A Spiritual Response to Troubled Times
By Brother Leonard
In these modern times, many people are suffering from severe spiritual malnutrition. Disquiet, unrest, and anxiety are the background of our every day problems. Everyone searches for a solution but finds it difficult to get proper answers. The great lacuna (or missing piece) of our age is the inability of people in trouble (moral, psychological, and spiritual) to find someone who can give answers, compassion, understanding, and proper love (by sharing the love of Christ). In this great dilemma, a natural approach can give significant results. Because it is a simple remedy, ‘acceptance’ can be the answer to the universal cry of distress: ‘Why is this happening to me?’
What is acceptance? It is simply accepting what is happening to me or what has happened to me. Note that it is not accepting what I am afraid is going to happen. Just plain ordinary acceptance of all life’s difficulties, frustrations, and heartaches can bring peace of mind to anyone who will try it. Though it sounds simple, it has a very firm and deep foundation consisting of three parts. [First], if we accept what is happening to us, we are living in reality. Psychologically, this is good. [Second], through this acceptance, we are to an extent cooperating with God’s plan for us. This too is good, spiritually. Thirdly, suffering willingly accepted purifies us, bringing us closer to God. Hence, the ‘magic’ of acceptance is available to every traveler to eternity: believer and unbeliever alike.
There are many things that acceptance can mean or do. It can reorient our life by changing our viewpoint. After terminating our endless worrying over what might happen, it can be a great tranquilizer. It can clear our minds of much useless pondering, allowing more constructive ideas to occupy our minds. If we have been resisting God, acceptance can pull greater help from the Lord. My acceptance of another person in all his unlovableness can be the first step in loving him properly as my neighbor and enabling God to reach him. Acceptance can strengthen the person, if there is weakness in carrying everyday burdens.
But now the question of accepting evil arises. What to do about my…unfaithful husband, the defection of a member of my family, evil situations that are constantly coming to my attention? We must believe that evil would not be allowed by God if God could not get good from it. So we accept the fact of evil in our particular situation but not the evil itself. God posits each situation to obtain a particular result. If there is complete non-acceptance, this result is not forthcoming, hence a continuation of the situation. It is important to understand, therefore, that the good obtainable (the result desired by God) is in great measure dependent on the degree of acceptance of the matter on our part.
As we gain the ability to accept our own trials and the trials and sins of others, we will obtain the grace to accept the great unrest, injustice, and suffering in the world. To the extent that I am accepting the world just as it is, I am cooperating with God in God’s plan for the world. This will help to change the world’s suffering into purification which will help bring peace to the world.
We marvel at Satan’s power over the mind and body of Christ in his passion. Christ allowed the evil of the whole world to inundate him. He accepted it. This was part of his passion necessary to overcome the world, to redeem it from sin. Should we be surprised if, following Christ, the mystical body is almost overwhelmed by the satanic power of evil temptation?
Realizing that it is Christ who is suffering in us, there will be many who will resist to an heroic degree the pressure of evil in these latter days. We can be so strongly oriented by the depth of our acceptance of almost unreasonable psychological suffering that we may be allowed to participate in God’s overthrow of this world’s evil. Probably never again in time will there be such a great opportunity to do so much for the world with God’s help and direction. Not by our own feeble efforts, but by giving ourselves completely to God’s will by acceptance and circumstance, through docility to the Holy Spirit. The stakes are high.
About the Author
Brother Leonard O’Dowd, OCSCO (1905-2007) was a graduate of Lexington (MA) High School and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Trained as an electrical enginner, he worked for many years at General Electric. In 1945, at age 40, he entered the Trappist Abbey of Our Lady of the Valley in Rhode Island. In 1951, Brother Leonard professed his final Solemn Vows at Saint Joseph’s Abbey in Spencer, Massachusetts. As a lay brother, he served the community as an electrician; designer and tailor of liturgical vestments; and as porter of the monastery. Surrounded by his brother monks, he died in 2007, at 102 years old. The reflection above was printed in Healing Flame of Love, a collection of Brother Leonard’s writing that was published in pamphlet form by Saint Joseph’s Abbey. A limited number of these booklets are available. Please see below.
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