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Reflections On and Excerpts from Benedict Groeschel's

1/22/2004 - 6:07 AM PST

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by Matt Abbott

"My God, My God, why have You forsaken me?" The unforgettable words of Our Lord Jesus Christ, uttered when He was dying on the cross. How many times in our lives do we at least inwardly cry out such anguished words? For me, it has been many. Though my sufferings Ė or imagined sufferings - pale in comparison to those of Our Lord, I still canít help but wail with despair (or something very close to it). Why? Because I am weak, and oh-so-prone to self pity. Poor me. Poor me. Woe is me.

Without a doubt, the most difficult task of being an authentic Christian is having to endure suffering. This despite believing that suffering, brought about by original sin, can be meritorious if we unite our own sufferings with those of Our Lord, who suffered like no other, so that we may have the possibility of eternal life. Suffering, for many, is physical, but for many more, it is mental and spiritual. Depression, angstÖthat feeling of melancholy.

No one is more aware of this reality than Fr. Benedict Groeschel, CFR Ė the renowned author of numerous Catholic books, among them Arise from Darkness: What To Do When Life Doesn't Make Sense (1995, Ignatius Press). Arise from Darkness is an easy yet compelling read that, in the words of the bookís back cover, "offers help and guidance for any Christian troubled or burdened by life. If you are struggling with fear, anxiety, grief, loss of loved ones, hurt, anger or anything that makes life difficultÖthen this book was written for you." Indeed.

The book has 184 pages, with seven chapters, an epilogue, a collection of prayers and thoughts, suggested readings and index. The chapter I would like to focus on is Chapter 5, "When We Are Our Own Worst Enemies."

I have been just that on many occasions. I still am. I know Iím supposed to place all of my trust in Our Lord; but, I must say, it is easier said than done. Iím always fretting over things that I have no control over, and I get angry because I canít control them! What a vicious cycle. Itís worth quoting some lengthy passages from this very poignant chapter.

"We have considered the problems that we may have with others and our difficulties with the Church. Now we must look at the problems we have with ourselves. You may find that if you look into your own life (especially as you get older) one of the most important realizations in the process of maturation is that we bring many, if not most, of our problems on ourselves. When things donít make sense, itís often because we didnít make sense out of things. There may be some consolation in knowing that this is a general human experience.

"One finds the tendency to make troubles for oneself even in the lives of saints. Like the rest of us, even these special people brought on many of their own troubles. Few are exempt from being their own enemies at least some of the time. Saints, sinners, biblical personages, and even modern celebrities all gather together under the great banner that says: "Letís sink our own boat." Itís one of the more obvious and universal signs of original sin that with a series of well thought out moves, carefully considered, prudently studied, and done with great expeditious-ness and even prayer, we sink our boats, saints and sinners alike.

"In many cases, one has to be a bit of a sinner to be oneís own worst enemy. However, it is not by any means necessary. You can do this just as effectively even if youíre devoutóyou will just do it a bit more piously. We can all say with a certain amount of conviction that Ďweíve met the enemy and itís usí (pp. 85 Ė 86).

How do we avoid being our own worst enemies? "We should organize our lives around eternity to avoid self-destruction," asserts Fr. Groeschel. "Iím not saying that everybody should enter the cloister. Thatís a rare vocation. But I am saying that whatever we do, no matter what evaluation other people may make, we should consciously and purposely live every day so that it contributes to our salvationÖ."

In a particularly interesting portion of the chapter, Fr. Groeschel cites examples of "imperfect" behavior in Sacred Scripture and from Church history:

"I occasionally give retreats to bishops. I used to give more, but in my old age Iím getting a little too honest, so I donít get as many invitations now. Bishops, as you may not know, are a very battered and beat-up group. When I give a retreat to the bishops, I have to be quite gentle because they know better than anybody else how miserable things really are. Years ago, bishops never heard the truth. Now they never hear anything good or even nice.

"Whenever I give a retreat to bishops, I try to remind them that they are the successors of the apostles. But remember what happened to the apostles. The twelve apostles were there for the great Passover of the New Testament, and they ran away. They ran ...

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