that bothers you, then go read the book first. In fact, if you haven’t read the book, this conversation will make no sense at all.
Kathy said, “I felt SOO uncomfortable reading about the Support Group! It was physically painful to experience Hazel Grace’s time in the “Literal Heart of Jesus”. Sadness was perhaps the dominant feeling. Patrick and some of the others like Lida seemed so triumphant while the rest struggled with the long march to the bottom of Patrick’s closing prayer list of the dead.”
“I had a similar feeling about Support Group. Is the Christian response to pain, suffering, illness, and terminal cancer a farce? Did Patrick portray it well?” asked Jim.
“How would I know? I’m only 15! Sheesh. What a question! I LOVE praise songs and have had great experiences singing them with my friends. But to Hazel, Gus, and Isaac, the song-playing Christian seemed repulsive. I am also bugged, now, by all the Facebook posts promising FALSLY that “God will never give you more than you can handle.””, Kathy said.
Jim replied, “Yeah, Hebrews Chapter 11 tells a different story of believers being sawn in two. I also cringe at those types of Facebook responses to suffering. They are a holy paraphrase of “Suck it up, loser!”. I’m a gamer, and given the choice between Patrick’s guitar and Cave Johnson’s Rant, I feel more connection with Cave Johnson.”
Kathy laughed, “Well, I’m not much of a gamer, but I see your point. Thank God, those are not our only two choices! When I’m hurting, I want to be with you, dad, or with mom, or my friends. I don’t want you to SAY anything, but I want you there. I want to be in that “third place” that Hazel and Gus share on the phone and that Gus and Isaac share in Counterinsurgence 2.”
“Or listening to your version of Hectic Glow?”
Jim continued, “Well my Hectic Glow is currently Faure’s Requiem. THAT is no snappy, happy song played with three chords on a guitar! Faure puts forth a better Christian response to suffering, pain, and death than Van Houten’s nihilistic baseline of pointless molecular shufflings. It is in Latin, but that may actually help.”
According to Van Houten, “Who the hell speaks Sweedish? [or Latin] The important thing is not whatever nonsense the voices are saying, but what the voices are feeling.”
“Classic existentialism, according to my teacher.”, said Kathy.
“Good. My tax dollars are being put to good use. And yes, the feeling of Faure’s music may be enough to comfort those in pain. But the words are priceless as well. Why stop at existential feelings when you can have the feeling AND the meaning combined?”
Requiem aeternam dona eis Domine (Rest eternal give them, Lord,)
et lux perpetua luceat eis. (and let light always shine on them.)
Te decet hymnus, Deus in Sion (It is right to hymn you, God, in Sion)
et tibi reddetur votum in Jerusalem. (and to you will be made a vow in Jerusalem.)
Exaudi orationem meam, ad te omnis caro veniet. (Hear my prayer, to you all flesh will come.)
[Greek] Kyrie eleison, Christe eleison, Kyrie eleison. (Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy, Lord have mercy.)
Jim continued, “Although this is based on the Catholic Mass for the Dead, I have found the prayer for mercy to be a universally-appropriate prayer, and one that brought great comfort in NICU.”
Kathy challenged, “Do you think people will believe that prayer helps? It can seem like self-deception to the skeptical.”
“I acknowledge that. But you wanted a “third place” like Hazel Grace. Prayer is my third place and it is not human-based. I don’t have to feel like a burden on someone, nor do I have to wait for them to return my call. I’ll have to leave it there. If you want to read a raw evaluation of prayer, I recommend Phillip Yancey.”
““He has saved your lives so many times, and you never even knew he was there. I know him. I love him. Pass it on.”, said Martha Jones.
“Is that your weapon? Prayer!”, scoffed the Master.
And the rest is history. [well sort of]”, quoted Kathy.
“There you go quoting Dr. Who, again.”, laughed Jim, “But, let me quote Yancey.”
“Every day my vision clouds over so that I perceive nothing but a world of matter. It requires a daily act of will to remember what Paul told the sophisticated crowd in Athens: “God is not far from each one of us. For in him we live and move and have our being.” For this reason prayer may seem strange, even embarrassing. (How odd, that prayer seems foolish to some people who base their lives on media trends, superstition, instinct, hormones, social propriety, or even astrology.)”, quoted Jim.
“Ha! The Fault in Our Stars!” cried Kathy.
“Indeed”, grinned Jim.
*John Green, The Fault in Our Stars, Dutton Books, New York, NY, 2012.
Republished from the Ratio Christi Blog with permission.