Tag Archives: suffering

14 November: Can a man be profitable to God?

In the Book of Job, 22, his friend, Eliphaz the Temanite says:

“Can a man be profitable to God?
Surely he who is wise is profitable to himself.
Is it any pleasure to the Almighty if you are in the right,
or is it gain to him if you make your ways blameless? “

Job’s comforters have a bad press, indeed Blake, who engraved our image calls them ‘tormentors’. But even if it’s the wrong time and place for it, Eliphaz has a point for us, if not for Job! As Rowan Williams puts it in his discussion on William Tyndale:

Any system of religious activity and thinking that tries to give us some leverage over God – I’ve never denied God a moment of my time, I hope he remembers that – such an attitude is poisonous to our faith. 

And

We create religious institutions that are designed to preserve that divine indebtedness to us, and while we are doing that, we largely ignore the concrete forms of indebtedness toward other human beings to which we should be attending.*

ALL IS GIFT!

Accept the gift of your life, accept that it is a gift, be thankful for every breath! God did not have to bring you into being, and if you suffer, remember that so too did Jesus, his Son. Suffering is shared by God.

Alfred Joyce Kilmer put it this way in his Prayer of a Soldier in France:

My shoulders ache beneath my pack 

(Lie easier, Cross, upon His back). 

Please follow this link to our post from July last year for the whole poem, written shortly before Kilmer’s death in battle. He concludes:

So let me render back again 

This millionth of Thy gift. Amen. 

The gift is the redemptive suffering of Jesus; allying our suffering to his is to set ourselves in sympathy with Jesus; so if personal suffering is a gift, that is because of how we receive it, endure it, live it: through him, with him and in him. Him being the one who prayed: O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt. (Matthew 26:29)

Image from William Blake’s Illustrations for the Book of Job, via Wikipedia
* Rowan Williams:  Luminaries: Twenty lives that illuminate the Christian Way, London SPCK 2019. p54

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September 14: Before the Cross XXV: Cease to complain!

 

 

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This post is taken from The Imitation of Christ, Book 3, Chapter XIX. I am using the copy my late Aunt Margaret gave to my Grandmother Evelyn sometime in the late 1930s. 

What is it thou sayest, my son? Cease to complain, and consider my Passion, and that of the other Saints. Thou hast not yet resisted unto blood. (Hebrews 12.14)

Thou oughtest to call to mind the heaviest sufferings of others, that thou mayest the easier bear the very little things that thou sufferest. And if to thee they seem not little, take heed lest this also proceed from thy impatience. But whether  they be little or great, strive to bear them all with patience.

He is not a truly patient man who will suffer nothing, only so much as he shall think fit, and from whom he pleaseth. The truly patient man … how much soever and how often soever any adversity happeneth to him from any creature, he taketh it all equally with thanksgiving as from the hand of God, and esteemeth it a great gain. For with God not anything, how trifling soever, suffered for God’s sake, shall go unrewarded …

Make, O Lord, that possible to me by grace, which seemeth impossible to me by nature. Thou knowest how little I can bear, and that I am soon dejected when a small adversity ariseth. Let all exercises of tribulation become lovely and most desirable to me for thy Name’s sake, for to suffer and be afflicted for Thee is very healthful for my soul.

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There is scriptural foundation for the Imitation’s position on accepting suffering: Here for instance is Ben Sirach, otherwise known as Ecclesiasticus, a late Jewish wisdom writer. (Ch2:3-10).

Wait on God with patience: join thyself to God, and endure, that thy life may be increased in the latter end. Take all that shall be brought upon thee: and in thy sorrow endure, and in thy humiliation keep patience. For gold and silver are tried in the fire, but acceptable men in the furnace of humiliation. Believe God, and he will recover thee: and direct thy way, and trust in him. Keep his fear, and grow old therein. Ye that fear the Lord, wait for his mercy: and go not aside from him, lest ye fall. Ye that fear the Lord, believe him: and your reward shall not be made void. Ye that fear the Lord, hope in him: and mercy shall come to you for your delight.  Ye that fear the Lord, love him, and your hearts shall be enlightened.

