The Epic Tale of Prideful Suffering

The Epic Tale of Prideful Suffering

In explaining Christ’s death on the cross to my students, I explain to them that sacrifice is a sign of interior devotion.  Whether a parent forgoes breakfast so that their child can eat or the martyr gives up his life for love of Christ, devotion and love for another person are at the root of a great deal of sacrifice and suffering.  This suffering makes its way into our spiritual life and can even assist us in relating our prayers to Christ in His Passion.  While there is something to be said for prayerful mortification, sometimes the mortification can overtake the spiritual fruits that flow from a particular devotion. When I was in college, a relatively huge percentage of the student body went to daily Mass and nobody ever – ever – used kneelers.  We were hardcore.  It was always easy to tell when a prospective student was visiting because when communion would roll around, they’d drop the kneeler and be head and shoulders above the rest of the congregation.  Because they weren’t hardcore Catholic like we were.  I bemoaned the lack of face-to-face confessionals since the sacrament was, unofficially, more efficacious if I had to look the priest in the eye when confessing my sins – because of the added suffering.  And those super-Saints on campus who were rumored to have done a general confession?  Unwavering devotion!  The Passion of the Christ was an awesome movie because of the bare-knuckle violence that was indicative of the hardcore devotion the filmmakers had to have had.  I swear I was on the verge of making a barbed-wire rosary. But where...
Down in the Mouth: A Note on Prayer and Suffering

Down in the Mouth: A Note on Prayer and Suffering

My wife and I have two children, four months apart (go figure), both under the age of two.  Currently they’re both in day care which means they’re both constantly exposed to all the germs passed by a dozen or so other kids.  Since October, our family has endured three cases of food poisoning, eight ear infections, two cases of bronchitis, three cases of pneumonia and currently suffer from three cases of strep throat and one case of hand, foot, and mouth which is not to be confused with hoof and mouth or mad cow disease. Before having kids, I was relatively healthy.  I sometimes had allergies or a sinus infection, but I usually overcame them with decent success using every homeopathic remedy on God’s green earth, however, the last six months has brought a barrage of sickness quicker than I could fully recover.  These months have provided an excellent opportunity to practice joy in suffering.  To many people, that probably sounds ridiculousJoy in suffering? That's quite an oxymoron, isn't it? .  It certainly sounds ridiculous if your definition of joy is “happiness and comfort”.  Joy, however, is not about feeling physically or emotionally satisfied, but rather about having a certain peace that despite the hardship, you know you are doing something for God.  I’d posit that the greater the hardship, the greater the faith, the greater the joy. “Jesus says; ‘My daughter, I want to instruct you on how you are to rescue souls through sacrifice and prayer.  You will save more souls through prayer and suffering than will a missionary through his teachings and sermons alone.” ~Diary of...

The Valley of Tears

Out of the deep have I called unto thee O Lord; Lord, hear my voice! O let thine ears consider well The voice of my complaint. -Psalm 130:1-2 Given all the drama within the Catholic universe lately, as well as the perilous state of national and worldwide affairs, I found myself half-joking with a friend that we’re no longer certain that the End Times are not at hand.  Then again, a Christian being fed to a first-century lion would probably love to battle a contraception mandate. Anecdotally, the level of suffering in my immediate experience of the world has risen considerably.  Loved ones with cancer, employment issues, discord among friends, screaming babies, exhaustion; such a storm brews around nearly every one of us that the list of intentions we lift up to God becomes too many to count, causing us to drop the formality and ask for help for “everything and everybody.”  Suddenly a violent storm came up on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by waves; but Jesus was asleep. -Matthew 8:24 Serenity is something for which many people pray in the midst of distress; however, it is a virtue that is often misunderstood.  Christ never said that we would be free from suffering, only that we should not fear the suffering that this world affords to its followers; for he has overcome the world.  Serenity is not freedom from the storm, but peace amidst the storm. The Serenity Prayer is one that provides great perspective and checks the expectations of those that pray it.  Generally, people are only aware of the first half: God,...

Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People?

Perhaps the greatest stumbling block for Christians and non-Christians alike is the issue of suffering.  If God is a good God, how is it that bad things happen at all, much less, to good people?  While it is essential that a person understands that God does not create or commit evil, it still exists as a natural consequence (or possibility) of our free will.  The question at hand is asked in the aftermath of catastrophic events; the news shows ask every available priest, rabbi, imam and minister for an answer.  It is a natural response for a person to seek an explanation for their suffering, possibly so that they may justify it in their own minds.  Though much suffering is caused by events not directly intended by an individual, such as losing a loved one in a car accident, the role of all suffering must be understood from a certain point of view in the lives of baptized persons. Our expectations of God are often the source of the spiritual conflict felt with the experience of suffering.  While God is not only good but Goodness itself, he does allow bad things to occur through sin as a natural result of our free will.  This post is not covering the topic of free will, but suffice it to say that since God’s desire is for us to love him of our own accord, we also have the ability to chose against loving Him, which is sin.  Possibly the greatest example of God allowing sin so that His will be accomplished is the crucifixion and death of Jesus.  As our Lord...