C-Fam President Austin Ruse Interviewed on EWTN About New Book “Littlest Suffering Souls”
NEW YORK, July 7 (C-Fam) British comedian and actor Stephen Fry once said that if he ever met God he would tell him “Bone cancer in children? How dare you!” A new book from C-Fam President Austin Ruse challenges this kind of thinking.
Ruse appeared on EWTN to talk about three humble children who touched thousands of lives and are the subject of his new book Littlest Suffering Souls: Children Whose Short Lives Point Us to Christ (Tan Books). Audrey Stevenson died of leukemia at the age of 7. Margaret Leo died at 14 after suffering from spina bifida. Brendan Kelly was born with Down syndrome and died at the age of 15 from a second painful bout with leukemia.
All three “suffered greatly, died young, and through their joyful suffering brought many people to Christ and the Church,” Ruse said as he recounted moving episodes of their short lives on the Jim and Joy Pinto’s EWTN show last week.
“These were everyday children. These were not plastic saints,” Ruse said, and yet he explained how the children had a “heightened understanding of the faith” that allowed them to experience suffering in a uniquely Christian way, by uniting their own suffering to the redemptive suffering of Christ on the Cross.
They received this “supernaturally and from a very young age,” Ruse said, as he recounted examples from their lives.
Brendan Kelly would go into painful treatments during his second bout with leukemia and say “this one is for you mom,” Austin explained. His mother at the time was struggling to keep her faith in the face of the illness, he said. Brendan’s mother and father called him “God’s pest” because he brought God’s love into any encounter with invincible simplicity and zeal.
“I don’t feel as though I chose these three children, they chose me,” he said when asked why he chose to write about these three children specifically. “I found the stories compelling. I knew their families. And they all were the same story. It just struck me that these stories needed to be told,” he said as he recounted the overwhelming response that he got when he first wrote about the children almost five years ago for The Catholic Thing website. Ruse also said he felt the stories had a specific message.
“They were sent to us in this specific time and place for a reason and we need to figure that out,” he said. “They were born into a larger milieu that you can describe as a desert, the Washington D.C. policy environment. They were born into families of affluence and influence to teach the value of every human life, even those that aren’t considered worth living,” Austin suggested. “To teach us the meaning of suffering,” he added, explaining that “we are running pell-mell in the 21st century away from suffering. We spend billions of dollars to avoid suffering.”
“We hear these stories about lives not worth living. You have to think, at the general judgment, perhaps we’ll find out Margaret Leo’s short life, for instance, contributed more to the beatific vision than Mark Zuckeberg’s, or Andrew Carnegie’s, or these very big and important people,” Austin said.
“A life cut short at 14. How is there worth in that? How is there worth in the life of a child that lives only a few hours? Well, we don’t know the whole story yet, it is just a tiny piece of a page in a huge book,” Austin said.