Maria Beethoven knew suffering during her short life of forty years. After she had died, Ludwig, her eldest son, said she was not only a good mother, but a dear friend.
As for the musical genius, Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827), he, like his mother, became acquainted with hardship. About the age of 30, he contracted a severe cold. But because his sickness was largely left untreated, it eventually led to the permanent loss of his hearing. So devastated was he over this disability, it led to a severe depression. He even entertained thoughts of suicide. In a letter to a friend, he poured out his lament over his loss of hearing:
“From year to year my hopes of being cured have gradually been shattered ... I must live like an outcast; if I appear in company, I am overcome by a burning anxiety, a fear that I am running the risk of letting people notice my condition. ... How humiliated I have felt if somebody standing beside me heard the sound of a flute in the distance and I heard nothing…”
It is interesting to note, to say the least that the best music he composed was during this time of darkness. Indeed, from this suffering came forth, this brilliant mind composed the world's most beautiful music. Incidentally, (or providentially) Beethoven was baptized a Catholic and died receiving the Last Rites from the Church in 1827. And I cannot help but believe that as he was going deaf and as he burned with anxiety, that his faith in Christ gave meaning to that suffering.
Both Maria and Ludwig teach us that great suffering is not incompatible with great accomplishments. True, both of them almost failed to see this. After all, the former was tempted with abortion, the latter with suicide. But as we often see in hindsight, adversity may be what is needed to bring about greatness and even new life. This is an important prolife message!
Raising awareness to human dignity does involve arguments that expose moral evils such as abortion and suicide. But in order for these moral arguments to be effective, there must be an interpretation of those things which lead to abortion or even euthanasia. To say it another way, Christians have to give meaning and dignity to suffering before the dignity of life can take hold in our culture. If the trials of an unwed mother or the burden of incurring a disability can be put into perspective for those who suffer from it, then these hardships can be borne with patience. Life, instead of being dispensed with, can then take on meaning. This is what the great moral revolution of the Cross brought to the unbaptized world. It gave dignity and purpose to suffering; and in so doing, it unveiled the splendor of human dignity.