Friday, February 22, 2008

St. Silouan Suffered Terrible Headaches

St. Silouan shares about the will of God and freedom. We are free when we are fully in the will of God. He said when he was more in the world he relied on his own understanding, and when by the Holy Spirit he came to know the Lord Jesus Christ and the Lord's love for all of us, his soul submitted to God. Then he accepted every affliction that came to him and would say:

The Lord looks down on me. What is there to fear?

"Life is much easier for the man who is given over to the will of God, since in illness, in poverty, in persecution, he reflects thus: Such is God's pleasure, and I must endure on account of my sins.'"

"Thus for many years have I suffered violent headaches, which are hard to bear but salutary because the soul is humbled through sickness. My soul longs to pray nd keep vigil, but sickness hinders me because of my body's demand for rest and quiet; and I besought the Lord to heal me, and the Lord hearkeneed not unto me. So, therefore, it would not have been salutary for me to have been cured."

Yet in another example, St. Silouan shares how one time a fishbone was caught in his throat. No one could dislodge it, not even the doctor. But then God told him interiorly what to do to dislodge the fishbone, step by step. St. Silouan did exactly as God told him, and the fishbone came out. He then said, "...I understood that if the Lord does not cure me of my headaches it is because they are good for my soul."

"The most precious thing in the world is to know God and understand His will, even if only in part. The soul that has come to know God should in all things submit to His will, and live before Him in awe and love: in love, because the Lord is love; in awe, because we must go in fear of grieving God by some evil thought."

O Lord, by the power of the grace of the Holy Spirit, vouchsafe that we may live according to Thy holy will.

"How are you to know ifyou are living according to the will of God?

"Here is a sign: if you are distressed over anything it means that you have not fully surrendered to God's will, although it may seem to you that you live according to his will. He who lives according to God's will has no cares. If he has need of something, he offers himself and the thing he wants to God; and if he does not receive it, he remains as tranquil as if he had got what he wanted."

"The soul that is given over to the will of God fears nothing: neither thunder nor thieves nor any other thing. Whatever may come, 'Such is God's pleasure,' she says. If she falls sick, she thinks, "'this means that I need sickness, or God would not have sent it.' And in this wise is peace preserved in soul and body."

In surrendering to God's will, the Staretz alludes to Scripture: Jesus says we will not be given more than we can bear and that the Lord loves us very much and watches over our souls. We must also, pray always for peace of soul and that we may better and more easily live the Lord's commandments. "...for the Lord loves those who strive to do His will, and thus they attain profound peace in God."

"He who does the Lord's will is content with all things, though he be poor or sick and suffering, because the grace of God gladdens his heart. But the man who is discontented with his lot and murmurs against his fate, or against those who cause him offence, should realize that his spirit is in a state of pride, which has taken from him his sense of gratitude towards God.

"But if it be so with you, do not lose heart, but try to trust firmly in the Lord and ask Him for a humble spirit; and when the lowly spirit of God comes to you, you will then love Him and be at rest in spite of all tribulations."

"No one on this earth can avoid affliction; and although the afflictions which the Lord sends are not great, men imagine them beyond their strength and are crushed by them. This is because they will not humble their souls and commit themselves to the will of God. But the Lord himself guides with HIs grace those who are given over to God's will, and they bear all things with fortitude for the sake of God, Whom they have so loved and with Whom they are glorified for ever."

The Staretz then shares of the Blessed Mother's being in the will of God and of suffering well the greatest of sorrows. Later, she had strength to give comfort to all God's distressed people.

So it is that we, too, can suffer in this state of love and trust in God, in faithful surrender to His will, knowing that "all things are then dear to the soul, for all things are of God. We will develop into useful victims of His love. If it is God's will and to the degree of whatever sufferings, we can make our submission and offer our oblation in union with Christ who willed to suffer and die out of unfathomable love for us.

One time a priest had come to visit when I was having a tremendous suffering. He asked me, "Why suffering?" I was not up to many words, but what came to me as the answer blurted out:
Because it works! I suppose that's what is called "the bottom line."

I have considered, now, that the Lord sent me this sinus infection because He knows it is salutory for my soul. Some may find this ridiculous, given the fact that we know so much about germs and medications. St. Silouan was not out of touch with the growing wealth of medical knowledge in the early 1900's, either. Yet, he knew much about God and the spiritual realm, and in that he sets out Christ's teachings and the truth of being in the will of God. I do not doubt.

Yes, I can see much good in this sinus problem. I have had to humbly reach out to some people for advice, go to the doctor (which I rarely do given no health insurance--which also is the will of God and has had innumerable blessings over the past 21 years), patiently endure the daily home remedies, blow my nose interminably, and have this heighten the other pain problems. Also, I have gained an empathy for people with sinus problems and allergies, from infants to the elderly. I have accepted that there may be some allergy--perhaps to the old Catholic books I've gratefully and lovingly collected and slowly read and share, perhaps to the orchids' potting medium. Already wheat, milk products and sugars have been mostly eliminated from the diet. Maybe it is a well-entrenched virus that may not completely leave.

Regardless, this is an offering to be made in gratitude and thanks to God, for it is an affliction (minor though it may be, but yucky!) to be suffered lovingly as from the loving hand of God. In other words, God has a good reason for this fall-winter-long sinus problem--that hinders my functioning and is teaching me many goods--not the least of which is to learn to say with genuine truth: Such is God's pleasure.

I will strive as a Victim Soul of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, to appreciate more the gifts from God that come daily in small inconveniences, aches and pains, emotional pangs, and tiny slights and mundane duties. When I realize that God brings them to me for my soul's good, the whole perspective alters to an excitement in the discovery: What gift has God wrapped in this package?


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