Wisdom Companion #5 – The Bittersweet Bread of the Human Condition

Another entry from my aman-cara, Sister Rita, on the wisdom she discovers as she walks this path with cancer…

Rita says…

One full course of treatment is complete, and I am now one-third of the way through course two.  Each course consists of two shots of Fulvestrant and 21 days of Ibrance.  My experience is mostly fatigue; other side effects are minor and more inconvenient than debilitating. I am surrounded by generosity and kindness and no end of healing energy and prayer.  So, I dwell in gratitude and a desire to live aware of, and responsive to, “occasions of grace.”  Both the Examen of St Ignatius and its twin, the 10th step of AA, help me do that.

Simply put every experience, whether an interior one or an external encounter, is an occasion of grace.  At the end of the day, I notice what touched me. Where do I feel at peace, comforted, grateful, and free to give and receive love?  Where do I feel out of sorts, off track, disturbed, resentful? I attend to the places where my feelings were most pronounced.

Since feelings that arise are more like Ben and Jerry’s ice cream flavors than spices in neatly labeled jars, it is important for me to patiently let all the nuances surface. It works this way.  I squarely face my fatigue and notice what it stirs in me.  Do I want to reject it, ignore it (not possible), or accept it as my present reality? The first two paths take me to the parking lot of depression – hopelessness, helplessness, and worthlessness with its accompanying loss of the little energy I have.

I have learned the hard way that accepting life on life’s terms is far more grounding  and my God (the ground of my being)  waits for me there.  My God does not fix my fatigue, but is with me in it, denying none of the difficulty it presents. My God trusts me to go deeper into my fatigue, more like the sweeper when hiking than a Crusader Rabbit leading the way.

To accept my fatigue means I accept I am not exempt from any deeply human experience. I am one with all those experiencing fatigue — first responders scouring debris for signs of life, asylum seekers trudging deserts, working poor persons juggling three low-wage jobs, and the besieged and battered people of Ukraine. I find myself in the company of humanity, with everyone who shows up, one day at a time, doing what is theirs to do. I unite with them in our shared fatigue and shared grace to keep on keeping on. I will companion them as God companions me.

I find myself dwelling in gratitude even with the fatigue — an occasion of grace drawing me into solidarity with those nameless brave persons of dogged and profound fidelity.  My God does not rejoice in their suffering. Rather my God grieves at the unnecessary pain and harm we inflict on one another.

So, my God, one day at a time, feeling by feeling, experience by experience, invites me to the table of grace to be nourished into well-being as I share the broken and bittersweet bread of the human condition.

For more:

Sleeping with Bread by Dennis Linn
“What matters most in doing the examen is to experience an environment of unconditional love in which you feel safe to own your experience and feel all your feelings.” – Dennis Linn

Consciousness Examen

Rummaging for God: Praying Backwards Through Your day by y Dennis Hamm, SJ

Fr. Dennis Hamm, SJ, a scripture professor at Creighton University, calls the Daily Examen “rummaging for God.” He likens it to “going through a drawer full of stuff, feeling around, looking for something that you are sure must be there.” That’s an accurate description of what it’s like to pray the Daily Examen. We look back on the previous day, rummaging through the “stuff,” and finding God in it. We know he is there.

The Big Book of AA – which you can read online here, and or, “The Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions” available online here.

“…Step Ten suggests we continue to take personal inventory and continue to set right any new mistakes as we go along. We vigorously commenced this way of living as we cleaned up the past. We have entered the world of the Spirit. Our next function is to grow in understanding and effectiveness. This is not an overnight matter. It should continue for our lifetime. Continue to watch for selfishness, dishonesty, resentment, and fear. When these crop up, we ask God at once to remove them. We discuss them with someone immediately and make amends quickly if we have harmed anyone. Then we resolutely turn our thoughts to someone we can help. Love and tolerance of others is our code.” – The Big Book of AA




  1. Duane Rutter on October 15, 2022 at 11:25 am

    time and time again I find your words to be just what I need at a time when I am most prepared to receive them. 🙏🏻

    • Lauren B. Davis on October 15, 2022 at 12:04 pm

      I’m so glad, Duane. Sr. Rita is a very wise woman.

  2. Linda Doyle on October 16, 2022 at 11:10 am

    Dear Lauren, thanks for posting these powerful insights and life wisdom from Sr Rita. “Simply put every experience, whether an interior one or an external encounter, is an occasion of grace.” I struggle with exploring and identifying what’s behind what I’m feeling. This encourages me to be more reflective and take it one day at a time. All best wishes to Sr Rita, Linda

    • Lauren on October 16, 2022 at 1:08 pm

      thank you for your comment, Linda. I will pass your good wishes on to Sr. Rita.

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