Category Archives: Suffering

A Moment of Reflection on Suffering Pneumonia and Expectations – September 17 2017

Had a mildly challenging night. Not much sleep. Even so, up and feeling a slight bit better. Prayer time was good but not great. The violent cough soon reemerged and led me to a bit of discouragement – frustration at small things.

I was hoping that today might be a turning point. It felt possible. Not happening. As I experienced the internal physical violence that comes with pneumonia, I doubled over with my hands resting on my knees and as it subsided a hint of desolation settled in. “Breathe,” Stephanie says.

Several volcanic coughing spells spread throughout the morning. I sat down at my desk. I looked at my Plan of Love/Examen. The Spirit showed me – desolation. I noted it.

Rule 6: Although in desolation we should not change our first proposals, it is very advantageous to change ourselves intensely against the desolation itself, by insisting more upon prayer, meditation, upon much examination, and upon extending ourselves in some suitable way of doing penance.

Examination: Why am I feeling this way? I am sick. But the desolation…

The problem is in my expectations. I felt an inkling of feeling better. I managed the first coughing fits to keep them shorter. Later they worsened. So out of control. Why when all the other health indicators are good?

I need to be careful with my expectations. I need to hope that this will end soon but expect it will last a month or longer. His love is in this moment – this truth – I need the reminder of how fragile my life really is and how much I really need Him. Eyes welling with emotion. His love is present. Manage expectations. Yield.

Enough examination. A suitable penance? Offering it up for the young men entering into the High Calling program. Just the thought of offering it up… a ray of joy pierces the clouds of desolation. Welling with emotion.

What an inexplicable yet sober joy to be able to join with Christ in the redemption of the world. Rejoice – choose joy in suffering. Lean into the discomfort. He is there in the moment, waiting.

A Process of Accepting Suffering

The following is a reflection that my spiritual director sent to me. I have adapted it slightly. There is much wisdom here.

1.    Enter into the Lord’s presence and ask for His insight and grace as you seek to understand and lean into your suffering for the sake of your own salvation and that of those whom God has placed in your care.

2.    Reflect on life events or circumstances that are troubling you now or over a period of time (hours, day, days, week, month…).

3.    Name the suffering you experience (i.e., what physical/emotional/spiritual pain, disappointment, failure, frustration, loneliness, anxiety, being overwhelmed…).  There could be one suffering or a list, a litany of suffering.

4.    Acknowledge these suffering(s) to yourself recalling that you are in the presence of God.  “God, I know you are present to me.  These are the sufferings (name) that I have experienced (over a period of time – day/week/month…).”

5.    Accept or better Embrace these sufferings in a spirit of prayer and resignation.  This burden has to accepted by one’s self alone.  This is the hardest part.  “I accept these sufferings (can be named again.)”

6.    Offer to God the sufferings that you have just reflected on, named, and accepted.  A person can’t offer up to God what they haven’t accepted.  You can’t give what you don’t possess.  Acceptance is an indication of possession, ownership.  “Lord I offer to You all these sufferings (can be named again) which I have just accepted.  The acceptance and offering up sufferings have now become sacrifices.  “Lord these are my sacrifices given to you.”  You can then name people or situations that you would like to offer your sufferings for.

7.    Recognize that though what you offer is a pittance, that God’s grace will magnify your gift into an abundance of grace poured out upon the world and the needs before you. In this way, you participate in the Lord’s redemption of His people.

While this process can be done at any time, the greatest opportunity for grace as a result of offering up accepted suffering(s) – sacrifices – is during the Offertory at Mass.  Now God, through the priest, will take your sacrifices and turn them into the Body and Blood of Christ.  The effect on a soul who worthily receives the Eucharist, after offering up their personally, accepted sacrifices, is immediate.  Giving God our sacrifices is ordinarily what we are supposed to do at this point of the Mass anyway.

When a person has taken these steps they can be certain that God is with them in their struggle.  They are no longer alone.  The response of God would be the granting of the grace of the Peace of Christ.  While the suffering may not go away, the person is no longer alone, in a supreme way as they are now being accompanied by Christ in much the same way that Jesus taught, “Come to me, all you who are weary and find life burdensome, and I will refresh you.  Take my yoke upon your shoulders and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble of heart.  Your souls will find rest, for my yoke is easy and my burden light,” Matt.11:28-30.

If for some reason a person cannot make the act of acceptance on their own, they can ask God to help them.  “Lord help me to accept these sufferings which I desire to offer up to you.”  God is generous and knows your limitations.  He will help even in this.

Reflections from the Emergency Room – September 27 2017

Last night was rough. Called my cardiologist after spending too much time unconscious for us to take. “Go to the emergency room. We are going to admit you.”

UAB Birmingham – down town. Enter into the ER though a metal detector and police guard. About fifty poor souls packed the place. Profound poverty and bondage to drugs and sin. The area was filthy. Stephanie whispers in a sorrowful tone, “Please don’t pass out here.” I would have been on that floor, face down unconscious.

The poverty. Deeply sad for them. Baffled at a leftist socialist inspired system that keeps them all in bondage while claiming to care for them. The suffering is so great and the system is so profoundly evil.

I can understand why so many foolish but well intended Catholics embraced liberation theology. The problem is that when you try to implement enlightened social systems through the hands of the unregenerate, the power shifts, corrupts and then oppresses again. The only true hope for real change is through a mass revival and the restoration of the Church to its proper place in spreading the gospel through the liturgy and care for the poor.

The system oppresses, and then neatly hides the face of need from those who have the means to mitigate the need. They become numbers and political pawns. Deeply saddened. Surrounded by darkness.

