Today I want to write about Christian suffering. Familiar readers will know that when I write about such personal matters, I am only giving my own understanding. My intention is to provide a starting point so that contributors can agree or disagree and – even more valuable – share their own insights with us all. Secondsightblog has, for me at least, proved an invaluable way of exploring what are often difficult matters.
I confess that, by comparison with many others, I have had very little suffering. Ups and downs of course, some periods of misery, but nothing catastrophic or lasting unduly long. Indeed I am often tempted to remind God that I am far from the holy Christian who may be put to the trial. I would expect to crumble at the first blow.
I am going to start with a brief poem which I wrote many years ago. I was attending a Mass in a little chapel to pray with a friend whose young wife had died from cancer. I simply did not know how I would have coped in my friend’s place, but I knew that he was suffering just as his wife had suffered from her illness before her death. Suddenly, as the priest elevated the chalice, I had a moment of insight. And this was the poem I wrote as a result.
This is my body, the high priest said,
And my blood, as he proffered the wine;
And I trembled in front of the chalice
For I saw the body was mine.
I had thought the price of my passion
Had satisfied sin and had won,
But the bread on the table was broken
With suffering still to be done.
I had known the scourge and the nailing
I had known the rack of the tree;
And I saw them again in the chalice
That the high priest offered to me.
You will see a certain ambivalence in that poem: Is it I, or is it my friend, or is it Christ, who is speaking? Perhaps all three of us – in different ways, for Christian suffering is not personal territory.
Then there is an enigma. Was Christ’s suffering insufficient – surely the tortured death of the Son of God was enough, and more than enough. Traditional Protestantism taught that we are justified simply by Christ’s sacrifice. We did the sinning, Christ picked up the bill. But Catholic understanding rejects this. St Paul tells us: “(I) rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up those things which are wanting the sufferings of Christ…” (Col 1) And this is remarkable because it means that our suffering is the share which Christ allows us to take in the redemption of the world. Every pang is a pang which Christ did not have to feel, because we have felt it.
Should we rejoice in suffering, as Paul appears to do? I don’t think we should pray for it. Even if my cowardice protects me from a prayer that might just be answered, it would be presumptuous of me. But I should be able to rejoice in what comes my way. Not a tear is wasted when a Christian accepts suffering.
But as I, and my best beloved, foresee the shades of night, we know that we must suffer. When the times comes, will I remember all this? Some of you who have been through suffering will know the answer for yourselves. I must pray and see.
That is a really beautiful and touching poem.
It made me not think of my suffering.which very often I like to forget
But obviously I will write about your comment later Thank you.
On the evidence of this you should be the CH’s poet-in-resident. I won’t say anything about the present incumbent, but …
Despite the respect I have for Quentin, this post really breaks the bounds of absurdity. Only a kind of tortuous theological thinking could arrive at the conclusion that suffering is somehow good.. Such an ideology distracts from the work that is done to reduce suffering — not revel in it.
In fact it is the outcome of many centuries of Catholic thinking which keeps the myopic lay Catholic under control — and not complaining. So it’s very convenient — but it’s bad news for the world.
A lot of suffering is instructional or corrective. It would be stupid if fire didn’t hurt or if it was possible to have a “fight to the death” without anyone getting hurt. The pain in my heart when my daughter was in hospital helped me to know how much I loved her.
Responding to Quentin’s poem this could be Christ on the cross, who in his divinity and compassion share in all human suffering.
It hurts when our loved are hurting.
There must be so much suffering when a husband and children die at war
Jesus offered Himself as a sacrifice willingly for our sins,and knew He was going to die. He had a free will and could not have done so.
I remember ( I may have said this before), I was very young..staying with my grandmother in Bray Ireland ,the newsagent used to pop the Irish Independent over to her , I liked to read the poem in there. I was so upset when I read this one as I did not really understand before then much about Jesus’s suffering and why.So I promised from then on that I would do all I could for Him for what He did for me, I admit I very often failed.
Upon a hill called Calvary, they nailed Him to a Cross
And there were those who never knew their overwhelming loss.
And there are those who live today in ignorance and in shame
Who do not honour or respect the glory of His name
But He was God who died for us with thorns around His head
He was Jesus Son of God who suffered and who bled
So let us kneel before His Cross and put away our pride.
And ask forgiveness for our sins for which our Saviour died.
AD, you should pray the Rosary, and meditate on the Joyful, the Suffering and the Glorious Mysteries (so should I).
I was told in a sermon some time back that the problem that concerned St Leo the Great was not, why do some good people suffer? but Why do some good people not suffer?
I would be very surprised if you had ‘not’ found it absurd.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder!
I don`t think any of us would think of suffering as good in itself, but as an inevitable consequence of the existence of evil, which God allows. and of the freedom which He has given to us. He has redeemed us by sharing in our pain, but He cannot remove it, and we must try and use it in love, to try and share ourselves and understand.
Of course this is very difficult in practice, the random way in which the innocent and helpless are affected, the need we have to alleviate and prevent suffering, our fear of pain and misery, the requirement that we should sometimes seek it out and do penance. Personally, I pray frequently that God will temper the wind to His shorn lamb.
Just what you said “He cannot remove it” But God is all powerful and knowing, he could remove all pain and suffering in a second i should think. Why he chose’s not to……Weren’t adam and eve free from pain etc in the beginning……
Ann, as far as I understand the situation with pain and suffering, it is that God intended man (and woman!) to live with Him in a state of perfect happiness as you say, but somehow, with the story of Adam and Eve as an allegory, evil complicated His plans. He does not want us to be robots. He wants us to choose to love and serve Him, and to fight against evil, so in a way of speaking, He has bound Himself to accept the consequences. I believe that sometimes, in individual circumstances, He suspends His laws of nature, and works miracles, but that He “cannot” do so constantly.
