US Catholic Faith in Real Life

Connecting with God’s power in times of adversity

By Deacon Don Grossnickle | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare

Guest blog

Seventeen-year-old Rob Komosa broke his neck after being tackled during high school football practice one fall afternoon in 1999. Awakening to find that he was quadriplegic and breathing on a ventilator, tears rolled down Rob’s face as he cried out, “God, where are you in all of this?”

As a permanent deacon, my ministry outreach brought me face to face with Rob and his Polish immigrant family. I first came to his home bringing the Lord in the presence of Holy Communion. I soon found out that an essential task of healthy recovery is to somehow uniquely form a support group community bonded to deal with picking up the pieces of shattered lives and create some form of a new normal.

Rob and I prayed together almost every day for three years as he welcomed me to walk beside him on his epic recovery journey. Together, Rob and I adopted a favorite daily prayer of invocation, asking each morning for the help of St. Therese of Lisieux and God. Rob and I explored the world of God’s grace and blessings, choosing to seek God’s strength and healing of the broken heart so that joy could somehow permeate his imprisonment. Together as minister and friend we pursued a healthy way to escape the despair that might lead to incurable misery on top of his incurable life sentence to live totally paralyzed. The words of Jesus on the cross were revisited over and over: “My God, why have you forsaken me?”

The light of God came to chase away the darkness as the local parish community of Our Lady of the Wayside in Arlington Heights, Illinois compassionately embraced Rob and his family. Rob and I began to witness a transforming miracle of discovering a source we came to call “unbreakable resilience.” Rob’s unbreakable spirit chased away our fears and doubts as a source of peace and power came to rest on our day to day challenges.

We pursued the gifts of an unbreakable resilience and discerned that it is a life-giving skill set that can be called upon to lift one’s spirit that can help the faithful transcend suffering. Tapping into God’s abundant spirit ignites a powerful struggle to cope and discover a pathway to sustain the growth and maturity it takes to accomplish personal healing.

In the fall of 2000 another football player, Rocky Clark, also from the Chicago area, became paralyzed after a tackle. Rob and I reached out to share our faith journey with Rocky and his family. Over the years, until Rob’s death in March 2013, we reached out together to seven other injured athletes. We formed the Gridiron Alliance, a nonprofit organization for uniting and supporting the student athlete community in all sports, in every state who encounter serious injury.

Some people might think, “I could never do this ministry.” To them I might say, inch by inch, taking one step at a time, and asking God to guide each step is the beginning of being empowered by God’s abundant spirit. One must only seek to empty oneself, and allow the challenge at hand to motivate and inspire the missions, big and small.

In 2012 Deacon Don Grossnickle assembled stories in a book: Unbreakable Resilience: Leap of Faith Stories to Live By—Eight Broken Neck Boys Pursuing the Grace and Blessings of an Imperfect Life. For more information about the book, click here. The book is also available in a Kindle edition here.

For more on ministering to Catholics with disabilities, click here: 

Real presence: What Catholics with developmental disabilities bring to the table

Ramp it up: How parishes can increase accessibility

Image: Flickr photo cc by zeeweez