No facet of human life is contemplated upon as much as the question of, “Why does suffering exist?” Philosophers have attempted to find a suitable answer to this dilemma, with a plethora of answers resulting. Atheists use this as an “opportunity” to “prove” the non-existence of God, saying that if He were to exist, He would stop calamities automatically. Not only is this a puerile understanding of God, but it’s also a projection of their own deep-seated daddy issues. Others attribute it to either human selfishness (such as Buddhist sects), the existence of sin (within circles of Christianity), or an endless cycle of consequences stemming from past actions (karma from Hinduism). I will not venture to provide my own answer to this dilemma, but rather I will focus on the response to such.
In the second chapter of St. Alphonsus Liguori’s Uniformity With God’s Will, the esteemed Doctor of the Church expresses how every Christian ought to act towards difficulties in life, ranging from physical ills, personal problems, or human contempt: not with despair or seeking vengeance, but rather with sheer indifference, recognizing that they are all part of God’s plan for us, although we might not be able to see it as such at the time; he encourages positivity in light of the things that come before us. Such is exemplified by Konno Yuuki, the secondary, Catholic protagonist of from episodes 18-24 of Sword Art Online II, also known as Mother’s Rosario.
The essence of perfection is to embrace the will of God in all things, prosperous or adverse. In prosperity, even sinners find it easy to unite themselves to the divine will; but it takes saints to unite themselves to God’s will when things go wrong and are painful to self-love. Our conduct in such instances is the measure of our love of God.St. Alphonsus Liguori, Uniformity With God’s Will, paragraph 1
KONNO YUUKI: CHARACTER INFO
Amongst all the characters from the Sword Art Online franchise, Konno Yuuki happens to be my favourite. On the surface, she’s a happy-go-lucky 15-year old girl with a penchant for virtual gaming, having already achieved a reputation as a capable fighter, known by many as “Zekken”, or “Absolute Sword”. She is the founder of her own guild, the Sleeping Knights, which consist of her and five other players: Siune, Jun, Tecchi, Talken, and Nori. While other players with such gaming capabilities often find themselves boasting about their superiority, Yuuki is the opposite; she’s humble, graceful, optimistic and prefers to use her influence for the good of others, rather than herself. Her special ability is an 11-hit combo where she leaves cross-shaped marks on her opponent, titled Mother’s Rosario – hence the name of the arc, and an allusion to the decades of the Rosary.
Upon her first appearance in episode 19, she befriends Asuna, who she initially duels, and is won over by her fighting skills – sparking the adventure of this arc. Together with her and the Sleeping Knights they successfully defeat the boss of the 27th floor, etching their names onto the game’s hall of fame. Although in-game she seems to be full of life, beyond the pixels, as shown in episodes 22-23, a vastly different story is told. Born to a Catholic family on Pentecost Sunday 15 years prior, the real Konno Yuuki, like the other members of her guild, is actually a terminally ill girl suffering from AIDS, which she contracted during a blood transfusion gone wrong. For the rest of her life, her journey was a constant struggle, alienating her from her other classmates and society in general.
Due to the effects of her continually weakening immune system, she eventually required permanent hospitalization, and willingly registered herself to be the first test user of a medical care system known as the Medicuboid, designed to both alleviate the pain and let her experience a new life she couldn’t have. It is during her time in the Medicuboid that she loses her parents and eldest sister, but nevertheless she continues to fight on with the will to live, despite the difficulties of her physical condition; but unfortunately, God calls her back into His arms one fateful Palm Sunday evening. She dies peacefully in Asuna’s arms, surrounded by Kirito, Klein, Lizbeth, and many other players who paid tribute to her.
P.S: I looked up the dates when she was born/died (23 May 2010 / 29 March 2026 respectively), and yes – those liturgical assignments are accurate according to the 1962 Roman Missal. Not only is that an interesting fact, but I find this rather an act of Divine Providence, deepening the Catholic connection of the character, being born on the birthday of Christ’s Church and dying on the week of His Passion.
A SMILE ON HER FACE, EVEN THROUGH TRIALS
One of the most defining characteristics of Yuuki is that she’s full of joy and happiness despite her deteriorating health. In episode 23, while visiting her old house with Asuna, she remarks one incident where she, her mother and her older sister were praying at church; her mother tells her that “God wouldn’t put us through all this suffering if He didn’t think we could bear it”. No statement best summarizes her character, than this one. When Asuna first arrives at the hospital where she was staying, her caretaker, Dr. Kurahashi, greets her, and enters a brief discussion about Yuuki in general. One of the bits of the conversation goes like this:
Asuna: By the way, did Yuuki ever mention me to you?
