In a prayer attributed to the authorship of St. Francis of Assisi, a petition is offered that God would grant grace for the petitioner to “not so much seek to be understood as to understand.” It is a great gift to understand someone in his moment of need or her moment of pain or difficulty. Our reflection here, however, goes deeper than missing a nuance, the improper pronunciation of words or difficulty in communication. In some situations, the kind of understanding we need takes us deeper into our humanity and affects the core of our being with someone else in an almost transcendental way.
We consider Understanding, the Gift of the Holy Spirit, in the eighth chapter of the Letter to the Romans. St. Paul treats Understanding in a particularly profound and touching way. He writes about how God speaks to our souls, the Holy Spirit speaking in “sighs too deep for words.” (Rom. 8:23ff.) There are moments in our lives when only the Spirit of God can properly articulate the human need for Divine assistance – for Understanding – a sense of empathy and compassion that comes from the Creator reaching deep into the heart of the creature in a way only God can do. The Gift of Understanding, as such, allows the Creator entry into that space in the human person that is in particular need of reassurance and Divine Love. In the power of the Holy Spirit, the Divine Inventor provides exactly what a human soul requires.
Understanding also requires a certain amount of study so our soul is ready to receive this gift. How can you begin to understand someone without a sense of who they are or how they speak? Good spiritual reading will help us pattern our lives after Christ, the one who came so that all may believe. The Catechism of the Catholic Church contains the whole of God’s plan and when lived out allows us to receive His love and be ready to give it to those around us.
As you approach Lent this year, consider spending more time in Eucharistic Adoration. Make time, in the presence of God, to pray for Understanding and ask Him to help define or refine your vocation in this life. When you pray in His presence, keep listening for illumination from the Holy Spirit. Spend time in silent prayer; get caught up in the wonder of the Creator.
A soul that allows for such tender mercy – indeed, who seeks it as St. Paul testifies – in his or her life, will allow the mystery of such Divine grace and mercy to be shared in a human way among brothers and sisters in Christ. The power of Baptism and the strength of Confirmation are once again displayed in the living action of the Church.
Make time, in the presence of God, to pray for Understanding and ask Him to help define or refine your vocation in this life.”
Most Reverend William Patrick Callahan
is the bishop of the Catholic Diocese of La Crosse