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  • Writer's pictureDavid Carlson

1140: We usually talk about faith as something we “have.” Faith is actually something we do.

Day 1140: Sunday, April 30, 2023

We usually talk about faith as something we “have.”

Faith is actually something we are required to “do"

Reflection by Jim Fredericks:

Today, I want to tell you about the virtue of phronesis. In the New Testament, this ancient Greek word is often translated as “prudence.” I think “practical wisdom” is a good translation as well.

I knew a fine old nun who had gleaned much phronesis/practical wisdom from her experience over the years. She has come to her practical wisdom “the old-fashioned way”; she earned it. By this, I only mean that Sister Kathleen was a woman who had learned how to be patient.

Patience, I think, is an important part of phronesis. Patience is a way to cultivate practical wisdom and prudence and we will need phronesis if we are to to live with Easter Faith.

Let me tell you more about Sister Kathleen.

She was a Sister of Charity from Brooklyn. Kathleen had been around the block a few times. She served as a nurse in a hospital for a day and an age. And when she was too old to work on the ward as a nurse, she became a chaplain. I should also tell you that she had arthritis in more than just one of her joints.

One Good Friday, late in the evening when she was off duty, Kathleen was trying to pray before the Blessed Sacrament before the altar of repose when her superior told her that a homeless man had caused a ruckus down in the Emergency Room. He had kicked a nurse and was on a gurney in restraints. So Sister Kathleen went down to ER and spoke to the man. This homeless person, it turned out, was eager to talk.

“Is this a Catholic hospital?” he said.

Sister Kathleen answered in the affirmative,

“ No it’s not!” he yelled. “If this was a Catholic hospital, you’d be havin’ kiss-the-cross!”

This was, of course, Good Friday and Kathleen asked the gentleman if he wanted to venerate the cross. He did.

So, Kathleen went to the chaplain’s office and took a crucifix off the wall and brought it into the ER. Kathleen told me that she was tired, and her arthritis was acting up, and she was off-duty, and, most assuredly, she was in no mood to deal with a belligerent drunk.

Kathleen was doing this for the homeless man with the patience required by the obedience of faith. We usually talk about faith as something we “have.” Faith is actually something we are required to “do.” And “doing faith” requires patience (among other things), And patience, I assure you is a form of phronesis/practical wisdom.

Sister Kathleen brought the man his Cross. He kissed it and then began to weep.

The nun sat by his side for about an hour, mostly distracted by her arthritis. Eventually a doctor came in and pronounced the man dead.

Sister Kathleen was a fine old nun. She had learned patience out of obedience to the Gospel. Her phronesis served her well that Good Friday when, despite her arthritis, she brought the Cross to the homeless man, in restraints, on his gurney. I thought of Kathleen when I read the second reading for today’s mass.

Beloved: If you are patient when you suffer for doing what is good, this is a grace before God.

Yes: patient suffering in doing what is good is a grace in the eyes of God. Patience is phronesis – practical wisdom. In fact, being patience when you suffer for doing what is good is the Pascal Mystery itself. This is what it means to take up our Cross and carry it. The same can be said when we carry the Cross of another as well.

If we are to be a people of Easter Faith, then we will have to learn to be patient when we suffer in doing what is good. This is the practical wisdom that Sister Kathleen learned over many years of service. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example that you should follow in his footsteps.

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