September 16, 2015: Pain Makes Theologians of us All

~by Louis Templeman

September 16, 2015: Pain Makes Theologians of us All

Jerry Ryan, a friar with the Little Brothers of Jesus, was always one of those dedicated Christians workers who was always helping others. He was very humble and always did jobs others didn’t want to do. Then one day at age seventy-seven he broke his hip. He did not “bounce back” quickly. To his shock and horror he became one who needed help. He writes, “Now I’m the one others must stoop down to help. I’m the one who is useless, limited and dependent . . . .

Nevertheless, in this predicament he discovers a grace: “So in this broken person I’ve become, I’m also an occasion for people to help Jesus and thus secure eternal life in his kingdom. This is something I never could have accomplished otherwise.” (Commonweal, 2-20-25)

It is an amazing human ability and serendipity that hurting people are able to find light in darkness, hope in times of despair and grace even where sin abounds. Barbara Brown Taylor writes, “Pain is provocative. Pain pushes people to the edge . . . . Pain makes theologians of us all.”

A friend called me last night and insisted on digging a little too deeply and personally about my health. He may be well intended but he puts me in the mind of someone doing an imitation of Dr. Phil imitating the Pope. He lowers his voice to the dulcet tones of wisdom and pontificates about how I am to handle the rest of my life and my ongoing challenges. He assures me everything will be alright, partly due to his vows of daily prayers for me. When we concluded the tedious call he left like he was Quinn the Eskimo and I went off feeling emotionally drained.

Today I’ve had to check my feelings. Like Jerry Ryan I do not want to need help. I want to be the helper. However, last night’s phone call presented the opportunity for my friend to offer me a “cup of water”. He, according to Ryan, was trying to help Jesus help me.

I needed time to get that perspective. I think my friend was drunk when he called which would account for the awkward and drawn out delivery of his concern; which would also account for my difficulty in following or enjoying it. Still, I hope he remembers to pray – particularly, that I learn to graciously accept help.


Louis writes from Jacksonville, Florida where he lives with his old friend and wonderful bride, Joy. They transformed their friendship into the sacrament of marriage on August 30, 2012. They share their home with two self-absorbed, playful, twin cats (Flo and Jet) and one very allusive and arrogant cat named D. Louis has recently been diagnosed with Parkinson’s and is fighting the good fight. Much of what he writes these days he is sharing his journey with us. Please keep Louis and his wife Joy in your prayers.

CLICK HERE to visit Louis’ Catholic Journeyman Archive

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