Why He seems to rescue some people and not others, is impossible to understand, especially when we see and hear of so many tragic situations affecting innocent and vulnerable people, now and throughout the centuries. It occurs to me that the parable of the workers who were all paid the same, those who had put in one hours` work as much as those who had toiled through the heat of the day, shows that God does not always do what seems “fair” to our human way of thinking. Perhaps all will be sorted out through the purification of Purgatory, or perhaps we can think of Christ`s saying that there are many mansions in His Father`s house.
The Catholic Catechism has probably got a lot to say about this important question, and much better, but I have hardly time for this reply, and cannot look it up now, my apologies.
We are all of us stretched on an anvil of suffering at some time during our lives, or can expect so to be. Some seem to have more than their share and others less but that is not really the point. I’m quite interested in the genetics of suffering. Different types of tissue call forth different conditions. for example woe betide the person born with serious connective tissue flaws. The same in a sense for the ‘genetics’ of place and the Chinese proverb ‘may you never have the misfortune to be born in interesting times’ comes to mind here. The more you come to think about it the more it becomes apparent that suffering is just part of life-someone is always living on the flood plain in one way or another. As far as I can see the prayer of Jabez is entirely appropriate :
“And Jabez called on the God of Israel, saying, Oh that you would bless me indeed, and enlarge my border, and that your hand might be with me, and that you would keep me from evil, that it may not grieve me! And God granted him that which he requested..” 1 chronicles 4:10
I pray it frequently in one way or another. As to suffering being beneficial, I guess it may be in retrospect since our deepest learning is borne from profound personal experience, like Singalong I would like to be without it entirely.
Also the prayers of the Holy Rosary that Our Lady asked requested.
I think that Quentin’s description of Christian suffering is very consoling.
Although he does mention it, he does not examine the reasons for general suffering in the world. Take a current example: the refugee camps where Syrian families have taken shelter. I see that they are in the utmost misery. It is so cold that supplies cannot reach them. What is God doing here?
Yes we can ask that question. Also why are the supplies not reaching then?
Because apparently the trucks can’t get through. But of course there are plenty of examples of innocent people in misery across the world.
I think the best question to ask is “What am I doing there” Wherever ‘there’ happens to be for you. In other words, being Gods hands wherever we can. From my experience in prisons hospitals and orphanages I conclude there are no answers but there are opportunities.
You are right.
It would a good idea if parishes were to be involved not just giving money.
I was involved in a parish many years ago who worked with the Catholic Children’s Society in Bristol Just visiting also The Legion of Mary, also there used to be the St Vincent’s de Paul If one reads their Diocesan Directory there.are plenty of organizations .
But then do people have a lot of time on their hands.
Before the new Church that was built there was no parish priest for 5 years resident. until one came . A Parish priest who looked after it asked for representatives to go around the town and housing estates (I had no car) and visit the elderly on a yearly basis and then someone else took over.
I pushed a 3 yr and 2 yr children with me as others did too. The elderly were pleased with the visits. This helped the parish to grow in time for a resident Order to take over.
It can be done with a little initiative.
Now I feel sad that when Exposition is on in a local parish Church and parents walk past the school to take their children and pick them up , will just walk past the door. and stand talking to others outside. No thought of Jesus present in the Blessed Sacrament.
With not many inside.
My mother would not pass a Church by- which ever town we visited and I mean not pass, when we visited my grandmother on holiday in Ireland every time we passed it in the town in one day we would go and light a candle. ( never got fed up) I am sure mine would have if it was every time!!) One would have thought she would be put off as she nearly always fainted in Mass and carried holy water in a small whisky bottle (Haigs) to drink when she felt weak.
Just saying how things Change.!!! Sorry to bore anyone. .
I am just watching ‘The World Over on EWTN (recorded) Pope Francils saying that all the worlds hunger will hopefully solve in 2025! Also he has be named by Time magazine as Man of the Year.
Plenty of interesting news on there. From Cardinal Burke The Future of the Old Mass etc
I think that the subject of suffering is enormously important. It has a dichotomous nature; we don’t want it, but it is a normal part of life. Think of the dedication of an athlete, of his/her sacrifice in order to attempt to attain a gold medal. The same can be said of anyone furiously studying at University, working at a coal mine, or the attainment of experience in life; accomplishment and persistence doesn’t come easily.
While suffering plays a role in everyone’s life, does it help to have an understanding or philosophy of suffering, which is personal to you and may well have religious components in it? I think that it does help; however, while it cannot take suffering away, it may well help one to carry a cross with a little more forbearance and patience.
I think that the Old Testament book of Job may well have a significant ethic of suffering, which is religiously based. Job was a believer who experienced every catastrophe imaginable. In the end he came through despite being thoroughly tested by life’s vicissitudes and by God. Job is almost a Christ figure; accepting suffering despite his goodness.
Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi are two figures in history who suffered for the causes dear to their hearts. The same can be said of any great figure in history; both men and women. I would like to give you my favourite quote from Mahatma Ghandi. Naturally, there is suffering in the attainment of each of his phrases. Before I do so, I would like to wish everybody who contributes or reads this blog a merry Christmas and a happy new year.
‘The things that destroy us are politics without principle, pleasure without conscience, wealth without work, knowledge without character, business without morality, science without humanity, and worship without sacrifice.’ (Mahatma Gandhi)
Thank you for this, John. I certainly had the Book of Job in the back of my mind — slightly fearfully. It gives, I suppose, the ultimate example of faith under pressure.
Is what you, and others, have said applicable outside the context of specifically Christian suffering? A glance at any newspaper tells us of widespread suffering being undergone by those who have no religious affiliations.
The reason we pray for the souls in Purgatory is to ease their suffering.
It is a good and meaningful thing to pray for the dead..Especially on all souls day.!
