Deafness is a burden for any who suffers from it. Imagine the heavy burden it was for a gifted musician, a composer whose head and heart were crammed with musical ideas waiting to be realized in sound when he learned he was going deaf. That is how it was for Ludwig von Beethoven, the 19th century German composer whose birth we commemorate today, December 16. In a moving testament to his brothers, he despaired over his progressive loss of hearing and contemplated suicide. “It is only art that held me back,” he wrote. It was what he knew he had to give the world in music that sustained him. Beethoven’s most beautiful compositions, written when he was completely deaf, were never heard by him. Who or what sustains us in our darkest hours? To whom are we “sustainers” when difficulties threaten others? May God assist us, one and all, to carry the burdens in our lives.