Kara LaFrance explores the gift of faith, God and connection in a time of great separation
Kara LaFrance is an avid artist, graphic designer and rare disease advocate for acromegaly. We are proud to welcome Kara as the final writer in our deeply moving and insightful “Reflections on faith and spirituality” #SundaySessions series. Kara is rounding up this topic, reflecting on her faith in Catholicism. She explains how her strong unwavering commitment to God and the Catholic practices has helped her manage her rare disease diagnosis of Acromegaly and inspire her as an artist. Kara shares how a chance encounter-turned great friendship with retired priest Fr. Andy, helped to support her times of need.
“Faith is a gift… It is your choice to accept this gift from God. He never takes it away; you merely have to accept it.“
As a cradle Catholic, I have blind faith. I have never doubted. I am logical, practical and level headed. Prayers are always answered. We just may not like the answer. “No“ is an answer. God‘s time is not necessarily our time.
Catholics are not known for quoting the Bible at random. I prefer saints. Not quoting them but knowing them. Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta—her truth that was unknown during her life was her spiritual dryness and blind faith. In her book “Come Be My Light” you find a prayer that she “forged in the depths of her darkness. ‘Take whatever He gives and give whatever He takes with a big smile’ total surrender, loving trust and joy.
My Journey has been long and it is never ending. Doctors’ arrogance and ignorance 20+ years ago is coming full circle as my body deteriorates and no one has any answers. No one is even looking. Acromegaly is diagnosed late. There is no early diagnosis because no one is looking there either. Of the 7k+ rare diseases it is a blessing to have one with treatment. But after all treatment is said and done, crippling pain is getting worse—acromegaly specialists can only say that they know I am in crippling pain, and simply sorry. Only this year, a study began by gathering quality of life information for patients like me, where all treatments have been completed. I am in “technical” remission yet I continue to deteriorate. One study, one hospital, information gathering only.
“Suffering, pain—failure—is but a kiss of Jesus, a sign that you came so close to Jesus on the cross that He can kiss you—so my child be happy… Do not be discouraged… So smile back… ” Mother Teresa
What’s faith got to do with it? God gave me the gift of faith but he also gave me strength, tenacity and a voice—the roar of a lion with an added gift of Creativity. I must not waste my gifts, nor do I want to. I don’t want to waste my life. God has given me tools.
“In 2010 a retired priest, Fr. Andy, would show up at my door. He didn’t care what state of disarray I was in that day. We had work to do. The Blessed Mother told him to spread the rosary and that was what WE were going to do”
There are many rosary meditation guides but only one that is ours. He needed a designer for his guide. We bickered. We fought about which paintings should accompany each mystery. I won that battle and I feel victorious when everyone tells him how beautiful the artwork is and it’s their favourite part. I understand the beauty that draws people in; it fills us with joy. He credits the Blessed Mother but he gives me a wink. His dying sentiment, says the man who just turned 92 this past November. Why do I do it? Because I am called. It is my gift. And I am honoured. This guide is now in countless countries and at least four continents.
When the original version of the rosary meditation guide was done I missed Fr. Andy coming over. He would be there for a joke or for my tears, for the trials of isolation and unending illness. Also, for the sacrament of the sick. Most think it is called “Last Rites” as it is portrayed in movie deathbed scenes but this is not true. “Anointing of the Sick” should be received monthly when chronically ill. I did for quite some time. I miss it.
My fine art is different but they always seem to intermingle. “Cause Driven Artists” was an enlightened idea that ran out of steam before it started. Regardless, it led me to Dysautonomia Advocacy Foundation. I reached out and to my surprise the response was my gift. A friend. A confidant. A beautiful, kind soul. I began by helping with the Team DAF Art Fundraiser, in Charleston, SC. I even sold a painting! The founder’s illness keeps progressing. She could no longer carry-on and so I did because I love her. I volunteered as creative director and did all the design. I had some help to run it….grammar and legal stuff. Then it was just me. Team DAF then led me to a lovely young lady in South Africa who was inspired by DAF. She is now under an umbrella non-profit for Rare Disease South Africa and I have the honour of donating my time and talent to help with branding. These connections come in the strangest ways. Loving people a world away.
It’s not always about strength. It’s about love. I think our friends need to hear “I Love You” (on the regular.) Words and actions.
Saint Pope John Paul II said “do not be afraid. Do you not be satisfied with mediocrity. Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” I give my time and talent for those in need, whose voices need to be heard and seen. Doing ”something truly beautiful for God” Mother Teresa.
“The fruit of silence is prayer, the fruit of prayer is faith, the fruit of faith is love, the fruit of love is service, the fruit of service is peace” Mother Teresa
There’s another part. How my soul is cared for by others. Usually, I would speak of my husband and parents but this is different. In a world gone secular my soul cries. My heart breaks when fellow chronic illness patients are unbelievably self-centred. The lack of true communication, community and support is an embarrassment. This causes people to keep quiet when they need help. This causes more isolation on top of already being isolated. When I see it, I reach out.
I’ve been without support and know how it feels, yet, my mum is a daily churchgoer and the Christlike example comes from her church going friends. They support my awareness efforts, buy my acromegaly awareness T-shirt and wear them proudly, advocating! When my art is for sale on pillows in a competition they are the ones to buy. They are the ones who bring me back blessed rosaries, handkerchiefs and relics from holy places like Medjugorje, Lourdes and Fatima. They lift me up with prayer, concern, cards and love.
When I am lost, hurting and fighting despair… Too overwhelmed to concentrate, too distraught to stop crying… Simply pray…Jesus, I trust in you. Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief.
“God has given me the gift of faith. God has given me the gift of strength and I fight on for me and others. God has given me the gift of art and I will make the world a beautiful place. For the glory of God. When doing for one, you are doing it for God.“