Recently, I underwent a surgery related to a previous amputation I had three years ago. The surgery was not overly serious, but the healing from it requires me not to walk on my partial left foot for at least a month. Both pre- and post-surgery I had many folks share their concern for me and asked me how I was doing. Physically, I always suffer from some level of pain due to my amputation and other issues. I have learned that physical pain is an interesting thing to experience. As, I have come to live with physical pain and accept it, I notice it has a voice that whispers for attention. Those whispers tire my mind and heart greatly, more than the pain itself. Hence, the biggest pain I am suffering from, in relationship to my surgery, is not physical, but spiritual.
Because of my mobility restrictions, I left my ministry area and community in the Bronx, because the site was not conducive to healing. Knowing that I had to leave for at least one month, I owed it to the people to tell them what was going on with me. It was at this moment my pride, ceased to be a whisper and began to scream. Being a farm boy from the Midwest, I was taught to never show weakness in front of another person. It was in that lesson that my pride found its home. Still, my love for the people had a force that my pride could never over power. Yet, my pride was not done, because my next step involved my brothers in community.
La Casa de Sabiduría
Being a younger man in my Carmelite province, I feel a mantel that ‘I must take on’ to care for my Order and province, so we can continue to grow and thrive. Yes, my pride, quite regularly, takes on the persona of Atlas. My pride, with its voice, still screaming, began to tell me I was letting down this group of men that have done so much for me for so many years. Reflecting on my situation, I began thinking, that I was just out of formation, which I felt was the beginning of my time to give back to them. Now, all I seem able to give is weakness. My pride was seeking to cultivate shame from my weakness within me, because of my woundedness. It was with this small harvest of shame that was coupled with that gleeful pride that I entered our community for the retired brothers and those healing. A home that I have simply come to call ‘The house of Wisdom.’
Why wisdom? I do not like to call elderly people old, I prefer the title ‘Wisdom Figure.’ I learned this lesson through some experiences I had in the Diocese of Owensboro, KY. Our wisdom figures hold the memory, consciousness, and stories of previous generations as a gift, which if one seeks to grow in wisdom, a person must receive these gifts from those figures. Thus, as the youth of each generation travel down the path God has created for them, the young need the guiding light of their wisdom figures to see the ground before them. It was my own a moment of darkness, along the path of God, that such a light came to me.
In my post-surgical pain, hidden away in my room at the house of wisdom, I heard a knock on my open door. Standing there was a wisdom figure of the province holding a very heavy tray. I could tell he was using all his strength to hold this tray up, because his hands were shacking fiercely. Although, his eyes still had a gentleness about them. On this tray was my dinner that he brought up from the kitchen for me. He sat it on my lap, and told me, “we love to have you here, hope things went well today.” He had a big smile on his face, and as he was leaving my room he turned around and said, “Never be afraid to ask, we all need help brother.”
Tears & My Voice
As I ate my meal that night, I shed a few tears. Christ tells us “Ask and it will be given to you […] (Matt. 7:7).” My pride was creating a muteness within me that was keeping me from asking for the help I needed. The only antidote the Church has for pride is humility. Recall, St. Peter, for him to have life in Jesus, he had to first be served by Him. Through my brother’s act of service, my own voice was found again. As pride sought to silence me, humility, restored to me, my voice. Now, with my newly strengthened voice, I can speak with Christ and my community, sharing with them my needs as I heal.
To be taken with love for a soul, God does not look on its greatness, but the greatness of its humility. ~ St. John of the Cross