Mahatma Gandhi quote above
I don’t know if wealth without work would be too relevant as one can be wealthy and do good works Perhaps that is what is meant.!.
Can we see, not as merely an idea, but as a fact, that or sorrow, misery, pain, suffering is the suffering of all mankind, all of humanity. If we can or do get beyond seeing that suffering is not my suffering, which a shoddy little personal affair. When there is suffering, suffering is Man’s suffering. Then we have a totally different approach to the problem.
When we see what I suffer is not simply personal but the rest of mankind, then suffering is an extraordinary that one has to look at very carefully. And if one human being understands the whole nature of suffering and goes beyond it, then he or she helps the rest of mankind. Right?
I don’t really understand what you mean
I am not sure that seeing others suffer can ease ones pain any less
Childbirth is not easier if I know the women in the next room is in agony!
You are affirming what I said, suffering happens to all of us.
You also affirm what I said, suffering is not merely personal but the suffering of a whole humanity.
Suffering if we are to understand it, bring it to an end and go beyond it, we have to see that suffering is more than merely personal.
Sorry for the errors – laptop playing up again. Here are the corrections:
Ist Line – should read – our sorrow, misery, pain,
7th Line – should read – suffering is an extraordinary thing, one has to look…..
St Joseph, here’s a little problem for you!
Imagine two women both suffering the pangs of a difficult childbirth in adjacent rooms. Is the total suffering an addition of both women’s suffering, or one woman’s suffering experienced twice?
Ten thousand people die of starvation. Does the total of suffering equal one person’s suffering, or the total of ten thousand person’s suffering?
In all the world since Adam and Eve has the total suffering been no more than the suffering of one person?
From an outsiders point of view the suffering would be perceived as the addition of both women’s suffering. However from one of the women’s point of view,it is most probably that the suffering would only be the amount of one women,s suffering experienced twice.
This is because suffering is all a matter of perception. One man’s joy is another man’s
woe. It is most likely that the women with awful pregnancy pangs is feeling her own pain and that pain is not made worse by the other woman’s suffering.
She may be less comfortable knowing someone else is suffering so close. But it is not as simple as double up the amount of suffering.
This is very much the same as the starvation problem only it is on a larger scale.
Knowing that 10,000 people have died of starvation is a lot of suffering but this suffering will not be perceived the same by everyone involved intriniscally or extrinscally .
In all the world since Adam and Eve suffering has depended on a huge amount of variable on what the majority and individuals are used to.
It is not as simple as all for one or one for alls suffering.
Quentin. I don’t know if the last question was anything to do with Jesus’s suffering on the Cross.?.
I would have given a short quirky answer like Ignatius however I did not think it appropriate.
I would like to know your answer. Probably more accurate than mine.
Why don’t you just go in each adjacent room and ask the women concerned which of them was doing the suffering and which was just a copycat..?
That is why I did not quite understand you it seemed a little mixed up to me and I asked you. As I said if ‘I’ was suffering in childbirth just because someone.else was suffering in childbirth that does nor make mine less. Speaking personally. I took it that you were saying my childbirth would not be so painful-.you did not answer me .
No, I was not referring to comparing your pain during childbirth with another who was giving birth, but suffering that is the suffering of all mankind.
Nor am I referring to particular types of suffering and comparing that suffering with another.
When we say we are suffering, what is suffering? Where does this suffering come from?
Most speak of suffering as pertains to this body, but there is suffering that is not of the body though the effects can be felt in the body – sorrow, anxiety, fear for example.
The whole question of suffering needs to be looked at carefully if one is to bring suffering to an end. One must find the source of it
As I said. ‘Suffering has many colours! Hard to define,’
As I said in not so many words.’ One MAN suffered and died so as all men could LIVE’!
Quentin – I’m not sure that suffering is quantifiable in that way.
If there were an answer to your question, “Does the total of suffering equal one person’s suffering, or the total of ten thousand person’s suffering?” what if anything would follow from the answer?
When I mentioned Jesus at the end of my comment, it was just the though that Jesus’s suffering made up for all our sufferings put together. Just a thought!
It really depends why we suffer. As Jesus died for our sin’s. .Our spiritual welfare.
I don’t think our sufferings out of natural causes go towards our salvation.
Someone who does not believe wont offer them up to God anyway! It is a very deep subject this and has many colours.Excuse the expression!
What, if anything, would follow from the answer? I can only make suggestions here.
First, it alters the character of widespread suffering — which might otherwise make us question God’s mercy. To think that it cannot exceed the suffering of one person gets the issue into proportion.
We do not know the extent of Christ’s suffering but, if we take into account his sense of desolation when his death came (My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”) we may believe that no one suffered more. His suffering comprehended the whole of mankind’s suffering in one offering.
It is in this way that I understand Nektarios’s point about universal suffering. (He will correct me if I have this wrong). From the starving, frozen refugee child in Lebanon to the trafficked sex worker, to the tortured prisoner of a wicked regime there is only one suffering. And it is comprehended in the Cross.
Have you not brought Christ into all the answers to the questions-which is why I did not, as I presumed they were not religious questions.
I am sometimes worried when I bring religion especially our faith because sometimes when we are discussing subjects we have to take into account unbelievers.
That is why I asked was Jesus included in all this suffering especially Adam and Eve;if so one will get a different perspective on suffering.and an opportunity to criticise the Church or make a negative comment like Nektarios has just did on Church teaching!
A thought. for you I don’t know the answer.
I was given by my mother a gold crucifix at 21 yrs old I wore it on a valuable gold chain that belonged to my husbands granddad, on it also I wore a gold medal of our Lady brought back from Lourdes 30 years ago. by a St Francis de Sales priest. I only took it off at night.
I have lost it, 2 days ago, so one could say I am suffering, I have searched everywhere for it empty bins ,saying to Jesus ‘why did you let this happen, He says back in my thoughts, not My fault if your careless! I am praying to all the Saints -not found yet.
