On the Christian Meaning of Suffering

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Photo Credit: Isaiah Eyre Photography

BE NOT AFRAID. I decided to return once more to the 1984 Apostolic Letter written by St. JP II titled Salvifici Doloris: On the Christian Meaning of Suffering that addressed the ever present question of suffering: why, what, and how? God transformed even something not part of His original design for humanity (suffering, pain, death, dying, etc.) into a means for transcendence: faith, hope, and charity.

We fear suffering. I can emphatically state in my greatest moments of suffering and the  suffering of my loved ones, I felt closest to heaven- the veil was lifted. Our suffering, united with Christ, can become salvific. “Suffering seems to be particularly essential to the nature of man. It is deep as man himself, precisely because in its own way that depth which is proper to man, and in its own way surpasses it. Suffering seems to belong to man’s transcendence: it is one of those points in which man is in a certain sense “destined” to go beyond himself (3).”

We fear weakness. Weakness means vulnerability & lack of control. Christ chooses weakness as the vehicle for salvation. “To Suffer means to become particularly susceptible, particularly open to the working of the salvific powers of God . . . In [Christ], God has confirmed his desire to act especially through suffering . . . and wishes to have his power known precisely in this weakness and emptying of self (74).”

We fear the acquisition of virtue. Striving is the key word when acquiring virtue. Virtue acquisition takes hard work and doesn’t always “pay-off” in this life. “Suffering contains a special call to virtue . . . and this is the virtue of perseverance in bearing whatever disturbs and causes harm. In doing this, the individual unleashes hope, which maintain him the conviction that suffering will not get the better of him, it will not deprive him of his dignity as a human being, a dignity liked to the awareness of the meaning of life (75).”

We fear purgation. Purgation leads to heaven. God calls you and I to redeem ourselves and the world in our little way. “The Gospel of suffering is being written unceasingly, and it speaks unceasingly the words of this strange paradox: the springs of divine power gush forth precisely in the midst of human weakness. . . The more a person is threatened by sin, the heavier the structure of sin in which today’s world brings with it, the greater the eloquence which human suffering possesses in itself (89).”

We fear true compassion. Our culture & society throws around the term compassion. What is compassion? Compassion comes from the Latin root com (with) and pati (suffer). Together compatior means “to suffer with.” Compassion means “to suffer with” another person. “We could say that suffering, which is present under so many different forms in our human world, is also present in order to unleash love in the human person, that unselfish gift of one “I” on behalf of other people, especially to those who suffer (92).”

In the Gospels, Jesus repeats dozens of times, “BE NOT AFRAID.” It’s time to let go of the fear associated with suffering, death, & dying. And focus on living. Life is beautiful in all its forms & functions. It’s time to relearn how to suffer with each other. In the words of a man who understood and lived suffering: “In the messianic programme of Christ, which is at the same time the programme of the Kingdom of God, suffering is present in the world in order to release love, in order to give birth to works of love towards neighbor, in order to transform the whole of human civilization into a “civilization of love (96).” Let us go forth and build a civilization of love . . .

Litany of the Sacred Heart of Jesus

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Litany of the Sacred Heart of Jesus

V. Lord, have mercy on us.
R. Christ, have mercy on us. 
V. Lord, have mercy on us. Christ, hear us.
R. Christ, graciously hear us. 
V. God the Father of Heaven, have mercy on us.
God the Son, Redeemer of the world, have mercy on us.
God the Holy Spirit, have mercy on us.
Holy Trinity, one God, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, Son of the Eternal Father, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, formed by the Holy Spirit in the Virgin Mother’s womb, [etc.]
Heart of Jesus, substantially united to the Word of God.
Heart of Jesus, of infinite majesty.
Heart of Jesus, holy temple of God.
Heart of Jesus, tabernacle of the Most High.
Heart of Jesus, house of God and gate of heaven.
Heart of Jesus, glowing furnace of charity.
Heart of Jesus, vessel of justice and love.
Heart of Jesus, full of goodness and love.
Heart of Jesus, abyss of all virtues.
Heart of Jesus, most worthy of all praise.
Heart of Jesus, King and center of all hearts.
Heart of Jesus, in whom are all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
Heart of Jesus, in whom dwells all the fullness of the Godhead.
Heart of Jesus, in whom the Father was well pleased.
Heart of Jesus, of whose fullness we have all received.
Heart of Jesus, desire of the everlasting hills.
Heart of Jesus, patient and rich in mercy.
Heart of Jesus, rich to all who call upon You.
Heart of Jesus, fount of life and holiness.
Heart of Jesus, propitiation for our offenses.
Heart of Jesus, overwhelmed with reproaches.
Heart of Jesus, bruised for our iniquities.
Heart of Jesus, obedient even unto death.
Heart of Jesus, pierced with a lance.
Heart of Jesus, source of all consolation.
Heart of Jesus, our life and resurrection.
Heart of Jesus, our peace and reconciliation.
Heart of Jesus, victim for our sins.
Heart of Jesus, salvation of those who hope in You.
Heart of Jesus, hope of those who die in You.
Heart of Jesus, delight of all saints.

V. Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world,
R. spare us, O Lord.
V. Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world,
R. graciously hear us, O Lord.
V. Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world,
R. have mercy on us.

V. Jesus, meek and humble of Heart,
R. Make our hearts like unto Thine.

Let us pray.

Almighty and eternal God, look upon the Heart of Thy most beloved Son and upon the praises and satisfaction which He offers Thee in the name of sinners; and to those who implore Thy mercy, in Thy great goodness, grant forgiveness in the name of the same Jesus Christ, Thy Son, who livest and reignest with Thee forever and ever. Amen.

*EWTN

My family and I are Consecrated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. If you eant to learn more about the devotion and consecration, please, check out my other related blog posts. The Feast of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus is June 8th.

Oh most Sacred Heart of Jesus, I place all my trust in you.

Amen.

Catholic or Bust

“But Who Do you Say That I am?” Simon Peter said in reply, ‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.” Matthew 16:15-16.

Have you ever listened to conversion stories? Many Catholic converts tell passionate anecdotes about their spiritual journey to Catholicism. Conversion stories run the gambit. Many converts felt a tug or pull towards Catholicism throughout their lives. Many converts recall times of keen resistance to the faith or frustration with the pull towards the Faith of Our Fathers. After critically studying Catholicism from Scripture to Tradition to Magisterium, some converts note “aha!” moments or “Nooooo . . . Anything but. . . Fine!!” moments. Some fell into Catholicism like a delightful bubble bath or breathed a sigh of relief walking into the home they always sought. Some stumbled into Catholicism for less profound reasons but continue practicing anyways. Others suffered and survived persecution to became a member of the Church.

Catholicism for me was like breathing air both a subconscious and conscious act. Faith came easily to me as a child. Maintaining that childlike trust of faith not easy. As a child, the world was a spiritual place where you used all five senses to experience its beauty, mystery, and truth. Faith was my sixth sense. Catholicism is a fleshy, tactile, and sensual religion that matches how a child explores, experiences, and discovers the world. In many ways, elements of Catholic liturgy and ritual that give some the heebie jeebies reflect a childlike wonder and exploration of the spiritual realm. We use all five senses to seek, worship, experience, and connect with God and the divine.

Catholic means: one, holy, catholic, and apostolic. You’re a part of something much greater than yourself as a Catholic yet an unique individual too. Every church housing a tabernacle or altar offering the Sacrifice of the Mass is a home regardless of the location, rite, or language. As a Catholic you’re more aware that you’re an intricate and important thread in a elaborate tapestry of all the faithful both living or dead whether in heaven or purgatory. We receive immense grace from the Sacramental life of the Church, the Communion of Saints, the Holy Trinity, and the intercession of Our Lady. And, yes, we can trace our founder to Jesus Christ and an apostolic succession based on scripture and guided by the Holy Spirit despite concupiscence and human involvement.

“Because you have seen me, you have believed: blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe” John 20:29.

But THE ULTIMATE REASON is the source and summit of the Catholic Faith: The Eucharist, i.e., the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Our Lord Jesus Christ. The reason Catholic Christians are not and cannot be just another Christian denomination.