And here is Jesus in Luke 6:27-29:

But I say to you that hear: Love your enemies, do good to them that hate you. Bless them that curse you, and pray for them that calumniate you. And to him that striketh thee on the one cheek, offer also the other. And him that taketh away from thee thy cloak, forbid not to take thy coat also.

Nana’s little copy of the Imitation  was well thumbed and  could really  do with some repairs  to the cover. She had a great devotion to Christ crucified. Nana knew many trials in her life, but was a source of strength and fun to us, her grandchildren. (MMB)

 

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9 September: A Pilgrim from a distant land.

 

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Another extract from Maria Montessori’s ‘The Child in the Family’. Mary and Joseph had to treat Jesus in a less than ideal way, born in a stable, then a quick flight into Egypt. Parents should not feel too guilty if all is not ideal when the baby is born. But we should all feel guilty that we do too little to help and receive so many babies, such as those born every day,to start their lives as refugees.

At birth [the infant] is ejected from his home [in the womb] to live in the air. Without the least transition, he is pushed from perfect repose to the exhausting work of being born. His body is crushed almost as if he had passed between two millstones, and he comes to us wounded, like a pilgrim who has journeyed from a distant land.

Death, like birth, is a law of nature, and one to which we must all submit. Why do we seek to ease that terrible moment of death in every possible way? Why, knowing that we cannot conquer death, do we at least want to render it less painful? Yet we never think to alleviate the suffering of birth. But what do we do to help and receive him?

Maria Montessori, ‘The Child in the Family, London, Pan, 1970, pp20-21.

 

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28 March. Before the Cross XIV, Conform me to your likeness, Lord.

It’s always a joy to receive a post from Christina Chase. Here is her contribution to our season of reflections ‘Before the Cross’.

Meditation upon a crucifix,

remembering an image at Ste. Anne de Beaupré

of Christ with St. Francis of Assisi,

while having my bedroom wall crucifix in sight

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Conform me to your likeness, Lord.

Arms for work, so strong and sure,

are not dependable

unless they’re open wide in love.

They cannot hold dear wisdom close

or carry souls in need,

they cannot lift the sobbing low to soaring heights of joy,

until they’re held and pinioned fast

by love’s relinquishing embrace.

Conform me to your likeness, Lord.

Legs of strength, so swift and free,

are but weak and purposeless

unless they run the endless race of love’s pursuit

and stand upon the heart of God —

for flight is stronger, swifter, freer, when nailed down

into the power of love.

Conform me to your likeness, Lord!

See me, here, little and lacking,

my own body twisted thin,

limbs immobile, lungs slowly failing.

Teach me, Lord, mould me, shape me,

move me in your stillness

with emulating love,

tell me from the silence

of the Cross that you love me,

and I will be able to go every where that you are.

© 2019 Christina Chase
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March 24: Before the Cross XI: The Truest Love of All

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If clouds of doubt should ever fall,

A fog so thick that I should cry:

Is this the truest love of all –

Where men still suffer, bleed and die?

A quiet voice might ask of me

What other love I thought so true

What greater, deeper love I see

More heartfelt than the God I knew?

 

See there, beside the poor and weak,

Among the broken, there, he stands,

And with the voiceless, there to speak

With grieving heart and nail-pierced hands.

Abandoned once by dearest friends,

He meets the lonely, brings them near,

His mercy and gentle presence mends

Souls bound by bitterness and fear.

 

And he would show me in my prayer,

His woundedness, his cross, his shame:

The truest love of all was there –

There, even there, he knew my name.

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29 December: The Suffering of the Innocents

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Hales Place Jesuit Chapel, Canterbury

There is nothing so devastating to bear as the suffering of children or animals, but it is no good letting oneself be made hopeless and helpless with sorrow. I often wonder how Our Lord’s Mother got through the time of the massacre of the Holy Innocents, which all came about really because of Him! What could she do? All she could do was what she did with regard to the doubt of S. Joseph and all else, just be silent and trust.

pieta.wfThat is all you or I can do. We know that the idea of making a little child stumble drew from Our Lord the most burning words of condemnation he ever spoke, and that, somehow or other, the little one’s suffering is also the suffering of the Babe of Bethlehem, and the Divine Life is inextricably bound up with our human life and our sufferings are really also His. It is a mystery which we cannot explain, and the best i can do is to help you or me or any other perplexed person to go without an explanation, to trust God’s love where we cannot trace his purpose.

