The Burden and the Blessing


I’d like to tell you a little bit about a woman named Angela.

Angela had the kind of story that makes the single among us say, “Wow, she’s really lucky.” In 2003, when she was 23 years old, she moved to Phoenix, simply because she felt God was calling her there. The next year, she met a wonderful, holy man who became her husband. They went on to have two beautiful children and the kind of really happy, loving marriage that can only exist between two people who put God at the center of their lives.

“Why can’t that happen to me?” we ask. “I can’t find anyone. Why doesn’t God call me to some city where I’d meet someone wonderful and find a happy marriage?”

Before you jump to any conclusions, let’s fast-forward a few years. In the early morning hours of Easter Sunday 2011, her husband, Chris takes Angela to the hospital to treat what they believe is constipation. What they find instead is stage four colon cancer that has already spread to her liver.

Are you still thinking she lived a fairy tale?

So what did she say when she received this devastating news? I know what I’d probably say, and it wouldn’t be pretty. But Angela, faced with the very real possibility that she may die and leave her husband and two very young children, said “But Jesus still rose, so we will trust.”

And she did. She trusted Him as she faced aggressive treatment after aggressive treatment. She trusted Him as she grew smaller and weaker. She trusted Him when the doctors told her that there was nothing more they could do. She was human, of course. She didn’t want to die and leave her family. She said that when she couldn’t say, “Jesus, I trust in you,” she would hold her husband’s hand and ask him to say it for her.

Three days after her diagnosis, she wrote “Perhaps the burden will become the greatest blessing in our lives.”

She offered her sufferings as a prayer—for the intentions of others, and in particular for children who suffer from chronic illnesses.

Her story went viral. Thousands upon thousands of people learned about this courageous young woman who had entrusted her life completely to God in the midst of enormous suffering.

And God acted in the midst of it. Stories began to pour in from people who were rediscovering their faith, rediscovering God and learning to trust Him again. Angela changed the lives of people she had never even met.

Angela breathed her last breath on September 21, 2012, moments after her 5-year-old daughter kissed her cheek, and a day before her son turned 3. She left friends with explicit instructions for his birthday party—a mother to the end.

At her funeral, Fr. John Parks said that “Angela’s faith never looked so pure, it never looked so beautiful, it never looked so luminous than when she prepared for death.” The burden indeed became the blessing, when she turned it over for God. And as God continues to work through her, people continue to hear her story, to respond to the grace that she won for them, and to turn back to Christ.

Here’s what I’m thinking: if Angela could trust God with the burden of facing death in her early 30s, I’m thinking maybe I can learn to trust him with the “burden” of being single—and with every other burden life presents to me. St. Paul said “we know that all things work for good for those who love the Lord and walk according to His purposes” (Rom 8:28).  All things. If it’s true for a life cut tragically short, then it’s certainly true for whatever little trials I may have to endure. If I give them to God, He will bring good from them. I know that.

After her death, Angela’s husband Chris—a man who knows a thing or two about burdens—said, “The burden becomes the blessing if we accept all life as a gift and turn to God in our burdens. When we allow God the Father to teach us, Jesus the Son to show us the way, the Holy Spirit our consoler to help us—the burden will indeed be the blessing.”

And it will, indeed. 




  1. Joan-529855 May 27, 2015 Reply

    Just saw this “story” by MB Bonacci. I live in Phoenix and knew both Chris and Angela. BTW, Angela did not move to PHoenix simply because she felt God was calling her there…just to set the record straight. Yes, Angela suffered physically and Chris suffered emotionally, however life goes on. As was pointed out earlier, everyone dies eventually. Chris has since remarried and his children have a new “mom”. I agree with Pat. Comparing the sorrow & loneliness of a grieving spouse to that of the never married is comparing apples to oranges; two completely different experiences. Now throw in the sorrow of the divorced and you have a “fruit salad, apples, oranges, and grapes”. None of these experiences can be compared to another; they are all very different experiences.

  2. Janice-991155 November 11, 2013 Reply

    A beautiful story and a most beautiful prayer that Angela prayed – simply “Jesus, I trust You.” Thank you for Angela’s story, reminding me how much God loves us, what a gift all of life is, and that He is there for each of us always and in all things. Blessings to her family and to her memory.

  3. Leigh-893114 September 2, 2013 Reply

    I just have to believe God has a plan and He will take care of us. We all have burdens, we all go to our Lord with Clay feet. None of us have a right to compare our struggles. I have had a tumor and am a widow, but the lonliness of being a single parent is overwhelming. Still I am a better person for having loved ( and loving) my husband. God has a plan for all of us. I can do ALL things through Christ who Strengthens me.

