"A lay Catholic perspective"

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From the Gulf Coast

by John Lewis


C ONGRATULATIONS TO the Editor of Olive Leaf on the choice of another topic to write about that I know nothing about, and have no desire to find out. I like the late Warren Daoust. I like people I disagree with and Warren was certainly one of them; he was keen on telling me about the merits of poverty, chastity and obedience. Now that he is with the Lord, he has it first hand that he was right and he could well tell me "I told you so." Until I have a major shift in attitude, suffering continues to be something I prefer to avoid. Embracing it is not my bag.

Jesus instructed, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you. Now how about that as a good definition of suffering? Sounds to me like long suffering, one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit. I really wanted to write about Saint Pachomius and I think I can get it in under the topic of suffering.

I was introduced to Pachomius by Ross Franklin, who liked him because Pachomius had served in the army, even though not as an officer. Pachomius, born 292 AD was an Egyptian pagan living up stream on the river Nile. He was conscripted into the Imperial Roman army and shipped out down the Nile. One night they landed at Thebes, where many Christians lived. Those true disciples of Christ sought every opportunity to relieve and comfort all those in distress and they were moved with compassion towards the recruits who were kept closely confined and ill treated. The Christians of this city showed them the same tenderness as if they had been their own children; they took all possible care of them, and supplied them liberally with money and necessaries. They loved their enemies. Pachomius was impressed and subsequently sought them out. He became a Christian and founded monasteries. I don't have space to tell the whole story. At one time he did not go to bed for 15 years, he just dozed sitting on a rock. There were many hermits living alone in the desert but Pachomius took what he considered the harder route of living in community. What I would call suffering. He is credited with putting down the first set of rules for living in community. Although he was encouraged to take Holy Orders he chose to remain a lay man. This is the prayer of St. Pachomius: "O God, Creator of heaven and earth, cast on me an eye of pity: deliver me from my miseries: teach me the true way of pleasing you, and it shall be the whole employment and most earnest study of my life to serve you and to do your will."

Jesus has already told us what God's will is, it starts with loving my enemy. Now that's suffering.