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Because of our bold claim as Catholics, our lives radically change or should radically change. If we are what we consume and if what we consume is the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, we become not only a part of the Body of Christ, but the Body of Christ. With that efficacious grace and transformation, we go out into the world and proclaim the Good News! Everything changes or should change: our thoughts, words, deeds, actions, relationships, priorities, hopes, dreams, goals and pursuits. The Faith changes how we: dress, educate, drive, work, socialize, worship, approach sexuality, manage life challenges, celebrate, mourn, suffer, suffer with, marry, procreate, raise children, etc. Etc.

The Eucharist isn’t a magic circle that absolves us from pain, suffering, and trials. Au Contraire! The world rejected Christ and still rejects Christ. As Christians, especially Catholic Christians, we understand our world, our fellow believers, our families, our peoples, our cultures, etc, will reject, ostracize and persecute even kill us too.

Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. From now on a household of five will be divided, three against two and two against three; a father will be divided against his son and a son against his father, a mother against her daughter and a daughter against her mother, a mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.– Luke 12:51-53

“Thy word’s thy ship not thy home.”- St. Therese of Lisieux. St. John Paul said living the faith would be hard-  potentially a white or red martyrdom. But at the end of it all, when the world turns away, when your friends, family or loved ones turn away or turn you in, the grace and peace of truth carries one through. Even through the profound hurt and pain of rejection and persecution, salvific hope and trust remains- a divine purpose and plan.

It is Jesus in fact that you seek when you dream of happiness; he is waiting for you when nothing else you find satisfies you; he is the beauty to which you are so attracted; it is he who provokes you with that thirst for fullness that will not let you settle for compromise; it is he who urges you to shed the masks of a false life; it is he who reads in your hearts your most genuine choices, the choices that others try to stifle. It is Jesus who stirs in you the desire to do something great with your lives, the will to follow an ideal, the refusal to allow yourselves to be grounded down by mediocrity, the courage to commit yourselves humbly and patiently to improving yourselves and society, making the world more human and more fraternal.

-St. John Paul II. Vergata Prayer Vigil at World Youth Day 8/19/2000.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When You’re Tired of Fighting . . .

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Photo Credit: Isaiah Eyre Photography

“. . . Chained by your control. There is freedom in surrender. Lay it down, and let it go.” This is a poignant line in Casting Crown’s song “Be Held.” A song with a message that came into my life two years ago.

A recent conversation with one of my best friends prompted this post. Both she and I are facing potentially radical life changes or challenges. The common thread was the idea of being held. Both she and I have been instructed by priests to be held and stop grasping at and controlling life. My priest, a Jesuit on a retreat during the sacrament of confession, further warned me of the dangers of this illusion of control. Sure we make free will choices about what we think, say, or do, but the real ticket items of life are out of our control.

You can be the healthiest and most active person but still experience a health crisis. You can be the most competent driver and still end up in a car accident. You can pray and do all the right things at the right time and still have a crisis of faith. Praying that perfect novena might not get you the spouse you want or deserve in a timely fashion. Grace downpours upon us, but grace doesn’t equal control. Only God has authentic control, I.e.., He is the alpha and omega. Moreover, God isn’t about control. God is about a divine, merciful, and loving plan for us and our world working with our free will choices.

My Jesuit retreat master warned me of the dangers of control. He explained I was chained by could haves, should haves, and would haves. I was playing God. Not only were my two hands chained behind my back, my freedom was becoming more limited and constricted. I was chained by my control, and in the process I had lost an innate and inalienable aspect of my humanity- freedom.

His solution: BE HELD. For any reader who may be scoffing, “dude, that is easy,” either you have achieved a level of sanctity many of us are working on or this concept really hasn’t sunk in or been practiced. Allowing Christ to hold you in complete and utter abandonment like an infant in a parent’s arms is no small feat especially as a modern adult. To back away and tell God, “I can’t handle it. You handle it.” Or “I rely more on you than myself or anyone or anything else.”

Be Held . . . A lifetime of practicing this reality awaits. I look to my neice and nephews as examples running into my arms with arms stretched wide, face joyful, and eyes scrunched closed. Once in my arms, the dead of weigh of their love and trust almost cripple me. I hope and pray that one day I will approach Jesus in this manner.