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Center for Action and Contemplation

Stay Where the Pain Is

Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Father Richard teaches about the trustworthy authority that belongs to those who have stood with and “held” the suffering of their lives and the world—rather than fled and avoided it. Jesus and Mary model such “staying power”:

Jesus on the cross and Mary standing near him are powerful witnesses to transformative spirituality. They return no hostility, hatred, accusations, or malice directed at them. They hold the suffering until it becomes resurrection! That’s the core mystery of Christianity. It often takes our whole lives to begin to comprehend this.

Unfortunately, our natural instinct is trying to fix pain, to control it, or even, foolishly, attempting to understand it. The ego insists on understanding. That’s why Jesus praises a certain quality even more than love, and he calls it faith. It’s the ability to stand in liminal space, to stand on the threshold, to hold contraries, until we are moved by grace to a much deeper level and a much larger frame. Our private pain does not take center stage, but is a mystery shared with every act of bloodshed and every tear wept since the beginning of time. Our pain is not just our own. The normal mind can’t deal with that. That’s why mature religion always teaches some form of contemplation—to break our addiction to this egoic, disconnected thinking. [1]

CAC friend Rev. Dr. Jacqui Lewis reflects on a friend’s wise counsel shared in a time of need. “Stay where the pain is,” she said:

Once, mourning the toughness of 2020—a year marked with political upheaval, racial violence, the isolation and death from a pandemic, raging environmental fires, and the fire that took my sanctuary—I was feeling very low and frankly so weighed down with grief, I didn’t really know how to move forward. I kept throwing myself into work, running fast to do something about the pain. But, ever wise, [my friend] Lyn said:  

“Wait, stay right there. Stay where the pain is, where the suffering is, where the struggle is. Stay there. That’s where it’s going to come. The insight. The knowing. The wisdom. Right there, Jacqui. It’s not here yet, but it’s coming. And when it comes, I’ll midwife it with you. It will come, we will do it together. Just wait for it. It will come.” . . . 

Right where you are, in the hurt and sorrow, that’s right where the insight is, that’s where the answer is, that’s where the wisdom is. The transformation is there, the rebirth is there. And you’re not alone. Your friend, your lover, your family, your helper—someone from your posse will midwife it with you. The healing will come, and you will emerge, shaped in the merciful womb of the fiercest love. The pain of birth is excruciating. But someone who loves you knows how to reach in and grab you and hold on to you until you make it through. You’ll emerge lighter, less encumbered, ready for new stories, transformed by old ones. [2]


[1] Adapted from Richard Rohr, A Spring within Us: A Book of Daily Meditations (Albuquerque, NM: CAC Publishing, 2016), 121.

[2] Jacqui Lewis, Fierce Love: A Bold Path to Ferocious Courage and Rule-Breaking Kindness That Can Heal the World (New York: Harmony Books, 2021),88–89. Italics in original.

Explore Further. . .

Read Richard on a contemplative stance amidst suffering.

Learn more about this year’s theme Nothing Stands Alone.

Meet the team behind the Daily Meditations.

Image credit: Carrie Grace Littauer, Untitled 2, Untitled 3, Untitled 9 (details), 2022, photographs, Colorado, used with permission. Jenna Keiper & Leslye Colvin, 2022, triptych art, United States. Click here to enlarge image.

This week’s images appear in a form inspired by early Christian/Catholic triptych art: a threefold form that tells a unified story. 

Image inspiration: The hollow feeling when loved ones are no longer present, like holes in a log. The pain of a thorn piercing skin. This tree has suffered and witnessed suffering. We too have suffered and witness suffering.

Story from Our Community:

My story is simple and repeated a million times over. As a chronic, albeit recovered, alcoholic, I have been given an undeserved gift of a second lifetime. Was it me? No. Did I participate in the process of redemption? Yes. Woven into the fabric of Fr. Rohr’s teaching is the truth that I, and everyone else, is a co-Creator with God. This realization has, in the midst of great personal suffering, given me the freedom to live a life of relative peace and serenity. —William L.

Share your own story with us.

Prayer for our community:

God, Lord of all creation, lover of life and of everything, please help us to love in our very small way what You love infinitely and everywhere. We thank You that we can offer just this one prayer and that will be more than enough,  because in reality every thing and every one is connected, and nothing stands alone. To pray for one part is really to pray for the whole, and so we do. Help us each day to stand for love, for healing, for the good, for the diverse unity of the Body of Christ and all creation, because we know this is what You desire: as Jesus prayed, that all may be one. We offer our prayer together with all the holy names of God, we offer our prayer together with Christ, our Lord, Amen.

Listen to the prayer.


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