Dr. Kurahashi: As a matter of fact, she does – very often! Though she usually ends up crying after she finishes. Despite her painful condition, she never once complains about it. She longs to meet you in person, but hasn’t found the time to do such.Dr. Kurahashi introduces the real Yuuki to Asuna
Sickness and poor health are unfortunate things for one to experience, be it a case of a mild flu or cancer, and it can cause us to miss out on a lot of the things we would like to do. We might even lament the situation that has befallen us, and wish for better days ahead. But not so, St. Alphonsus says. Instead of mulling over the various possibilities of what could have been, he suggests we live in the present, accept the situation, and try to make the most of what we can. All the more, we ought to thank God for bringing this upon us rather than complain – as one priest told me in Confession weeks ago, “You might have avoided a worse situation if things turned out the way they weren’t now”.
St. Alphonsus goes on in this chapter to describe the story of St. Job from the Old Testament, who faces many calamities from the Devil – ranging from painful bodily sores, the loss of his earthly estate, and even the death of his sons in a freak accident; but he does not apostasize, even after everything that has happened. He doesn’t even ask the question “God, what did I do to deserve all these afflictions?” Instead, he humbly acknowledges these all as parts of God’s plan, and proudly emboldens his allegiance to Him; much to the Devil’s chagrin, who originally bet against that happening. His patience in the midst of adversity marks a parallel to Yuuki’s own challenges, as she faces it headstrong with, as Dr. Kurahashi mentions, a smile on her face, and a twofold determination to move forward.
When the messenger came to announce to Job that the Sabeans had plundered his goods and slain his children, he said: “The Lord gave and the Lord taketh away.” He did not say: “The Lord hath given me my children and my possessions, and the Sabeans have taken them away.” He realized that adversity had come upon him by the will of God. Therefore he added: “As it hath pleased the Lord, so is it done. Blessed be the name of the Lord.” We must not therefore consider the afflictions that come upon us as happening by chance or solely from the malice of men; we should be convinced that what happens, happens by the will of God.St. Alphonsus Liguori, Uniformity With God’s Will; chapter 2.3
AIDS, altogether, means nothing to Yuuki – rather it gives her a starting point to mold her life in the way she can, rather than in the way she wishes she could. That moment in the church made her realize that Divine Providence was keeping her at bay, which spurs her will to do whatever she can in the short time she has left, rather than waste it away in moping; which leads me to the next point.
UNIFORMITY WITH GOD’S WILL IS BEING FEARLESS THROUGH SUFFERING
Yuuki was also described as a victim of bullying; it can be presumed with moral certainty that her condition kept her largely away from school, and with few friends. But, as episode 23, it doesn’t bother her much; when discussing their relationships with their parents; Yuuki’s who was deceased, and Asuna, who the arc shows she is de facto distant from:
Asuna: …Tell me, it was you who said that some things can only be shared through a fight – but how can you be so strong after all this?
Yuuki: Quite the opposite actually, I’m not strong after all.
Asuna: Nonsense! You’re the type that never concerns themselves with what others say or think about you…
Yuuki: Before I was in the VR constantly, I always tried to be someone I wasn’t. I’d keep up an act of being happy all the time, so others around me won’t feel too bad. I don’t think that’s bad though, smiling through all those rough patches. I don’t have much time left in this world, so there’s no more point in faking my way anymore – I’ll just say what’s on my mind, without a care of what others think! Whatever happens, it doesn’t change the fact that I was close to the ones I loved.Asuna and Yuuki go over the latter’s confident personality
Compare this dialogue with St. Alphonsus, on the same kind of situation:
Furthermore, we must unite ourselves to God’s will not only in things that come to us directly from His hands, such as sickness, desolation, poverty, death of relatives, but likewise in those we suffer from man – for example, contempt, injustice, loss of reputation, loss of temporal goods and all kinds of persecution… It is certain and of faith, that whatever happens, happens by the will of God.St. Alphonsus Liguori, Uniformity With God’s Will; chapter 2.2
Like Yuuki, who sought to find happiness and calm despite her critical condition – in a sense, leaving herself to the justice of God – the saint also implores us to humbly accept God’s disposition first, rather than follow others just because. For, if one were to take heed to whatever insults, praise, or reproach comes to us, and direct those words towards our own ego, we’re only going to end up even more confused as to our own identity. If we try to please others and live for that, we risk surrendering our morals and principles, following a fallible person who may or may not have the best interests in mind for us. Yuuki makes note of this when she explains to Asuna about how she tried her hardest to form a façade for her whole life, before realizing near the end of her life, how life is what you make of it – and not how others dictate it for you. And for the Christian, life is about simply discerning and following God’s will in all things, accepting whatever path He writes for them to the end.
