In search of patient endurance

Do you know someone who stutters? Here is a story from the Bible about a person who stutters.

There is Moses. His faith was always in evidence, and at all stages he accepted what God told him. He was a humble man who did not overestimate his virtues and knew his limitations. For example, he was not a good speaker – in fact he had a stutter – and he could see it would be difficult for him to pass God’s word on to his people or to inform Pharaoh as God required him.

At first, he tries to decline God’s calling and offers all kinds of excuses, to which God listens patiently, and then says, “Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him dumb, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the Lord? Now therefore go, and I will be your mouth and teach you what you shall speak” (Ex. 4:11-12)

Finally, God, disgusted with Moses, sends Aaron, Moses’ brother, to serve as his brother’s spokesman (“prophet”) to the Pharaoh.

A priest from Bridgeport, Conn., Father Michael Dunn, considers his stuttering to be a blessing.

“I believe that my stuttering has made me a more compassionate, patient and understanding person in my dealings with others,” said the Bridgeport diocesan priest, who is the pastor at St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Weston. In an interview for Catholic News Service, the priest recalled the poor treatment he received as a child when classmates mocked his speech. But when he made the decision to enter the seminary (he was going for a graduate degree in counseling at the time), he was heartened by how his superiors treated him.

“They were always very supportive and helpful and remained more confident than I was that my speech would not be an issue for me,” he said.

Such understanding and encouragement was far different than what he experienced as a child. One of the most embarrassing moments of his life, he said, was during grammar school when he tried out for a part in the school play.

When it was his turn to read, he could not get out the first word at all and eventually gave up and sat down. In September 2009, people in the Bridgeport area might have been surprised to see a feature article in the Connecticut Post about Father Dunn and his struggle with stuttering.

At a parish where I was a parochial vicar, the pastor urged me to attend a speech at the parish by a well-known person who was healed of multiple sclerosis. You can imagine my feelings before, during and after her talk when I wasn’t healed.

If stuttering is the cross you continue to carry, might you feel the same way? I know that God’s ways are not our ways and God has a plan for everyone. Remember the words of St. Paul, “By patient endurance, you will save your life.”

Father Dennis Meinen serves as chaplain at Holy Spirit Retirement Home, Sioux City, for Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts in the diocese, and Faithful Friar of the Garrigan 4th Degree Assembly of the Knights of Columbus, Sioux City.

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