Saturday, August 1, 2009



The Department of Red Faces

This incident is truly embarrassing but may, I think, be valuable for you to know about.
A couple of weeks ago I was on retreat, and went in for a spiritual chat with the retreat director, Fr. Xavier Nacke, O.S.B., a monk of Conception Abbey, Missouri. In the course of our conversation I told him that I was due to have an MRI on my lower back because the pain was now becoming constant and often unbearable, keeping me from taking long walks or standing for any period of time and making me sneak an occasional seat while presiding at mass.

Fr. Xavier said to me, "Certainly you've been meditating on how your pain and suffering connects with the suffering of your community with its lack of new vocations, right?" I was amazed to realize that no, I hadn't been reflecting on the meaning of my suffering at all!

You should know, by the way, that two weeks before that I had given a retreat to my brother Benedictines at Saint Andrew Abbey in Cleveland; my back was so bad that I had to sit down while I was preaching -- something I never do. I was taking Aleve every few hours. But it never occurred to me that my pain might have any sort of spiritual usefulness or purpose for the people on that retreat!
For the past four months I've been blogging about "a spirituality for troubled times," without once reflecting in my blog on my ineffective trips to the chiropractor, my appointment at the pain center, my MRI or all those empty bottles of Aleve.

As my mother used to say, "That's the height of something-or-other!"

It's amazing that I could have missed this for so long. Especially in the midst of my preaching, writing and blogging about our wilderness experiences, about our suffering getting meaning from the sufferings of Christ on Calvary and God's plan to ultimately turn our suffering into victory.

If you'd like to make this into a cautionary tale the moral might go like this: Take a close look at your life because the Lord may be trying to speak to you through your suffering while you're searching somewhere else.
Let me close with a quote from a previously cited book by Richard Rohr: "Sometimes God comes to you disguised as your life."
The Lord's been visiting me for months and I've been too busy writing about my own ideas to notice.
Excuse me, but I really do have to go get some ice for my back.



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