Saturday, June 28, 2008

St. Francis de Sales: Comments on Suffering

"First, accept the pain from His hand, as if you saw Him, Himself, putting and pressing it on your head.

"Second, offer yourself to suffer more.

"Third, beg our Savior by the merit of his torments to accept these little distresses in union with the pains He suffered on the cross."

"Next, protest that you wish not only to suffer, but to love and cherish these sufferings since they are sent from so good and so sweet a hand.

"Lastly, invoke the martyrs and the many servants of God, who enjoy Heaven as a result of their having been afflicted in the world...."

Such is the advice of St. Francis de Sales, on suffering. There is more, but this helps any Victim Soul of the Sacred Heart of Jesus to be reminded, in steps, how to proceed with the good work. It is not easy to keep this focus on our own, but in the Holy Spirit, through prayer and trust, we can persevere and learn to embrace all as goodness and joy. We can expect the bar to be raised, one notch at a time. Or, like a vice grip around the head, as a kind of halo--we can see the angel of God and feel the tightening of the band. If we shriek out in pain and complaint, the angel might justifiably reply, "Well, you agreed to this!" So we have.

How difficult it is to accept not only physical pain, relentless pain, but more so, the suffering of a loved one, particularly a child. This suffering is taken on by the adult, in sorrow and grief beyond description. Yet we try to describe the pain of a child's suffering, without words. Yet even in such piteous suffering of a baby barely toddling upon his or her earthly journey, there is a sense of the holy. We can see the Lord, anointing the child with the oil of His sweet agony, sharing His glory and omniscient love with the most vulnerable of innocent life.

Consider the babies in the womb, destroyed by an abortionist's scalpel, rejected by his or her own mommy and daddy--often also by grandparents who do not want this grandchild to be born. Consider the many adults--Catholics among them!--who do not want the little baby to live, as they vote for senators and congresspersons, even presidential candidates--who pass "pro-choice" legislation! Yet these very legislators (and Catholic "pro-choice" voters) would be devastated if their two-, five-, or 20-year-old child was killed in an accident or died of leukemia.

To be sure, there is much suffering in our world--suffering not brought by Christ's loving hand but rather from the claws of intrinsic evil. The suffering from Christ's loving hand simply arrives: suddenly, unexpectedly, and without our bringing it on due to malice or misjudgment on our own part. This kind of suffering is just punishment or the consequences of our sins. Some suffering is the consequence of other persons' sins--violence and crime of abortion, drunk driving, drug abuse, sex abuse, emotional and psychological abuse. Deep down in the roots of these sins can be found often enough: sheer evil.

Yet if a victim soul suffers as a result of others' sins, that suffering can have merit and goodness. Depends upon how the victim soul bears the pain. For, Jesus suffered as a result of others' sins. See how He suffered? He suffered mostly in silence except for asking the Father to forgive His persecutors, His tormentors, His murderers. And He forgave those who abandoned Him, too.

When the suffering comes as the balm of inexplicable illness or accident, it must be suffered as such, as a mystery of our vulnerable, created life, so totally dependent upon God in all aspects. Not that any of it is easy. He never appeared to the mystic victim souls in a manner expressing that it would be easy. Often He showed Himself as the scourged, the thorn-crowned, the Crucified with gaping wounds.

Often His mother appeared to those called to suffer, with tears in her eyes or cascading down her cheeks, much like the dew drops on a Lady's Mantle, first thing in the morning. That is how suffering often comes: in the morning of our days, in the morning of our lives. We awaken to the agony and feel the sufferings of the world within our bodies or minds or hearts, and in all, for suffering encompasses our beings which dwell in His Wounded Sacred Heart.


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