Father Andrew SDC.

The life and Letters of Father Andrew, London, Mowbray, 1948, pp 245-246.

Pieta from Missionaries of Africa

 

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November 10: Remembering

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I came across this little Staffordshire souvenir figure under a church war memorial last November. A hundred years on, it’s difficult to understand who would design such an ornament, or who would have bought it. As boys I remember us getting more run-of-the-mill designs for my mother’s collection, but we once gave her a Great War tank model, not thinking of the loss of life and all the human suffering it represented.

But what does this figure represent, other than a present from Bishop’s Stortford? Is the soldier a killer or a victim? Brave or resigned, or hoping for a ‘Blighty’ wound to get himself sent home for a month or two? Did it remind its first owner of a loved one lost? And how did it feel to see it if you were a returned front-line soldier, after the War? Pure white was not very often seen amid Flanders mud.

Caught in that moment when he goes Over The Top to kill or be killed: how do we bring this to God? This is not man-for-man fighting – the machine gun that may get him will be many yards away, and unless it comes to bayonets he won’t see the one he kills.

Perhaps it is fitting to put him down, as the parishioners did, in front of the Cross on the War Memorial; without a word, with the poppies around him.

What can we say? With our current weaponry we have no right to feel morally superior. Piloting deadly drones from hundreds of miles away or threatening to press the red button; or indeed having others do so in our name: lives on ‘our side’ are not at risk as those going over the top were.

Father forgive us for we do not want to know what we do.

 

 

 

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13 October: Saint John XXIII, ‘Radiate Chastity!’

john xxiii

‘Radiation’ may not be the first concept that comes to mind when thinking of chastity, but Pope John shows that chastity is not sterile egotism but a social virtue – in a similar way to  how faithfulness in marriage provides stability in the family and society.

The Gospel tells us of all that Jesus suffered, of the insults that fell upon Him. But, from Bethlehem to Calvary, the brilliance that radiates from His divine purity spread more and more and won over the crowds. So great was the austerity and the enchantment of His conduct.

So may it be with you, beloved daughters. Blessed be the discretion, the mortifications and the renouncements with which you seek to render this virtue more brilliant.

Pius XII wrote about them in a memorable encyclical letter (Sacra Virginitas). Live its teachings. May your conduct prove to all that chastity is not only a possible virtue but a social virtue, which must be strongly defended through prayer, vigilance and the mortification of the senses.

May your example show that the heart has not shut itself up in sterile egoism, but that it has chosen the condition which is necessary for it to open itself solicitously to its neighbour.

For this purpose We urge you to cultivate the rules of good conduct—We repeat it—cultivate and apply them, without giving ear to anyone who would wish to introduce into your life a conduct less befitting the thoughtfulness and reserve to which you are bound.

May each of us, whatever our state in life, open our hearts to our neighbour, and not close in on ourselves.

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September 4. Little Flowers of Saint Francis XXXIII: He is given a great promise.

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SAINT FRANCIS being on a time grievously afflicted in his eyes, Cardinal Ugolino, protector of the Order, for the great tenderness that he bore him, wrote unto him to come to him in Rieti, wherein dwelt most cunning physicians for the eyes. Then Saint Francis, having received the letter of the cardinal, gat him first to Saint Damian’s, where was Saint Clare, the devout bride of Christ, for to give her some consolation and thereafter go to the cardinal.

