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Wounds of Love

10/19/2002 - 1:00 PM PST

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By Deacon Keith A. Fournier
© Third Millennium, LLC

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“It is very good and holy to consider the passion of our Lord, and to meditate on it, for by this sacred path we reach union with God. In this most holy school we learn true wisdom, for it was there that all the saints learned it".

Therefore, be constant in practicing every virtue, and especially in imitating the patience of our dear Jesus, for this is the summit of pure love. Live in such a way that all may know that you bear outwardly as well as inwardly the image of Christ crucified, the model of all gentleness and mercy. For if a man is united inwardly with the Son of the living God, he also bears his likeness outwardly by his continual practice of heroic goodness, and especially through a patience reinforced by courage, which does not complain either secretly or in public. Conceal yourselves in Jesus crucified, and hope for nothing except that all men be thoroughly converted to his will.

…The Passion of Christ is the greatest and most stupendous work of Divine Love.

-- St. Paul of the Cross


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I was praying the liturgy of the Hours the other day. It was the feast of St. Paul of the Cross.

I could not help but be drawn to one of the most extraordinary memories from years past, my brief but transforming encounter with one of his sons, a dear and faithful Passionist priest named Father Phillip. Fr. Philip was priest, pastor, friend, confessor, teacher—and he showed me how a life of loving surrender prepares a man or woman to greet death as a friend. He continues, from the grave, to speak to me of the mystery of wounded love.

There is a deeper meaning to suffering, when it is joined to the Cross of Jesus Christ. In the classical Christian tradition this insight is referred to as “redemptive suffering”

Bad things do happen - even to good people. The utter "unreasonableness" of this aspect of life is a difficult reality for many to accept! It is even more difficult when Christians seek to explain away suffering, blame it on others or make it always a sign of the demonic. Though it can be, the true difference between one who believes and one who does not is not the absence of suffering but whether it has any true value.

Those who say they don’t accept it or insist that we somehow we cause it by our own behavior alone are not new to the scene. They have existed in the midst of the religious community from the time of the friends of Job through the Pharisees at the time of Jesus to those who repeat their old arguments today. Then, as now, they have led many to discouragement.

There have been several efforts by popular writers to explain why bad things still happen to good people. Some of what they have written has helped many people. It has particularly helped those victimized by poor popular teaching that has led them into the trap of misguided blaming of others or themselves for the pain; or to an overemphasis on or blame on “the devil.”

Evil is real and it is personal. There is no doubt that it has played and does play a role. The reality of sin and the existence of evil are proven daily in a world wounded by the rejection of God.

However, nothing answers the deeper mystery of suffering with full satisfaction without reference to the meaning of crucified love. Somehow, even those who say yes to the invitation to love suffer and are wounded in the process of trying to love.

These "wounds of love" lie at the heart of the Christian life, because such a life is lived in a response to the God who is Himself, crucified Love. The mystery of this kind of "kenotic" or poured out love is not comprehended by the intellect. However, it is demonstrated in the lives of saints.

I had the privilege of calling one such saint my friend.

It has been many years since I last saw my friend Fr. Philip Bebie, C.P. But I remember it as if it were yesterday. It was a cold dark dreary day in the dead of winter—a day that continues to reverberate in my heart and in my life.

I had boarded a plane to visit my friend, before he died. I was gripped with fear, sorrow, hesitation, and yet resolve. This strange mixture of emotions surged through me, betraying my youthful inability to confront death—and my lack of understanding of the mystery of suffering.

I hadn't seen Fr. Philip since he was my confessor and counselor at the College of Steubenville. I first met him when I moved into an empty dormitory named after St. Thomas More. It had been set aside as a spiritual renewal center by the president of the College, Fr. Michael Scanlan, to help revitalize the campus.

Fr. Philip had accepted an invitation to minister on the campus and to build ...

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