Carlos Briceño explores the power and peace of the present moment
Carlos Briceño is an American journalist from the Midwest.We welcome Carlos as the next writer in our #SundaySessions campaign. Carlos shares his personal “Reflections on faith and spirituality” exploring what this means to him as a Catholic, he finds comfort and support in his unwavering faith in God and the importance of living in the present moment.
His faith gives him the strength he needs to stay positive in light of one of the most difficult challenges that comes with life: the devastating diagnosis of rare disease. Carlos’s wife found out she was gene-positive for Huntington’s Disease (HD) at the age of 41, while his daughter found out she was gene-positive for HD when she was 22. Carlos has been writing about their experiences as a weekly columnist for BioNews (https://huntingtonsdiseasenews.com/category/a-family-tradition-a-column-by-carlos-briceno/) since 2019 and rediscovering his Catholic faith to help him see light in the darkest of times.
When I was a child, my family lived in a neighbourhood where a new home was being constructed several houses away from ours. For a boy, this meant a fabulous playground: concrete cinders; plenty of dust; mounds of dirt; and scraps of metal, buckets, nails and wood strewn all over the property. The imaginative possibilities of play and adventure there were endless. During one visit, I misjudged the distance between a giant pothole I leaped over and fell on my chest. I had heard of the term “having the wind knocked out of you,” but I had never experienced it.
The moment I landed, I experienced it. For what seemed like an eternity, I couldn’t breathe. I got scared.
I couldn’t breathe!
“I have been reliving that feeling – not being able to breathe – since my wife and daughter discovered, over the past two years, that they are both gene-positive for Huntington’s Disease, a rare illness that has been described as a combination of Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and ALS (or Lou Gehrig’s disease). “
When you love someone, like I love them, you don’t want anything terrible to happen to them. You don’t want them to suffer. Sadly, and tragically, they are going to. The disease attacks the nervous system and brain cells. It will cause them to lose control of their muscles. It will make them psychotic. Reality will become distorted. They will lose the ability to walk. They won’t be able to swallow food one day. They will become shadows of their former selves.
My heart and mind weep thinking about all this. This feeling of not being able to breathe – of course, I mean that figuratively – stems from my anxiety and sorrow of projecting about their futures.
How I have decided to cope is to lean on my faith. I am Catholic. I have never lost my faith, but I have been lazy and lukewarm in practicing it – until their diagnoses.
What I have learned in my faith journey is that God exists. He loves us. He allows suffering because suffering is an opportunity for others to accompany the person suffering in deeply loving ways. It’s also an opportunity to learn what is important in life and what your blessings are.
I am a selfish creature. But, I am learning how to be unselfish in equipping myself to be the best caregiver I can be for them. To focus more on them rather than on me, me, me.
In the process, I have been learning how to surrender myself more to an expert in unselfishness and suffering: the Son of God, Jesus. I often pray to Him, saying, “Please help me, Lord. I am scared. Teach me to love better.”
In building a relationship with Him and in letting go of what I feel I need – and allowing His will to be done – I have felt an overflowing of supernatural graces in my life. His mercy and love have poured into my soul. I feel beloved.
As I result, I feel peace and less anxiety. I feel joy. I feel energy. I love more. All those graces help my well-being, leading me to become more mindful, which is a way of understanding how God’s graces are working by becoming aware of the blessings in each moment. As a result, I have also grown in gratitude.
Others have noticed the link between religion, spiritually and well-being. There have been studies that show that having faith is good for your health.
In learning how to be mindful of seeking the Divine, I came across the writings of a French Jesuit priest, Father Jean-Pierre de Caussade. He wrote about what is called the Sacrament of the Present Moment in his 18th-century book, Abandonment to Divine Providence.
To those reading this who are part of the rare disease community and are suffering or despairing, and to their caregivers who are anxious or worried, I share with you the following words by Father de Caussade from his book, as a way to inspire you to gain strength and comfort in your faith and spiritual practices and to seek God’s will in the Present Moment, not worrying about the future, but staying focused on the blessings contained in each second of the day:
The present moment is always full of infinite treasure. It contains far more than you can possibly grasp. Faith is the measure of its riches: what you find in the Present Moment is according to the measure of your faith. Love also is the measure: the more the heart loves, the more it rejoices in what God provides. The will of God presents itself at each moment like an immense ocean that the desire of your heart cannot empty; yet, you will drink from that ocean according to your faith and love. Father Jean-Pierre de Caussade