These have to be my favorite words from the Old Testament, and they are in today's first reading from the book of Wisdom. The Latin words are usually translated "mightily and sweetly." In context, the Scripture is saying that God's wisdom "reaches mightily from one end [of the universe] to the other, and orders all things well." Only the Latin says "suaviter," softening the brutal edge we might assign to the word "might." I relate it to the exclamation that the townspeople made after one of Jesus' miracles: "Everything he does is beautiful!" It is fitting, it is apt, it is lovely: suaviter.
In this week before Thanksgiving, "fortiter et suaviter" can also be a principle for discernment. This is how God acts: not with brusque power, but with tender and uncompromised vision. The saints, especially St. John of the Cross, tell us that we need to have our attention very finely tuned in order to discern God's doings, because he does them "suaviter." That is why it is such a good idea to make a review of the day before retiring at night, creating space for us to begin to notice those subtle "movements" (as St. Ignatius called them) that indicate that the Lord is passing by. We may be amazed at how much we've been missing!