This Benedictine at Saint Paul’s Outside the Walls – the last of the four Major Basilicas in Rome that I’ll be able to visit this time around – was born the same year as my own dad, 1924. I was born late in his life.
I sat down with him for a visit and I found out he had suffered quite a bit in his life. I very stupidly repeated a platitude to him. Don’t do that with wise people unless you’re willing to be humiliated.
- Me: Suffering teaches a lot.
- Him: Pfft. No. God teaches a lot.
Update: I had lapsed, of course, into some brand of Pelagianism here. In putting this up again as a kind of confession, I recall other conversations I’ve had across the decades when others have stated that “Suffering teaches a lot,” and then have gone on to recite their suffering, some of which, mind you, was crushing just to hear. Did I have the clarity and simplicity to say: “Pfft. No. God teaches a lot.” No, no I didn’t. A pity that.
But I have a solution, a self-imposed penance: some prayer that those with whom I haven’t witnessed perfectly will nevertheless be taught by God. And they will all be taught by God (see Isaiah 54:13 and John 6:45). Of course, that goes along with also being drawn to the Lord all the more to be taught by Him ourselves.
4 responses to “Suffering teaches? My bad. Update: solution to imperfection”
What a beautiful attitude this man possesses. The photograph is an inspiration. Thank you for all you do for us, Father.
LOL, that is great. It is true. Some people “learn” to be bitter, self-pitying, self destructive from suffering.
I told my book study friends tonight your conversation with this Benedictine. We were talking about something St Teresa said about how she would gladly suffer lots more trials in life in order to obtain even a small amount greater glory in heaven, and someone was reflecting about whether suffering is ever “good”.
how about “suffering can learn you a lot…or not” ?