I though to console myself ‘it is not a life’ -if my loss will help the unborn ( how it can I don’t know however it was to console myself, or even to lose one of my children.
I mentioned this to my daughter who said that’s right Mum we have to get things into perspective.
I am thinking ‘if it has gone with the dust cart how will the Lord perform a miracle’.
It is not in the house and I definitely took it off. Perhaps a little word in the Lords ear from you-as I believe you to be close to Him or anyone else would be appreciated.Thank You…
You are right, our suffering and the cause was understood on the Cross by our Lord.
I am not convinced we have truly understood suffering?
The universality of suffering is a fact. Can we look into this carefully to discover its source and so bring it to an end. And go beyond suffering and help others?
What I am discussing on this deep subject of suffering is threefold. What i
My reply to you below for some inexplicable reason knocked out the last few words of the posting which was: What is the source of suffering; how to bring suffering to an end and to go beyond it?
How are we to tread carefully on this subject which affects us all, that of suffering?
Has running into your Catholicism or belief system stopped suffering? No, the opposite is true.
I don’t think we need here to give a lesson in Church History do we? So organized religion has contributed to the sufferings of you,me and all mankind. Worse, it turns suffering into some spiritual education, which is just another way of getting people to accept the suffering they in particular are responsible for.
But this is side-tracking from answering my questions, of what is suffering, how can we end it, and how can we go beyond it?
Some might think it is not possible? Some perhaps see suffering as simply normal for human beings and so it is a natural state to be in and so continue to suffer? What can we do?
Quentin, my comment above is meant for you initially, did not put your name on it sorry!
St Joseph, I am very good at losing things. So I probably say more prayers to St Anthony than to any other saint. And he’s jolly good, if not infallible. So I’ll certainly have a go at him. (I always make the sign of the cross when I find an item! )The following story may not be much consolation.
A friend told me how he knocked a valuable table lamp; it fell to the floor and it shattered. He was put into a furious bad temper. Then he realised that his temper was warning him that he put too high a value on temporal objects — and his anger left him.
Will you explain your comment above ,at 3.56, you have not made it clear yet!
I take it that you are saying that Has Catholicism belief system stopped suffering? No the opposite is true. What do to actually mean?.
I mean religion has not solved the problem of suffering.
“….I don’t think we need here to give a lesson in Church History do we? So organized religion has contributed to the sufferings of you,me and all mankind. Worse, it turns suffering into some spiritual education, which is just another way of getting people to accept the suffering they in particular are responsible for….”
That’s odd Nektarios. When a few years ago, in the name of Christ, I helped set up an orphanage in China thus turning a couple of those ‘dying rooms’ into adoption centres I could have sworn I was alleviating a bit of suffering. Perhaps I was mistaken. Perhaps those starving children I personally fed didn’t get any benefit from it. Perhaps too Cafod is wrong to waste its time with the poor and the underprivileged of the world. Who knows perhaps of all the aids victims nursed and cared for in sub Saharan Africa by the catholic church have in fact been forced into hospices by that church in a wicked plot against humanity… who knows, perhaps one day you might say something sensible,,,,
There is occasionally the sense of solidarity in suffering in the sense of ‘we suffer as one’ This kind of thinking leads us into the notion that we unite our sufferings with and to Christ which brigs consolation in that suffering then comes as sacrifice to be offered. We would have to browse around what the saints have said to get a clearer sense of direction in this. But we must not be glib because as St Joseph says it is a deep subject. Personally I believe (and experience to a degree) that our sufferings -whatever they may be can be offered up and thus lightened. Taking communion round the hospital and visiting the sick at home tends to strengthen this inkling.
Quite right Ignatius.
I think you have the wrong message of the CCC and Catholic Church teaching.!
How do you imply that I have suffered from my Church Teaching.
Should I have- I would be called a martyr-not in the ‘bloody sense of course. (Maybe from others in the church which is not Church teaching!
If my husband suffered because of my faith- he not being a catholic,he had the choice. NOT to marry me!! He had 4 years to decide and not like today in a lot of cases’ I lived at home and not with him. I was not desperately suffering ; We waited in those days.
If anyone commits sin they don’t suffer only after the event, then they can go to the Sacrament of Confession. there is always a solution.
We are born with the natural law up to a point unless we are of evil intent or mentally sick and not responsible for our actions.Some will be the cause of suffering to others but very seldom do it to themselves unless sick of course.
Tell me why you believe our Church makes people suffer?
Perhaps look at a Crucifix while you think about it!
My answer to your question is implicit in my last posting.
Surely you have to start with Original Sin as the cause of death and suffering. Religion solves it eventually in the sense that we are redeemed, and prepared for eternal happiness.
Whether you regard Adam and Eve as history or as a sacred story pointing towards the truth, that’s where it begins.
If anyone is praying. I had a thought. I did some washing on Friday and looked in the washing machine a minute ago, after several times before and lo and behold in the rubber near the outside was a little shiny sparkle and there it was all nice and clean. I feel wonderful and Thank God and anyone who prayed. It could have gone down the hose as it is only small.’ Whoope’.
I had just promised Our Lady before hand I would say the Rosary every day for a month and not forget as sometimes I do.
I can relax now-and be more careful!
Thank you Quentin. Just read your comment. It could have been St Anthony as well
My neighbours who are not Catholics always say a prayer to him. too
Think me mad if you like, but into my head and written on my mind are the words saying
‘Prayer is the answer-Prayer is the answer- Prayer is the answer’..
I can not understand it as God does not not always answer what we ask for.
My mother used to say God knows best.
What do you say say is the the answer.?
I say when we die.because in our humanity there will always be suffering -the affect of our sins even other peoples sins affect someone else.
