The light of his holiness Pope Shenouda…
Did you know, that apparently till this day, there are fifteen or some published books of miracles attributed to his holiness Pope Shenouda III? This is a great thing to know given that we may be tempted to compare him to his predecessor and find him perhaps somewhat spiritually lacking.
Here are three spiritual life hacks that we can learn from the life of this undoubtedly saintly man.
Lesson 1: Smile, even in difficult times!
Pope Shenouda was a supernaturally positive man. Great was his faith and undeniable was the joy that soothed his soul from heaven. This is despite his infinite responsibilities, which included shepherding a church that had exploded across the globe, and facing the sorrows whenever there was a new round of Coptic persecution.
One time he was even exiled by President Sadat for 3 cloudy years. Yet in all this, as we all witnessed in his sermons, he was a man who knew how to always smile and laugh. As he says…
“Everyone worries, everyone stresses. They get scared, and they seem to forget the more important thing, we are in God’s hands! Simple as that. I’m telling you my brothers and sisters, that if we are in God’s hands then everything will be taken care of. Have faith and trust in the Lord always.”
How can we have such exalted positivity? One word… prayer. If we don’t experience the joy and protection of prayer, we have then a lot of study and struggle to get there.
Lesson 2: Be sociable and charismatic
“From the day of my ordination”, his Holiness related in one of his sermons, “I told myself the most important thing I needed was to deal with people with simplicity and love.”
My mother told me, that one time when he visited Libya to meet President Gadaffi, in his intelligence and social brilliance, he spent some time reading Libyan history. So impressed was the president with the visitor’s understanding of Libya, that with a beaming smile and much happiness he replied, “Pope Shenouda, you know everything you know everything!” Thus, he was able to win over the favour of others, glorifying the God of the Copts.
If we holy Orthodox Christians are called to be radiant icons of love to those who sit in the shadow of death, then one of the primary ways that’ll occur is through our sociability. All the “public” saints did this.
So then, we need to train ourselves to become highly social beings, to greet people with warmth and love, to inquire about their well-being and offer our assistance and a smile. We need to build strong rapport with others and to have warm and incredibly positive and joyful interactions with them. And in doing so, we can save souls. Personally this is my biggest spiritual challenge.
Lesson 3: Have regular seclusion time
He was one of the only popes (or the only) in the history of the Coptic church to spend 3 days in the monastery every week. He justified this by saying he always preferred silence, prayer and seclusion as the method to solve the problems faced on his chair.
It is really only through frequent praying in the silent moments of our lives where we can experience Christ’s comfort and His soothing hand. And without it, we have only a theoretical knowledge of God, are left with nothing and helplessly horrified by the trials of life.
In this way, HH was no stranger to St Isaac the Syrian’s words: “A man who sits in stillness and who receives experience of God’s kindness …is not sick with the disease of unbelief, like those who are doubtful of the truth.”
So it is absolutely essential for our salvation and inner peace, for us to have regular, high quality periods of alone time during the week – those times of strong spiritual refreshment and rejuvenation.
This could simply be praying memorized psalms whilst walking to the station or at any solitude moment that comes to us. It could be reading a spiritual book on the train. Or it could be once choosing to stay home rather than go out with friends to evaluate our spiritual life and plan for improvements.
O our holy father Pope Shenouda, pray heartily to Christ Jesus for the salvation of our souls.
Discussion: What do you love the most about HH?