Thursday, January 13, 2011

Beautiful thoughts on suffering and spirituality

I am not Catholic, but I have found great wisdom in the writings of the saints, so I often find myself reading things written by those of Catholic persuasion.
A friend sent this to me and it is written by a Catholic priest,
Fr. Antonin Gilbert Sertillanges, OP
"Man is an apprentice, pain is his master, no one knows himself until he has suffered." These words inspire admiration; but how many are prepared to accept the consequences? So laborious an apprenticeship would only be undertaken by one really determined to become a master craftsman, fully appreciative of self-knowledge as a sovereign good. But that, too, must first be learned.
Without sorrow one might perhaps be happy, but one would not be aware of it. What would such happiness amount to?
It does not suffice to endure suffering in order to acquire experience. This demands reflection about oneself and the essential conditions of life. With still greater reason, the utilization of experience is not thus acquired; it requires the tranquilizing of the soul in God: it takes love, without which suffering embitters and confuses the soul instead of enlightening it.
Suffering is an extreme remedy which either cures the ill or makes it worse, which strengthens or kills. Both the physician's prescription and his attendance are necessary. 'Unhappy is he,' says St. Bernard, 'who carries the cross of Jesus but who is not with Jesus.'...
We console a person by sympathizing with his grief; but especially by showing him its beauty.

As a nurse, I've devoted my life to the care of those who are suffering. my age I've seen suffering in many forms, even my own before I became ill. In every instance, suffering forces introspection and thus, inward spiritual reflection. Prior to having Hep C, I would have said I'd not take back any of the suffering in my life as those were the experiences which helped me grow as a person in many ways, but most apparent is a deepening spiritual connection I felt with each instance, even at times, the suffering of others. I can't honestly say I am happy to have contracted Hepatitis C; it has caused immense growth and forces me to face all of my shortcomings. One can suffer well, as the writer indicated. But my current situation is tough. I don't want to suffer anymore. I don't want to die. I've had to think I may have to give up the dreams I had of growing old; time with my spouse, weddings, knowing my grandchildren. As Fr. Sertillanges stated, I don't want to become the embittered one. I want to realize my full potential within the limitations of my illness.