I prayed to St. Anthony of Padua for you too. God bless!
Thank you for your prayers/
Also for your answer above.
I thought you were saying in a sense that Catholicism was the cause of our sufferings.
I just wanted to make it clear that the teaching of Holy Mother Church is not the cause;
The cause is very often people who are not listening to Her or not finding help in the Sacraments
Obviously we can suffer from those who persecute us for our faith.But we can share that with the Cross of Jesus.
Thank you .for clearing that up.. .
There you are! I told you St Anthony would do it.
I may have mentioned this before ,when my son now 49 went to Grammar school at 11 he lost his St Christopher’s medal ,and when the Headmaster called him in to the office to say it was found-he promptly replied thank you I knew I would I prayed to St Anthony/
To which the headmaster said to him ‘You don’t believe in that rubbish do you.
He came home very upset.
An example of suffering for ones faith.
He has always been a great defender of the faith and is a Foundation Governor in a RC school. He still has my mothers St Anthony’s little statue on his lounge window and St Pio’s in the kitchen window sill..
He was going to France with his cousin when he was 16 on the back of my nephews motor bike A little while later they came back for his Rosary beads which he had left in his bedroom.
Do some people really understand Catholics?. . .
St.Joseph – I rejoice with you!
Some time ago I lost a watch, of minimal monetary value but for years I had cherished its keeping almost perfect time. Despite a thorough search of anywhere I thought it might have been, I failed to find it. Last thing at night I searched again with the same lack of result. Then I turned round and saw it on the open floor where I couldn’t have missed it had it been there a minute or two earlier.
I have no explanation. I live alone and no visitor had been in that room. All I could do was to offer a big “Thank you!” to St. Antony.
Isn`t it the existence of evil, God allowed to continue by God,, and the freedom He gives us with the gift of free will, which is the basic cause of suffering? The suffering of Christ was needed to win our redemption, and His great love for us made it possible. To me this is a mystery which I do not really understand, probably because the full enormity of evil and the extent of the greatness of God are beyond my comprehension.
The manner of our redemption makes suffering in this world inevitable. We can make use of it when it comes, and offer it in union with His suffering, we can sometimes choose it in extra penances, but we do not have to seek it out otherwise, though many saints seem to do so. We can and should consciously try to alleviate suffering, the suffering of others especially, which could be considered an anomaly in many respects.
Not sure about this except in a metaphorical sense. It seems to me that the planet earth and everything upon it is in a state of flux in relation to the forces that bring forth life..e.g electromagnetics, physical chemistry, gravity mass etc. This means that we live in a kind of crucible where we are, being made of ‘stuff’ subject to change. Thus the heart gradually loses out to gravity, the bowel eventually gives up or digests itself and the mountains slip into the sea causing floods and earthquakes as they go. Plenty of suffering then involved in ‘life’ without the need to introduce moral evil and I think tis was Jesus’ point in Luke 13 when he discusses the Tower of Siloam. Not that the life of the flesh is not itself a trial and that ‘being human’ is to suffer because of this- but not all suffering is related to evil unless you begin to theorise around the nature of the ‘Fall’ – in which case we are only theorising.
Thank you, Ignatius, yes indeed, you are pointing out another dimension to the subject. The rules which govern the universe involve constant destruction and regeneration and other effects which can cause great suffering to mankind as you have described. Nature in the animal world too, is red in tooth and claw, and most species can only survive by killing and eating other creatures. I don`t know if this is ultimately caused by the forces of evil, and also find it quite impossible to imagine how our life with God hereafter will be totally different.
It is hard to imagine what life will be like with God hereafter,
But we can get glimpses of it when we do the good works of the Church that Ignatius speaks about above,
I think it was St Paul that said, ‘I live now not I but Christ lives in me’ something like that’
That is one of the reasons that Jesus came to teach us and to die for!
To correct the fall of mankind. And to lift us up in the Spirit…
If I may, I would like to pull several postings together especially Ignatius on this subject of suffering that affects us all.
First let me clarify, I am not saying the Church is responsible for suffering. Suffering with human beings existed long before the Church came into existence, so the source of our suffering does not lie there, but there is much suffering in the Church, on that I am sure we can agree. I see Church members who are suffering, priests who are suffering, I see the whole of society and humanity suffering.
Will some sort of escapism free us from suffering, some belief system, education, being financially secure, will that set man free from suffering? obviously not.
Ignatius, when you were dealing with those who were suffering, how was this suffering different from yours, suffering is suffering. Yes people suffer in all sorts of ways and helping poor suffering people is always a good work to do.
However it is an illusion to think they are suffering, but I am not.
Quentin saw what I was say about the universality of suffering, and apart from rare individuals who have understood it, gone beyond it and help others, the rest of mankind suffers.
How are we to observe our suffering, see it for what it is without trying to escape into whatever, football, music, entertainment and so on? I will stop here for now. Look into to it.
I thought Quentin’s post was about ‘Christian suffering’! Or is it ‘Christians suffering’
Am I right in thinking that you are speaking about any sort of suffering, birds animals, the elderly, spiritual, physical. religious,hermits who decide to live a contemplative lifestyle, religious who self inflict suffering.Pain from lost loved ones, marriage breakdowns, etc etc etc. .
I am still not sure what you are asking!
It is simple or complicated.what you are saying.?
I am bewildered and trying to make sense of it.
How would you like me to look into it?.I am inclined to look ‘On to bright side of Life’ as the song goes. Not to say I ignore and move away from people problems..
We all know what the Lord asks of us.and as Catholics and other Christians-where would the world be without our prayers and good works and financial help..
We might talk about our life on SS, but we don’t shout about it otherwise-it is just a natural instinct of who we are. We all use our gifts as the Lord gave us within our capabilities.
And God will judge us in the end.
