The Word — God’s favorite tool

Published 9:00 am Sunday, October 30, 2022

“There was despair and fear in the soul, misery of every kind in the body, desolation all around. All of us had loved ones dead or sick… or still in danger…. But in the midst of this death we had supernatural life, faith, rising like a green tree on a grave in the churchyard.”

So wrote a holy priest who suffered greatly during World War II as his hometown was overwhelmed with the wanton brutality of invading troops. It is easy for us to read that quote and gloss over it as something poetic and slightly trite. But stopping to think about it can lead us to examine the things in our lives that cause us suffering. Do we have supernatural faith rising like a green tree on a grave, in the midst of crosses?

A cross, made of two intersecting beams, is figuratively any contradiction we encounter in life. We face them all day long: getting stuck behind a slow car on the way to work, discovering that we are out of eggs at breakfast time, or being unable to find a pen when we need it most. Even our good days are often litanies of these little sufferings. In addition, we all face bigger hardships throughout our lives, such as the death of a loved one or a painful illness.

The fact is, God’s favorite tool is the cross. That is how He Himself chose to pay for our salvation, and it is how He chooses to sculpt and guide our souls to the perfection He has commanded us to achieve: “Be perfect, therefore, as your Heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). We can see a pattern when we consider the cross: those things most beautiful in life come only with sacrifice: a lasting marriage, the birth of a child, good health, or even long-term monetary security. It is through crosses that we can grow towards perfection, but only if we have the faith to accept them.

This acceptance can be as simple as holding back an unprintable word and moving through the difficulty with patience. It takes faith, though, because to accept these contradictions is to admit that God knows better than we do. It is to admit that we are not at the center of a universe where everything works together for our own convenience. More broadly, it helps us acknowledge that God’s plan is better than ours, even when His ways seem completely inscrutable and totally opposed to what makes sense to us or to what we want.

When we grow in this acceptance, this belief that God knows better than we do, our hearts are opened. We see ourselves more clearly in the light of the great truth that “to them that love God, all things work together unto good” (Romans 8:28). And with this truth comes space in our hearts for Him to come and pour forth His love.

BR. MAXIMILIAN WATNER is on the the staff at St. Thomas Aquinas Seminary in Buckingham County. He can be reached at