By Oswald Sobrino, J.D.; M.A. (Econ.); M.A. (Theo.); M.L. (Master of Latin), doctoral student, University of Florida.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Fr. Philippe on the Events of Life

Continuing our series on the book Called to Life, we now turn to discerning life's events. Fr. Philippe begins by pointing out that the Hebrew word davar means both word and event implying that every life event is also a word from Adonai. A key to the author's counsel is to live out events without necessarily understanding them fully. His suggestions are below.

1. "[T]he essential thing is to welcome events and live them out with faith, even if we don't understand them" (p. 57).

2. Avoid obsessive scrupulosity in understanding events: "Another danger to avoid is a scrupulous attitude, pressuring us to find the meaning of everything lest we violate God's will. This is a fear rooted in a psychological need for security that separates us from the simplicity and freedom of God's children" (57).

3. The goal is to live every situation, however dire, in freedom: "Listening for God's calls makes it possible for us to live every situation positively and opens a pathway to freedom in every situation, even the most seemingly hopeless" (57-8). On this point, Fr. Philippe gives a definition of freedom as "the capacity to live each situation positively, not being enclosed or crushed, but of finding the way of belief and a more authentic life" (p. 58, note 3).

4. In sorrowful events, the call is to grow, not necessarily "to resolve the situation--something often beyond the person's capacity--but to understand and follow the call present in the situation" (59). Sometimes, for example, a sorrowful situation may involve children beset by problems and challenges. In such cases, I recall the advice of Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa that we are called to love and accept the actual, living, particular child whom God has given us and not to always be pining away for the child to be different from who he or she really is.

5. Again, Fr. Philippe emphasizes the need to let go of the compulsion to know everything and to learn to serenely accept our limits: "Instead of being bent on getting answers, one needs the courage to leave certain legitimate questions unanswered--something always painful--and adopt a different perspective: 'At the end of the day, what does God want from me in all this?' " (60-1). He goes further in a footnote: "What saves (helps us advance and grow in a positive, fruitful manner) is not being able to explain everything or completely grasping the complexity of every situation or parceling out responsibility. It is finding the right attitude, the one to which God invites us. Faith lies in welcoming situations with confidence and submitting our conduct to the will of the Holy Spirit" (61, n. 6).

6. One step at a time:

"If people know what they must do today and commit themselves to doing it and leave tomorrow to God's providence, all is well. What more can anyone do? Take the step that needs taking today. Take another step tomorrow. Every day wil have its own steps to take" (62). This advice is straight out of the Beatitudes.

7. Change your questions and thus your perspective on events:

"What is God asking of me in all of this?"

"Where are the most faith, hope, and love to be found?"

Instead of "What do I want from life?," ask: "What does life want from me?"

Instead of "What do I expect from those around me?," ask: "What do those around me expect of me?"