I think we are all agreed, about the universality of suffering, that is, suffering is everywhere. I observe that most see suffering as personal. We see others suffering
and we, because we see suffering as personal, think their suffering is different from ours,
that is, on the periphery, the superficial outward level, but we are simply looking at the effects of suffering. Your suffering, my suffering, and others suffering.
There is not only a universality of human suffering, there is also a universality about the source of suffering.
Suffering is a not merely a concept, an idea, or intellectual pursuit nor is it something that analysis solves. Analysis is a dead and destructive thing.
The reason we approach such an issue as suffering thinking we can solve it by analysis
Analysis lies in that we have a technological approach to practically everything. We have developed technology to include computers, the economy, arms production. We export 80% of what we produce in arm, bombs planes, tanks chemical which makes up a large
percentage of our economy to be unleashed causing death and destruction sorrow and pain and misery. Suffering in otherwords. While technology has certain benefits it has led to mechanistic thinking on just about everything. If there are any psychologists reading this, I do not have the intention of causing you offence.
I will stop here or Quentin will be rapping me over the knuckles for too long a posting.
“..Ignatius, when you were dealing with those who were suffering, how was this suffering different from yours, suffering is suffering. Yes people suffer in all sorts of ways and helping poor suffering people is always a good work to do.
However it is an illusion to think they are suffering, but I am not…”
See Dec13. 7.08 pm, no one said that suffering was confined to the other. However the phrase ‘suffering is suffering is a mere cliche…pain, anguish, suffering are all different tems with different meanings….I suspect you have a privatised usage of the term’suffering’.
“…So organized religion has contributed to the sufferings of you,me and all mankind…”
“…First let me clarify, I am not saying the Church is responsible for suffering…”
Hmmmm, have you thought of a career in Politics?
I was asked about 20 years ago to go into politics and stand for election. I thanked them for considering it, but had to decline the offer. I told them I loved the truth too much to enter the political arena.
I do not have a privatized view of suffering. I don’t want you to accept or reject what I am saying, or particularly argue the point about suffering but I would like us to investigate and observe suffering in us and in the world, only then can there be action to stop suffering.
Clearly there has not been sufficient energy given to stopping suffering if one considers all the thought, science, resources and energy given to arms and weapons of mass destruction.
See also my last posting to St. Joseph -17th -307pm
Nektarios we have often said on SS that man is wasting money on unnecessary things (in not so many words)
There are lots of question and answers there! Unfortunately the answer is not in our hands.We the public are not in control of the ‘purse strings’ hence the fact that we again the public dig deep into our pockets to help the charities., do we have any say where our tax money goes.
It was mentioned on the radio the other day that China has spent so much money sending a space ship to the moon,and to cap it all the UK has donated lots of money to China for their poverty problem
Where is the sense in that . Do you know the answer?
I can name lots of ways that finance could be better used to stop the suffering in not only the UK but the world.
Am I suffering because of that.?
My late husband suffered and died because of a hospital bug, whereby it could maybe have been prevented.
Lots of diseases are caused by our own misuse of drugs, alcohol, abortion from the misuse of the morning after pill and other contraceptives pills and foreign bodily instruments
Let us just say that suffering will end when sin ends.
Thank God for His sufferings in Jesus that we wont have suffering when we die
Will that help your dilemma ?. . ,
Firstly, to answer your last question first – I am not in a dilemma.
As you rightly say, we waste lots of money on unnecessary things. But we have not understood the nature and source of suffering if we think by simply throwing money at this problem it will go away, it won’t. Lots of physical sufferings could well be alleviated, but not while we give up at the first hurdle.
Why do we put up with suffering at all? In the West the religious for example say it is on account of sin. In the East they say it is Karma. East or West we are conditioned by the religious and the political to accept suffering, war, killing of other human beings. Have we become so conditioned, so calloused, so lacking in energy in this area, we cannot truly act together against suffering in the world?
As I pointed out in my last posting, we have spent our money, in taxes preparing for war. While some make millions producing weapons that will kill or cause suffering, meantime, millions are suffering through all sorts of things. I don’t think we need to mention them as we know so many of them.
Now I want us to notice the external nature of all that we have said, but the source of our suffering is not external, nor is it personal. Sure, it is a philosophical speculation that God allows evil things to happen for our so-called good. It is interesting the parties who propagate such a philosophy. Nor is it a philosophy I sit easy with at all, for it turns God into a fearful capricious ogre. I’ll stop here for now.
No don’t stop now Nektarios..You say
It is not sin, it is not money. it is not the source of external suffering, it is not personal nor is it a philiosophy..
What is it then?
Or do you not have the answer?
I have given some suggestions, however you are still not satisfied, What will satisfy you?
I suggested prayer earlier, but does not seem to be the answer as far as you are concerned.
So I am really interested to know your answer to it all..!
Please don’t suggest to those who are reading this that your suggestions have no place,
or indeed that I place little regard to prayer, both are wildly incorrect in my case.
I said initially we need to look carefully into the whole issue of suffering. I agree with Ignatius, that works that he was personally involved with was a good work and alleviated a certain amount of suffering.
I am not asking you or anyone to agree or disagree with what I have said on suffering so far, nor what I am going to say shortly, but I do ask together we find the energy of God
to see not only the universality of suffering, but the universality of source of it all and how to bring it to an end and go beyond it.
Some might think this is not possible, after all man has been suffering for thousands of years. We are conditioned to thinking suffering is normal with all its effects. And the solution to the problem of suffering has so far alluded us?
So how are we going to approach the source of our suffering and what is that source?
We discussed technology and how so much of it is used destructively. We could say the same about politics and how they divide nations that produce fear, suspicion, war and
untold suffering. Now all that is on the peripheral – out there, separate from us and divisive. Right?
