In Seeking Wisdom, Find Someone Who Has Suffered

Over 22 years ago as I was finishing seminary and about to be ordained my spiritual director gave me some advice on seeking a new spiritual director in my diocese. “Look for some one who has suffered,” He said. At the time I wondered about this but have come to find that it was true.

Suffering brings a profound wisdom if it is endured with faith. I have also discovered this in my own life. As much as I have hated any suffering I have endured I have to admit it has brought gifts in strange packages. Through it I discovered gifts and strengths I did not know I had. Through it I experienced things I would have avoided. Through I learned to seek help and not depend so much on myself. Through it I became better equipped to help others in their struggles. Through suffering my faith grew and so did my compassion and generosity for others who have struggled.

The scriptures say that “A broken humbled heart the Lord will not scorn” (Ps 51). A few years ago my current spiritual director shared a strange saying with me: Everything needs a crack in it, that’s how the light gets in.” Yes indeed, the light gets in through a broken heart, a heart with fissures or openings. Rarely does the light get in through a perfect wall, a perfect and strong barrier.

This is a painful truth to be sure and it makes me want to run. But in the end I have learned that it is true. God has done more with my brokenness than my strength. And, in a paradoxical way, my brokenness has become more and more my strength. I wonder if you have experienced the same? Where would we be without our crosses and sufferings? What do we have of true value that has not come at the price of suffering?

Let me get out the way and let a Saint explain it. This is from St. Rose of Lima whose feast we celebrated yesterday. This is an excerpt of what was in the breviary:

Our Lord and Saviour lifted up his voice and said with incomparable majesty: “Let all men know that grace comes after tribulation. Let them know that without the burden of afflictions it is impossible to reach the height of grace. Let them know that the gifts of grace increase as the struggles increase. Let men take care not to stray and be deceived. This is the only true stairway to paradise, and without the cross they can find no road to climb to heaven.”

When I heard these words, a strong force came upon me and seemed to place me in the middle of a street, so that I might say in a loud voice to people of every age, sex and status: “Hear, O people; hear, O nations. I am warning you about the commandment of Christ by using words that came from his own lips: We cannot obtain grace unless we suffer afflictions. We must heap trouble upon trouble to attain a deep participation in the divine nature, the glory of the sons of God and perfect happiness of soul.”

Suffer well fellow Christians. Beg deliverance to be sure but realize that even in the delay of relief, God is up to something good.
If this post seems familiar, it is. I am away on vacation this week and some (not all) of my posts will be repeats.

13 Replies to “In Seeking Wisdom, Find Someone Who Has Suffered”

  1. Love wants to suffer for the one it loves. How can i truly believe myself when i proclaim that i love God if i can’t prove it to myself when i suffer.

  2. Epistle 237
    My some thoughts about “the homily” of Msgr. Charles Pope are here below:
    Firstly, in the homily, Msgr. Charles Pope said that sometimes we seek wisdom, but as a result we find sufferings.
    Father also said that he has a joyful vacation in this week, but he finds a great suffering because he must post some his old homilies on the blog.
    Thus, theme of the homily is wisdom.
    Secondly, now permit me to say some my thoughts to relate to the theme of the homily hereafter:
    Most Vietnamese people from aged 18 and above all are wise people because they knew the wise story of “two mothers and a baby”.
    Most wise people have admitted that they are an only author of the story of two mothers and a baby.
    The wise story is “Two women came before a King to resolve a quarrel over which was the true mother of a baby. When the King suggests dividing the living child in two with a sword, the true mother is revealed to him as she is willing to give up her child rather than see the baby killed. The King then declares the woman who shows compassion to be the true mother, and gives the baby to her”.
    Most Vietnamese people except Catholics did not know that the King of above story is Solomon.
    And they also did not know that story of Solomon is in 1Kings 3:16-28 of OT.
    And most Vietnamese people as well as Vietnamese Catholics also did not know that who is author of the 1Kings.
    As a result, all Vietnamese Catholics have said that the story of “two mothers and a baby” is theirs because OT belongs to Catholics./.

  3. Excellent post. It is so true, you will often find a quiet wisdom lurking in those who have suffered greatly.

  4. As I read these profound words my soul was lifted. I had not really reflected on my afflictions, but I can now see the lessons they have taught me. I pray I carry my burdens with dignity and humility.

  5. A very valuable lesson. Hopefully all the cracks from the earthquake in Washington DC and surrounding states will awaken everyone to the fact that life here is a preparation for everlasting life. Everything material passes away. Natural disasters often awaken in people the need to help others who are suffering.

  6. So true!! Cannot help but think of the billions who suffered in silence around the world over the the course of human history. Just imagine the accumulated wisdom waiting for us!

  7. I hope you have a good vacation. This is a post worth repeating. I love the quote from your spiritual director, “Everything needs a crack in it, that’s how the light gets in.”

  8. The quotation from the spiritual director is the refrain from a favorite song, “Anthem” by Leonard Cohen:

    Ring the bells that still can ring
    Forget your perfect offering
    There is a crack in everything
    That’s how the light gets in.

  9. Wishing you a well deserved vacation. I’m not sure, but isn’t your church St. Gabriel? I saw a write up that
    several churches in DC sustained damage, and St. Gabriel was one of them. I hope it won’t be too costly to
    repair. And now the hurricane. But thanks for your post, very true.

    1. No I am at Holy Comforter and our frescos in the church sustained minor damage that must be repaired. Also the smokestack at the school is leaning and must be taken down tomorrow before the winds of the hurricane topple it. It could be worse, but we were not spared all damage.

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