Out of the darkness into the gray. Into triage. Into a room. Safe. Fr. Jerabek arrives just in time. Confession. Anointing of the sick. Love from a very good holy and faithful priest. So blessed.

Screaming in the hall. Drugs. Desperation. A place to stay. A fake illness to get admitted so he doesn’t have to sleep in the bushes or be assaulted in the night.

Coughing so hard – pass out again – safe on a bed. Completely exhausted. Morphine. Emotion. I hate that Stephanie has to watch her beloved lose consciousness over and over again. Cough pass out. Wake up – offer it up for RAZ and the seminarians and the requests of the beautiful ones of Apostoli Viae and the anawim in Puerto Rico.

Phone call from another beautiful priest – Fr. Chris Clay. Prayers over the phone and encouragement. So blessed.

My son and his wife arrive. What a gift to see them – it has been too long. They are happy. Coughing pass out. Seeing the tears in my son’s eyes with the morphine in my blood, tears flow. I am tired and really beat up. Sick of this. Offer it up for RAZ and her little one and for the seminarians.

We laugh and cry and share memories for hours.

My son prays lays hands on me with Stephanie and Julianne his wife. Through tears begs the Lord to help me. Past 1:00 AM and he needs to go. Deeply blessed by his faithfulness and care and his new career outside of law enforcement. He only needs to survive two more weeks.

Sleep a few hours. Wake up strengthened. Blessed by a remarkable wife and her devotion. Things I am grateful for:

  • Hope is never disappointed when it is placed in my blessed Jesus and our Most Holy and Merciful Trinity.
  • My wife – a truly extraordinary woman.
  • The ability to suffer and offer it up for so many. My offerings are a pittance but through God’s grace they are magnified and poured out in abundance on His beloved people.
  • EWTN – health coverage. The best health plan. So generous.
  • The best medical care in the world at UAB.
  • The generous care of our friend Deacon Neal Kay – retired cardiologist.
  • The prayers and comforting words of so many priests and religious.
  • The prayers and comforting words of my Apostoli Viae family.
  • The prayers and support from the National Catholic Register team – remarkable people.
  • Starbucks coffee and prayer in the hospital room.
  • The competence and dedication of the people in the organizations I am responsible for and how well things are going in all cases.
  • A remarkably kind hospital staff – especially considering the clientele they handle and how embittered they could be if they let it affect them.

I am blessed.

Coughing episodes twice. No passing out. Praise God. Offering up the suffering again. More medical treatment to come. Please Lord help the docs to come to clarity and a treatment plan that works.

Peace.

The Other Side of Pain

I wrote this post quite a few years ago and the poem decades ago (updated about seven years ago). I don’t know why I didn’t publish it. A student at the Avila Institute reminded me that I had written the poem and shared it once in class. She took a screen shot and shared with another student. By God’s grace, I had opportunity to see them both this past weekend and they both independently reminded me and noted the impact on them. Here’s the long overdue post.

During my prayer this morning I was once again moved to tears as I considered the words of Christ in the context of my own suffering.  But before I begin, it is important to note that my wife read the draft of this post and indicated that it was a bit surreal. So, to be clear, it is all true. In fact, because of the brevity required in the post, it is really a significant understatement.  So, here it is, as it is, raw and relatively unfiltered.

My body has never been a good friend to me; countless surgeries, almost constant pain and fatigue have troubled me all my life.  With respect to my youth, if you can imagine any home where gunfire might occur, and where your mother is beaten into the emergency room, you might suspect it to be a devastating place for the heart of a child.  The early loss of a best friend to a drunk driver, coupled with the loss of two siblings in their 30’s, and then a niece at two years old, and more surgeries…

Then, just before the 911 attacks, and just after publishing a business book, I quit my job to start a consulting company. This perfect storm resulted in financial devastation. This financial disaster, my own sin, my health challenges, and a more complete turning to God – all culminated in my first wife’s decision to abandon the faith and our relationship. Since then, two emergency surgeries to save my life. The pain is still almost constant.

So – I have known a little suffering.  But this morning, in prayer, in pain, I was overcome with gratitude. Why? Because, by His mercy, He has met me in my suffering.  Through these experiences, I have come to know Him in a way I could have never imagined. These thoughts sum up what I have learned by experience, prayer and meditation on God’s wisdom in scripture regarding suffering.

If I have not been in pain, He has not relieved me

If I have not been sad, He has not lifted my heart to heaven

If I have not been reviled, He has not comforted me

If I have not been abandoned, He has not come to me

If I have not been broken, He has not healed me

If I have not been lost, He has not shown me the way

If I have not been in sin, He has not redeemed me

If I have not been without a friend, He has not walked beside me

If I have not mourned, He has not comforted me

If I have not been betrayed, He has not restored me

If I have not been in chains, He has not set me free

If I have not wept, He has not dried my tears

If I have not been in the depths of darkness, He has not brought me into to the light

If I have not suffered, I have not known Him

The ultimate and most profound joy I have known in my life is in knowing Christ. I would not have known Him even in the small ways that I do, without suffering. Though I would not willfully choose the path I have traveled, I would choose it if I knew it was the only path to Him.

My suffering has come because of my sin, the economy, my health, circumstances beyond my control, the sin of others, the sin of Adam. However, how can I feel anything but gratitude?  I have found Him there! I have found the greatest treasures of my life in the midst of the greatest pain.

He is there in the darkness. You will find him if you will only reach out for Him. But, if you can, when you extend your hand, don’t ask for relief or remedy for the very circumstance that has you seeking the only real answer to life’s cruelty.  Just, ask for His presence.  He will respond – you will know Him as you could not, without suffering.  Only in Him will you find peace and rest for you soul in the midst of darkness.

“Come unto me all you who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest.” He keeps His promises.