Comfort My People — The gift of wisdom

Archbishop Shelton J. Fabre

As we are all aware, growing through the stages of life can be classified roughly as growing from infancy to childhood, from childhood to adolescence, from adolescence to young adulthood from young adulthood to mature adulthood. 

Progression through these stages physically is simply called aging, but progression through these stages also involves the necessary components of advancing psychologically, emotionally and spiritually.

One of the most beneficial and yet difficult aspects of growing through the stages of life is learning lessons that only human experience can teach us. The insights gained in the realms of psychological, emotional and spiritual growth through these stages of life are often classified as attaining knowledge or, better yet, “wisdom.” 

As we all know, wisdom is a good virtue to acquire. One way of defining wisdom is to see wisdom as the result of connecting all our growth experiences together, reflecting on them and putting into practice the fruit of this reflection on our lived experience. 

For many reasons lately, both peaceful and demanding, I have been reflecting again on the gift of wisdom. Maybe with the “slowdown” (does life ever really slow down?) that the summer months bring and a new bishop in Knoxville provides, I have more time to allow my mind to wander off in reflection and prayer, and the gift of wisdom has again captured my focus in reflection and prayer.
The attainment of wisdom references our overall and complete experience of growing through these stages of life in all ways. However, attaining wisdom is a quest made up of many individual experiences at different times in life when we decided to do one thing and not do another or when we decided to react in one way and not to react in another way. All these individual experiences teach us lessons about life. Reflection on all these lessons can in time bring us wisdom.

The individual lessons learned through these experiences are both positive and negative, and the negative experiences may simply be called learning lessons from the school of hard knocks. While the attainment of wisdom is always a noble and good thing, I think we can all agree that the lessons learned through the school of hard knocks in life are sometimes difficult to integrate into our lives. After we learn lessons through the school of hard knocks, it is our hope and prayer that our lives are not so damaged or bruised that we will not be able to eventually recover from the experience and that with time and reflection, we will integrate the lessons learned and be wiser because of all such experiences.

Each one of us has undoubtedly learned many lessons through the good experiences in life and through the school of hard knocks. If we further reflect on these experiences, however, our minds and hearts turn to those who made the journeys through the stages of life with us. These people are our parents, spouses, siblings, friends, co-workers, counselors, clergy, religious or simply lifetime confidants. We run to them for advice and counsel. 

After seeking their advice, sometimes we act on the advice in the manner in which it was suggested, or sometimes we veer off in our own direction, acting against the advice offered. Nonetheless, these people in our lives are the ones who celebrate with us when things went our way or comfort us when things fell apart. Regardless of whether we accepted their advice or not, we can be grateful for those who were willing to listen to us, to empathize with us and to offer good counsel. Hopefully, through it all, we grow in wisdom.

In the end, the source of all wisdom is the living God, and he has revealed himself to us in Jesus Christ, who is the Holy Word of God, our Hope and our Wisdom. As we continue to seek wisdom, may we always remember the role that faith and prayer play in our quest to find it.

We rejoice in the ordination of five new priests for our archdiocese and ask God’s blessings upon them. I hope that your summer is progressing well and that you have time for leisure and relaxation.

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