Salvifici Doloris – Week 6
Week Six: Suffering Like Christ
Overview: In this section, Pope Saint John Paul II meditates upon the fruits of suffering, looking at how our suffering teaches us about God, draws us closer to Christ, and becomes a source of blessing for the world.
A Taste of Part I: Finding Greatness in Humiliation
“In weakness, He manifested His power, and in humiliation, He manifested all His messianic greatness.” –John Paul II
The greatest use of my willpower is to simply cling to Jesus. So often, Pope Benedict XVI describes perfectly exactly how I am feeling about a subject. So for this section, I must quote him:
For I see very well that almost everything I have to do is something I myself cannot do at all. That fact already forces me, so to speak, to place myself in the Lord’s hands and to say to him: “You do it if you want it!”
A Taste of Part II: Strengthened by Grace
[Suffering…] will not get the better of him…it will not deprive him of his dignity as a human being. –John Paul II
The virtue of fortitude helps us to suffer well and therefore to be noble and dignified in front of what may be quite undignified circumstances. Because we are weak due to the effects of original sin and a culture defined by hedonism (the idolatry of pleasurable feelings) it is particularly difficult to perfect our natural human appetite into the virtue which ensures firmness in difficulties and constancy in seeking the good. But by our efforts and God’s grace, we can form ourselves to be courageous people.
A Taste of Part III: Continuing Christ’s Work
In this Body, Christ wishes to be united with every individual, and in a special way, He is united with those who suffer. –John Paul II
One of my favorite stories regarding “co-working” with God in making suffering redemptive and therefore meaningful is the story of the friendship between Cardinal Deskur and John Paul II. Immediately after his papal election, John Paul II made a private visit to Deskur who had suffered a stroke during the conclave and became wheelchair-bound for the rest of his life. (The new pope also visited many of the sick in the hospital.) John Paul II later wrote to his friend: “Now you know what your mission in the Church is…” Deskur said his role in this pontificate was “to suffer for the Pope.” He continued this mission for 27 years until John Paul II’s death. A year before he died, John Paul wrote to his dear friend:
Thank you, first of all, for the support you have given me in my service at the Apostolic See with the suffering you have borne in your silent commitment to Christ and His Mother, in your constant prayer and spirit of love for the Church, and also for your fraternal advice.
For Reflection & Prayer: Jesus Crowned with Thorns
That little head which Mary, like every mother with her newborn child, would have enfolded close to her without squeezing it, and caressed delicately as every mother does, and looked at in wonder and admiration, would one day have to wear a crown of thorns. Salve caput cruentatum. How the Virgin felt echoing inside her this evil of the world, without details and without accusations, as already boundless grief that would culminate in watching her Son die! ~Fr. Luigi Giussani, The Sorrowful Mysteries
Who is the love in your life who has the capacity to cause you “boundless grief?”
For further study: Finding Freedom Through Forgiveness webinar with Catholic Revival Ministries.
For fun: in honor of Laetare “Rejoice” Sunday: Our Help is in the Name of the Lord by the Hillbilly Thomists