By Sister Sharon Havelak, OSF
The temptation to find a cozy isolated spot in the wilderness and become a hermit has never been so tantalizing.
The past couple of months have been filled with just too much, an overwhelming bit of everything. A cousin who had to move into the nursing home because her Alzheimer’s has progressed so far along. Her husband, now in rehab, slowly recovering from a hemorrhagic stroke. Wildfires devouring a large part of the west. Hurricanes and flooding in the east. Earthquake and tsunami in Indonesia. The opioid epidemic. Venice under water and other parts of Italy covered in mudslides. Eleven people brutally murdered in a synagogue. Another school shooting. And if the political bickering isn’t enough, add in the incessant blistering campaign ads that are reaching a fever pitch. Plus the everyday ups and downs and juggling too much to do with too little time, especially as the holiday season approaches.
Running from it all does seem attractive. But is it the right thing to do?
Two thoughts come to mind. One, the problems we face today are very real, very human problems – and, therefore, have human solutions (yes, I’m including the climate in that). As one commentator noted, if we caused the problem, we also have the power to fix it. Secondly, we all need to figure out where our responsibility lies. I’m not called to resolve everything – but I am asked to do my part.
I’m reminded of the story of St. Francis of Assisi, how he asked two trusted companions, Saint Clare and Brother Sylvester, to discern whether he should continue his ministry of preaching or retire to a life of prayer. When they both reported that he should continue preaching, Francis, always obedient to the Spirit, renewed his fervor. But, like Jesus, his model and guide, Francis’ preaching was fed by his prayer. He literally spent about half of the year preaching, the other half in prayer or travelling to remote places of prayer.
Like Jesus, Francis’ preaching kept him in touch with the woundedness of the people and the world around him. While he praised God for the goodness, beauty and grace that touched his life, he also brought to prayer the suffering he found, in himself and in his fellow creatures, and asked for the guidance he needed. He could then reach out, bringing healing and harmony.
Cock-eyed optimist that I am – or maybe I should say, true believer that I am, I believe (usually) that goodness, beauty and truth – and ultimately, justice – will prevail. May we not be afraid to touch the wounds of our world, hold them in grace and reach out to heal.