  4. Richard-923328 December 26, 2012 Reply

    Awesome story. I am hoping more Catholics come to faith as a result.

  5. RJ-757098 December 21, 2012 Reply

    Yes, but it IS a kind of “fairytale” because she did know the love of a good husband and she did have two children. We all have to die and to suffer, but some people have terrible sickness like this woman did, but WITHOUT the love, husband and children. Having wonderful blessings in life for a time is better than never having them at all. Every good thing we enjoy on earth must end sooner or later but how sad not to experience the things so many other people do at all. If i didn’t know God better I would say that He “plays favourites” because that is certainly how it appears.

  6. Tanya-63933 December 20, 2012 Reply

    I agree with Pat. I was just having this conversation today about people qualifying and quantifying grief, suffering, and loss.

  7. Pat-5351 December 11, 2012 Reply

    I want to share a slightly different viewpoint on this. Yes, it is a great tragedy that Angela died, and heroic how her husband Chris has carried on. Both are fine examples of Christian life and should be admired and followed.

    But I think to compare tragic death from cancer, with “the little burdens” of being single really does an injustice to the unfulfilled vocation of marriage, and is at least a part of why no one respects the pain many of us experience from being unmarried when you want to be/are called to be.

    When you compare yourself to tragic death, of course, whatever you are dealing with seems “less” than that. But I am saying that is not really fair to speak that way of something as important as the vocation of marriage, and therefore also not fair to the very significant burden/loss it is not to have it.

    We wonder why no one in the Church respects our state of life and our grief over it, because we denigrate it and make it less because “compared to this” what do I have to be in sorrow over? Loss of the vocation of marriage, including through never having had it, is a great loss, and should not be made “less than” any other tragic situation. It is tragic, tragic like death. And we have to talk about that, because otherwise no one is ever going to respect our loss or grief over it, and until then we will remain the second class citizens we often seem to be in the Church.

    • Hugh-1148390 July 7, 2015 Reply

      To have love and to lose it in a painful death is hard, you know the unbounded joy of complete love that is now gone is an unspeakable pain.
      Once again you seek what is lost, hopeful, but fear the risk of loss again. You overcome the grief of loss, you pick up what you will and offer that new maturity to a love anew. You know what can be and strive to offer that renewed self to a vey precious person.
      You love completely again.
      God is present in that love renewed, complete again.

      I seek that love today and forever.

  8. Mari-611004 December 10, 2012 Reply

    …if God can turn night into day, He can turn a burden into a blessing…

  9. Mac-864437 December 9, 2012 Reply

    Myself kens wha’ Chris ist gang throught though my story ist a wee bit different.
    In July o’ 2007 my wtfe wast diagnosed wi’ colon cancer. She went through the surgery an’ then chemo treatments. She wast in remission until September o’ 2009 when she came doon wi’ fluid on the brain, bacterial meningtis an’ strep pneumonia. We spent 3 an’ a half in ICU nae suer if she wast gang tae make it. Through the prayers o’ myself, the TN Knichts o’ Columbus an’ the parish, she pulled through (she wast a fighter, aye). She went an’ stayed wi’ our daugther tha’ October an’ in April o’ 2010 she asked tae coom back hame. She wast back on chemo which dinna dae anything an’ on 3 March 2011 she wast taken aff chemo ast it wast nae dae anything (the cancer had settled in her liver). Myself an’ all those mentioned above had continued tae pray for her an’ ast sayd afore she wast a fighter but on 26 October 2011 she went hame tae GOD.
    This ist worst thing tha ye can face an’ ken tha’ all ye can dae ist pray an’ watch them slowly fade awa’.
    Chris, myself feels ye pain an’ ken tha’ it will make ye a stronger person. Dinna gie up on the prayers!!!!
    Mac (an’ auld an’ ancient Scot!)

  10. Angela-656292 December 9, 2012 Reply

    Chris my husband died of cancer in 2009, and related to your story with very similar experiences. I hope the love of your children, remind you daily of the blessings you received from your marriage, however so short, as mine have me. God’s peace and blessings to you and your children, especially during the holidays.

  11. Kathy-730470 December 9, 2012 Reply

    A story of a very faithful woman. Sad though none the less. As a mother myself it makes me very sad for her, her children and her husband.

  12. Jennie-137765 December 9, 2012 Reply

    Amazing story…very selfless, loving, and Christ-centered woman…what we all aim to imitate…faith and trust in God in all circumstances…not just when things go the way we want them to…

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