This discourse reminds me of the response of the first Pope, St. Peter, and the rest of the Apostles (bishops) in communion with him, when charged by the Jewish leaders to refrain from teaching in Christ’s name: “We ought to obey God, rather than men.” (Acts 5:29) When they followed up with beatings, they thanked God all the more that they could suffer for His name, and persisted in continuing the Christian ministry. In like manner, even the beatings brought on by AIDS was not enough to bring Yuuki down.
The chapter ends with St. Alphonsus recounting a story between an abbot and a devout monk who, in spite of his adequate exterior spirituality, was filled with such a strong love of God that nothing could rock him away from it. His full embrace of following the Divine Will leads further to his own sanctification, and leaves the abbot inspired. The life and the memory he leaves behind serves as his own legacy for others to remember, the lesson of equal importance being that those who glory in God through the good and bad, will receive plenty of His graces and put them to good use:
“Prosperity does not lift me up, nor adversity cast me down”, said the monk. “I direct all my prayers to the end that God’s will may be done fully in me and by me.”St. Alphonsus Liguori, Uniformity With God’s Will; chapter 2.6
“That raid that our enemies made against the monastery the other day, in which our stores were plundered, our granaries put to the torch and our cattle driven off – did not this misfortune cause you any resentment?” queried the abbot.
“No, Father,” came the reply. “On the contrary, I returned thanks to God – as is my custom in such circumstances – fully persuaded that God does all things, or permits all that happens, for his glory and for our greater good; thus I am always at peace, no matter what happens.”
Episode 24 sees Yuuki’s condition becoming more fragile. Meeting Asuna one last time in the same place they first met, she gifts her ability to her, who promises to remember her by it and keep her memory alive. Her last earthly moments are spent in peaceful contemplation of her life, with thankfulness for everything she experienced, no matter the ups and downs. Her final words ring as beautifully as possible: “I lived my life, as best as I could” – echoing St. Paul’s very own “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7) to his disciple St. Timothy. No regrets in her tone at all. Asuna and Siune finally meet in real life following Yuuki’s Requiem Mass, have this to say about her legacy:
Siune: Three years ago, I was diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia… at times I lost my will to live. But Yuuki was there to cheer me up, always asking me why a big girl like her was crying… a week after she left this world, it was thanks to her that my leukemia started receding…
Asuna: Jun, these days, I have been thinking… for a long time I was scared of showing my feelings to others. Yuuki taught me that it wasn’t right to live like this. If I don’t reach out to others, nothing won’t happen. I’m going to share the strength and lessons I received from her, and pass on her memory as long as I live. I hope she’ll be happy by the lives I’ve changed.Asuna and Jun reflect on Yuuki’s presence in their lives
Thus ends the saga of Konno Yuuki, solidifying her short, but bittersweet appearance in the Sword Art Online epoch: that of a kind-hearted soul bent on living the life God gave her, in spite of its difficulties – just as St. Alphonsus recommended.
Something struck me as familiar with Konno Yuuki’s story; it reminded me of that of St. Bernadette Soubirous of Lourdes. Born to a large French Catholic family, like the former she grew up in poor health, often falling behind her peers’ academic performance. Yet, on 11 February 1858, she received a vision of the Blessed Virgin Mary, who would appear to her for the next 18 weeks after that, revealing herself at one point as the Immaculate Conception – a Marian dogma which Pope Pius IX proclaimed only ten years prior – and later used as testimony of the apparitions’ genuineness. The grotto she visited, the site of these visions, would later spring up healing water, with confirmed cures, and became a site of pilgrimage still visited by millions today. Later in her life, St. Bernadette joined a convent, giving up her days in service of the Lord, and, afflicted by tuberculosis near the end of her life, she continued to offer up her sufferings to the Lord in perfect alignment with His will, and died peacefully imploring the Mother of God’s intercession and mercy.
St. Bernadette did not let her physical suffering impede her duties – nor did her status as a visionary lead her astray to pride and perdition. Neither did Konno Yuuki seek fame and opulence with her gaming skills, while bemoaning her sickness; rather, her life was filled with much joy and unceasing love for living. For this reason I find the Mother’s Rosario segment special, and would happily recommend it to anyone. Unlike any other Sword Art Online arcs that are mostly action-centered, this one is more spiritual in nature, focusing on perseverance in suffering, and implicitly teaching us to unite them to God every moment we can. After all, in one of the visions of Our Lady to St. Bernadette, she left these words as a reminder of the end goal of Christian life, and of our own devotion to God:
I do not promise to make you happy in this life, but in the next.Our Lady to St. Bernadette, 18 February 1858