Have we seen the same thing is happening within our own skin as it were? We have divided ourselves up, compartmentalized our lives, we are educated this way being taught to be independent, assertive and highly competitive. One does not see initially that this is a recipe for war. He that is not for you is against you; He that stands in our way is opposing our will, and he that is competing against us, is not merely our competition but
one who is our enemy standing in the way of our security, hopes and dreams.
This inner divisions cause so much stress and suffering of one type or another.
Multiply that up, and nation after nation is living the same way. this is a fact. All nations are preparing for war. All nations are suffering.
We could talk about the financial world of banking with all the sorrows and suffering that has brought around the world…. but they were educated to be independent, assertive and highly competitive and praised for it – even though, the effects of there actions has been to cause many a business to fold, many millions thrown out of work, a depleted economy
universally causing untold misery, poverty and suffering around the world.
I will stop here for now, perhaps you would like me to stop saying anything more?
Just see, if you can, all this activity comes from within and the effects are taking place inwardly as well as in the world around us. Have I said enough approaching the source of all our suffering?
Perhaps the beginnings of a solution to how we may alleviate universal suffering can be found in Pope Francis’s insistence that we have a fundamental apostolate to the poor.
Who are the poor? Not just the hungry and the cold, but all those who are in deep need. There are many in illness and pain. Many who are depressed. Many who are in anguished quandaries. Many who are frightened. Many who are lonely. I think that there is no one reading this blog who has not at some periods of life qualified as one of the poor. And the poor, Jesus tells us, will always be with us.
Whatever may be the cause, suffering faced with patience and resolution does seem to generate a strength of character valuable in later trials. Someone who has never known loss would probably be ill-prepared for, say, the death of a loved one.
Yes there’s something in that. A couple of friends of mine have recently lost their spouses to illness leading to death, both of them relatively young-in their 40’s and 5o’s. Though in my life I have been by no means immune to personal anguish I cannot see how they have survived such a hammer blow. However the fact that they have and have simply carried on with their lives and responsibilities is a huge example to me and, in its own way, something of wonder. I do marvel at the simple resilience of the human spirit faced with the pragmatic fatality of life. Both have a faith of sorts, both Christians though not catholic.
Yes it is a blow ,my husband died at 67 and I can not remember him being ill not to go to work. then to get a hospital bug ,it was a very sad time, also for my family.especially at Christmas when he came home and died not long after that quite quickly.
He was Confirmed on the Sunday and died on the Wednesday a great shock.
I had some consolation from the fact that he finally received his conversion at the Canonization of St Padre Pio.3yrs before. although always worshipped with me and the children
Also it was on the Padre Pio’s prayer group his body was taken into the Church with Exposition and his funeral on the Eve of Our Lady of Lourdes a place he always wanted to visit. and didn’t( It was not planned.) but not I believe coincidences. So my son took me to Lourdes with his wife and family and we were away for a couple of months,otherwise I don’t know how I would have coped. Being self employed my son could take the time off.
I am blessed with a very caring family.
Just when we were ready to retire and do a bit of travelling however I thank God for the grace we received from our married life and the years we had together…
Remember what Jesus said to St Peter-‘Get behind me Satan’
This is the Season of good Cheer ‘Joy to the World’!..
And I won’t be depressed about it, even if you are.!
So Happy Christmas to everyone.
Loneliness is a terrible affliction, which must be felt even more keenly at Christmas when everybody else appears to be surrounded by happy friends and family. I am very pleased that it has been coming into the news more recently, and hope that it will truly help some of those in need of friendship and company. A lot is said about community which does not always mean much more than a few boxes on a list which can be ticked off.
I agree with Nektarios about the destructive effect of so much emphasis on independence, assertiveness and competition in the western world.
Are they Christians doing all this all this that you speak about.?.
Mother Angelica has a had a lot of suffering and speaks about the time that she knelt in front of the Crucifix and asked why, me. She heard the voice say back to her Why ME.
The Catholic Church and the organisations connected to Holy Mother Church do more for the world suffering than anyone. .
I don’t expect any one to suffer for my sufferings.That wont make mine any better .
What makes mine easier is like Mother Angelica said. Look at a Crucifix
We all know our duties as Christians
Jesus died for our sins.! As He told Judas who was moaning about the women using the oil on Jesus feet.as he held the purse strings- There will always be poor in the world.but you won’t always have me.
We could do with a few more Christians working for the unborn!
The poor will get to Heaven long before poor ‘sinners’..
St. Joseph, yes, Christians and Catholics especially have always done great work for the poor and with my family I have always tried to share this work. My father was in the SVP many years ago, and my grandfather organised a lot of help for poor children before that, which is no credit to me personally, but it spurs me on so to speak. And the religious orders through the centuries have been their saviours, in many countries, and in this country even after their suppression by Henry V11.
However, I think we can be very pleased when Esther Rantzen, David Cameron and others, also try to organise more publicity and practical help. I am sure God is pleased with their altruism whether they realise they are doing His work or not.
The voice Mother Angelica heard makes a very inspiring story. And, as Tim quoted, Dec. 15th, 4.59, there is also sometimes the question, Why not me?
Henri Nouwen is worth reading on suffering. ok “In the House of The Lord” particularly approaches the subject of suffering and the fear of it. For it is fear that we talking about. Fear of pain for example is often more debilitating than pain itself, fear of suffering is suffering itself, fear of loneliness is lonely and fearful…we fear what is to come. This is emphasised strongly in the Divine office where several prayers are offered up that we might be freed from the ‘fear of what is to come’
This means that suffering handled well is an example to us all, hence the Catholic notion of ‘a good death’ Nouwen emphasises solidarity in the face of suffering and it is this solidarity our church communities can provide-we all must go into that dark night but we do not have to go there alone either physically or spiritually. I’ve been taking communion to the sick in their homes a bit recently and have been profoundly grateful for the opportunity because in these situations the power of both the church and the sacraments to transform suffering becomes very evident. I think this word ‘suffering’ merits a little examination in its right -my job is the alleviation of pain and of the suffering brought by pain- they are different things.
