Wounded and Consumed

I was moved by the following words from the Holy Father’s address to the American bishops in Washington:

[W]e fall into hopeless decline whenever we confuse the power of strength with the strength of that powerlessness with which God has redeemed us. Bishops need to be lucidly aware of the battle between light and darkness being fought in this world. Woe to us, however, if we make of the cross a banner of worldly struggles and fail to realize that the price of lasting victory is allowing ourselves to be wounded and consumed (Phil 2:1-11).

That is very deeply true. And it is a truth that integralists, such as I, have to be especially careful not to forget. I can say that my own limited experience as a priest has born the truth of this out: there is a strength that comes realizing one’s weakness and helplessness in the face of sorrow and pain, and offering it to God. It is often not when I have gone into a situation full of confidence, but rather when I have gone in with dread and interior resistance that have seen God at work. A while ago my godmother gave me a book by Fr. Vincent Nagle that is mostly about this strength of weakness: Life Promises LifeIt is mostly about Fr. Nagle’s experience as a hospital chaplain, and it’s a truly wonderful book. Here’s one passage that I often think of:

Something breaks open my heart again, so that I go in begging Jesus for His graces for myself. I’m there as a beggar in the first place, and therefore I’m begging with them; I go in small and vulnerable to be with them and their vulnerability. […] I’m very grateful for this job because it makes me pray. […] When people’s consciousness, including my own, is of what they’re doing and not of what God is doing, everything is confusion and uselessness. When one is habitually conscious that life is isn’t a matter of what I’m doing but of what God is doing, then there is the possibility that it isn’t against us, or at least one is anxiously looking for signs of what He is doing. If I go in without that desire, I’m there to say some words I think will give comfort. If I go into that room needy because I need to see what God is doing and participate in it, then I’m there with them and for them. (pp. 110-111).

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