Saint Francis having won there, his eyes grew so much worse on the next ensuing night that he could not see the light a whit; wherefore he could not go upon his way. Saint Clare let build for him a little cell of reeds, wherein he might the better rest himself. But Saint Francis, what with the pain of his infirmity, and what with the multitude of rats, that did him exceeding great annoy, could find, nor day, nor night, no rest at all. And having yet more of such pains and tribulation to endure, he began to think and understand that this was a scourge from God for his sins; and to thank God with all his heart and with his mouth, and anon cried with a loud voice, saying:
«My Lord, of all this am I deserving, and much worse. My Lord Jesu Christ, Thou good Shepherd, who dost show forth Thy mercy to us sinners in diverse pains and anguish of the body, grant unto me, Thy little sheep, such grace and virtue that through no infirmity and agony or pain may I ever part from Thee.” While thus he prayed, there came a voice from heaven that said: “Francis, answer me; if all the world were gold, and all the seas and streams and fountains were balm, and all the mountains and hills and rocks were precious stones; and thou shouldst find a treasure yet more noble than these things, as much as gold is nobler than earth, and balm than water, and precious stones than mountains and rocks, and if for thine infirmity that nobler treasure were given wouldst thou not be well content therewith and right glad?”

Replied Saint Francis:
“Lord, I am not worthy of so precious a treasure”;

and the voice of God spake unto him:

“Rejoice, Francis, for this is the treasure of eternal life, the which I have laid up for
thee, and from this hour I give it thee in possession; and this infirmity and affliction is the earnest of that blessed treasure.”

Then Saint Francis called his companion, with great joy in so glorious a promise, and said: “Let us go unto the cardinal,” but first of all consoling Saint Clare with holy words, and humbly taking leave of her, he set out on the way to Rieti.

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20 August: Little Flowers of Saint Francis XXXII. Gatherings of the faithful.

“The Gospel of the Family: Joy for the World” is the theme chosen by Pope Francis for the 9th World Meeting of Families.

Families and others from all over the world will gather in Dublin from August 21 – 26, 2018 to celebrate their lives together, to share their experiences from different parts of the world, to reflect on the different challenges they face and to grow together in faith.

As we thank God for our families and pray that this week in Dublin will bring grace to many, here is an extract from the Little Flowers of Saint Francis telling about the Chapter of the Rush Mats, when many friars gathered for a big conference, and attracted many local people who wanted to join in. These pilgrims for World Youth Day in Krakow were not dampened in spirit, rather inspired by the great company they were among.

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No-one was wearing hi-viz jackets to restrict numbers in Saint Francis’s day! Here’s the extract.

They either prayed, or said the office, and bewailed their sins or those of their benefactors, or discoursed concerning the salvation of souls. In the camp were roofs of willows and rush-mats set apart in groups according to the brothers of diverse provinces; and thereby was this chapter called the Chapter of the Rush-mats; their bed was the bare ground, and for such as had it a little straw, their pillows were stones or logs of wood, For the which cause so great devotion towards them was felt by whoso heard or saw, and so great was the fame of their sanctity, that there came many counts, barons, and knights, and other gentle folk, and many country folk, and cardinals and bishops and abbots with many other clergy, for to see this holy gathering, so great and so humble, such as the world had never seen before, of so many holy men together: and chiefest of all they came to see the head and most holy father of that holy band, the which had robbed the world of such fair prey, and gathered together so devout and fair a flock to follow in the foot-steps of the true Shepherd Jesu Christ.

The chapter general being then all assembled, the holy father of all and minister general, Saint Francis, in fervour of spirit set forth the word of God: and preached unto them in a loud voice as the Holy Spirit made him to speak; and as argument of his sermon he set forth unto them these words: “My little children, great things have we promised unto God, much greater far hath God promised unto us, if we observe what we have promised unto Him; and of a surety shall we behold what hath been promised unto us.

Short-lived is the joy of the world; the pain that follows it is everlasting; little are the pains
of this life, but the glory of the other life is infinite.”

And on these words he comforted the brothers and to command hearts into obedience and reverence for Mother Church, and unto brotherly love, to God for all men, and to have patience in adversities of the world, and temperance in purity, to observe modesty and angelic charity and to have peace and concord with God with men and with their own conscience, and love and practice of most holy poverty. 

Frontispiece from the Little Flowers of Saint Francis; pilgrims to World Youth Meeting in Krakow, another big gathering.

 

 

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