You are quite right about fear of suffering sometimes being worse than the pain itself, or the situation when it comes. A very trivial example for me at the moment is a dental appointment tomorrow!
Singalong. My daughter always thinks of the nails going into Jesus’s hands when the dentist is doing her teeth, she says it helps.
Singalong. My daughter always thinks of Jesus’s nails going into His hands when the dentist is drilling her teeth. She says it helps.
A recent study showed that Catholics looking at a picture of the Madonna felt measurably less pain than non- believers under the same circumstances.
I always say a Hail Mary.
An elderly parishioner who I used to visit many years ago,when her husband died and then went into a residential home.
She asked me if I would like two pictures as she knew her family would not want them and knew that I would look after them.
They are quite large and as we had a large guest house I was happy to have them as they are really beautiful. but need new frames, which I had done,
One of Our Lord ,the Crowing of thorns and Our Lady of Sorrows with a tear falling from Her eye.
I look at them both when I get into bed and say to Our Lady as I have done ever since I got them over 25 years ago, that ‘I would like to see that tear gone before I die’ what can I do to remove it.I have always felt that the unborn child was making Her sad,as I was many years before that involved in the pro-life movement It consoles me to know that She will be consoled by those who think of Her sorrow
I don’t wish to give the impression that I am superstitious- however I believe Our Lady listens to our prayers.
I know that the tears will not go from Her picture’ Our Lady of Sorrows’ but hopefully it will vanish a tiny bit from Her sorrowful Heart….
One of the most glaring cases of suffering in the world today is that of Zimbabwe. One man, Robert Mugabe, has succeeded in reducing the country, once known as the jewel of Africa, to a hell of suffering and deprivation. The economy is ruined, and savings are wiped out by hyper-inflation.
I got interested in Zimbabwe through ZANE, the charity doing its best to alleviate some of the suffering of both white and black people there. Mugabe’s so-called ‘war veterans’, with complete impunity, attack, and destroy the homes, of MDC voters, or anyone who fails to support ZANU-PF.
Two recent books, ‘The Fear’, by Peter Godwin, (published in 2010, and ironically sub-titled ‘The last days of Robert Mugabe’!); and ‘Mugabe’, by Andrew Norman, give horrific accounts of just what is going on there.
Dieter Scholz, a Catholic bishop in Zimbabwe, worked for the Catholic Justice and Peace Commission. moitoring human rights abuses by the Rhodesian forces, pre-independence. They were certainly no angels, and Scholz says “I see in Mugabe some similarity to Ian Smith”. He thinks that Mugabe is trapped by his past, and has never made the transition from guerilla leader to politician: the concept of non-violent opposition is foreign to him. Hence the rigging of elections, and violence to MDC members. He still attends Mass, or did so until recently; but in 2007 the pastoral letter ‘God Hears the Cry of the Oppressed’, critical of his violent rule, was published, and relations with the church quickly soured. Priests, mostly black Zimbabweans, were threatened and intimidated: some had to leave their parishes.
Where does all that leave the justice of God, and the idea that ‘Justice delayed is justice denied’?
If. as we believe, everyone comes to judgement eventually, I hope we will learn why such suffering is allowed to continue, while petty offences are sometimes dealt with harshly. There are times when one feels that God, or those acting in His name, are straining at gnats and swallowing camels.
And Mugabe is a so called Catholic, who received Holy Communion at a Vatican Mass, was it on the occasion of Pope John Paul`s funeral?
I often think about the hundreds of people at the Holy Fathers outdoor Masses and wonder if the Host is taken away by someone who would abuse it..
This happened at Lourdes a couple of years ago, and the women was staying at the Hotel I was at and on our group.
She was saying to people that she had the Host in her pocket and was taking it home to her brother. It is a long story and a very upsetting one.No one would tell the priest,so I did It was the lady next to me who shouted stop that women..Also when a trip up the mountains to a very old Church (I did not go) they were cutting some gold around the Altar and sharing it with some relatives in the Hotel when they came back. then told the priest,who I felt he did not believe me.However he made everyone place the Host in there mouth before they moved.
She and a lot of her family when we stopped in Paris to visit a Shrine they were stealing Miraculous Medals from the shop.
When we arrived back at WestMinister he waited for me to get off the coach and he asked me if he had sorted it in the right way..
Athough afterwards a lady told me who was sitting next to them on the coach. that the women was bragging that she still had the Host in her pocket. I had asked to be moved to another seat .If I had known then I would have said something.
I can not believe that people didn’t.
Some years ago now I was at Aylesford Priory in Kent. There were people there on their knees before the various stages of the Cross. Some of them were clearly ill or disabled and I found the whole thing a bit odd. It wasn’t for several years that I realised that those people were ‘uniting their sufferings’ with Christ in the best way they knew how. A couple of years ago in the grip of a severe illness I found myself doing the same thing only I was sitting in an empty church before a crucifix. We offer our suffering of course every week at Mass because we are, at any stage offering our whole lives to God, as they have been, as they are and as they will be. There is comfort in this I feel because we offer ourselves along and in fellowship with the one who has passed through death and triumphed over suffering. Offering ourselves before Christ in the Mass both consoles us, reminds us of what is to come and speaks to us of our eternal nature. We are reminded that we are not alone and that our suffering has a point. it is dangerous to neglect these ‘objects’ of our faith because to do so condemns both ourselves and others to pointlessness of suffering and it is this potential ‘pointlessness’ that we fear. Ours is the hope that is not yet made certain but It is a powerful help in the here and now especially if that here and now is a difficult one.
Which I guess brings us to the final point that the antidote to suffering is faith itself:
12Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; 13but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation.…1peter 4