Skip to comments.[CATHOLIC CAUCUS] The Apostolate of Suffering Redux
Posted on 08/21/2010 3:48:22 PM PDT by mlizzy
I just started reading Brian J. Gail’s novel Fatherless about men in the “post-Pill generation.” I’m only a chapter in, but I was just struck by a paragraph at the very end of Ch. 1 that reminded me of something I’ve been wanting to re-post since I talked about it when I was on Life on the Rock last month. In the book the character Fr. John Sweeney is visiting a deathly ill parishioner and giving her the “Anointing of the Sick”:
As John Sweeney prayed, he anointed, and as he anointed, he invoked his deceased father’s intercession on behalf of this faithful wife and mother. He finished, closed the book, and began packing his carrying case. There was simply nothing more he could do for Margaret Kealey. She reached for his hand. He clasped it with both of his and whispered, “God loves you, Maggie. The Church thanks you for the gift of your suffering.” Then, under his breath, “The good Lord knows we have never needed it more.”
Last week I had a few posts on how accepting suffering can spiritually benefit the suffering individual, but there is, or can be, an apostolic element to suffering as well:
The Apostolate of Suffering (orig. post 9/15/09)
In my scripture reading today I came across Christ’s instructions to His Apostles on how they were to go out and spread the Good News (Lk. 9:1-6). This part of the Gospel has inspired missionaries throughout the centuries to travel around the world in order to share our faith with others and help those in need. It also reminds those of us who are not called to go to such great lengths in our apostolate that we still have a duty to spread the Good News to those around us, our friends, family, co-workers, etc…
This really is the call to all Christians everywhere and without exception. But what about those who don’t appear to have too much to offer in the way of evangelization? The sick, the suffering, the severely disabled, the emotionally disturbed, the home bound. For many of these people life itself can be painful. Maybe they can’t communicate or get out of their own beds. Are they worthless as apostles under such circumstances? Have they nothing at all to offer?
On the contrary:
Those who pray and suffer, leaving action for others, will not shine here on earth; but what a radiant crown they will wear in the kingdom of life! Blessed be the “apostolate of suffering”! -St. Josemaria
If only every suffering soul could see how valuable their life really is – not only for their own sake, but for the mission of the church throughout the world!
A great modern example of this is St. Therese of Lisieux who is the patron saint of missions, yet in all her religious life, she never set foot outside the Carmel walls. Though unsurpassed in humility and “littleness”, as she called it, Therese was a very ambitious little soul. In her autobiography she divulges that she had a great desire for the foreign missions and making Christ known to the whole world:
Ah! in spite of my littleness, I would like to enlighten souls as did the Prophets and the Doctors. I have the vocation of the Apostle. I would like to travel over the whole earth to preach Your Name and to plant Your glorious Cross on infidel soil. But O my Beloved, one mission alone would not be sufficient for me, I would want to preach the Gospel on all the five continents simultaneously and even to the most remote isles. I would be a missionary, not for a few years only but from the beginning of creation until the consummation of the ages. But above all, O my Beloved Savior, I would shed my blood for You even to the very last drop. (p. 192-193)
Even her superior acknowledged that she had such a vocation, but that her health prevented her from doing so (p. 217). Much of her life in the Carmel was spent in poor health, especially after she contracted tuberculosis, from which she would die at a very early age. Unable to actively participate in the missionary apostolate, she surrendered herself completely to the apostolate of suffering for the sake of souls:
suffering opened wide its arms to me and I threw myself into them with love Jesus made me understand that it was through suffering that He wanted to give me souls, and my attraction for suffering grew in proportion to its increase” (p. 149)
And so it can be for those in extreme suffering and with our own sufferings big and small. Instead of considering life less valuable or without meaning because of deteriorating health or decreased physical mobility, we can endure our sufferings and offer that which we endure to our crucified Lord for the salvation of souls. We can do this because of the feast we celebrated yesterday, the Triumph of the Cross. For when we unite our sufferings to Christ on the cross, it is not for the sake of suffering itself, but for the redemption of that suffering through the Victory of the eternal sacrifice of the Word made flesh.
Had there been no cross, Christ could not have been crucified. Had there been no cross, life itself could not have been nailed to the tree. And if life had not been nailed to it, there would be no streams of immortality pouring from Christs side, blood and water for the worlds cleansing. The legal bond of our sin would not be cancelled, we should not have attained our freedom, we should not have enjoyed the fruit of the tree of life and the gates of paradise would not stand open. Had there been no cross, death would not have been trodden underfoot, nor hell despoiled.
Therefore, the cross is something wonderfully great and honourable. It is great because through the cross the many noble acts of Christ found their consummation very many indeed, for both his miracles and his sufferings were fully rewarded with victory. The cross is honourable because it is both the sign of Gods suffering and the trophy of his victory. It stands for his suffering because on it he freely suffered unto death. But it is also his trophy because it was the means by which the devil was wounded and death conquered; the barred gates of hell were smashed, and the cross became the one common salvation of the whole world. (from a discourse of St Andrew of Crete)
N.B.: There is so much wasted suffering in the world today. As I said last week:
How often do we desperately pray that God will deliver us or a loved one from suffering without also praising Him for the gift of being able to share in the Cross and asking for the strength to persevere in the midst of affliction?
Prayer: You have given the sick and the suffering a share in your cross, give them patience and strength. Have mercy on your people, Lord.
Find out more about Fatherless – also available for Kindle
Find out more about St. Therese – also available for Kindle
If only every suffering soul could see how valuable their life really is not only for their own sake, but for the mission of the church throughout the world!Great article!
The Apostles all suffered with all kinds of things then martyrdom except St John. He was Jailed and tortured too. You look at St Paul's thorn in the side from the enemy. Also deprivation of food called fasting to bring good spiritual results. Sometimes several days or more(40 days for Christ). Christ also points out some demoniacs can't come out without fasting. There is natural cause for spiritual effects through suffering. It just is there in Scripture and Christian history.
God love your mother, John. Those that suffer get so much accomplished. And it’s interesting that it’s almost impossible to grasp the “gift” entirely unless you yourself have been given it. Makes the sufferer feel downright special! *smiles*
No responses. Not too many want to write about suffering. A bad subject with Today’s false Gospel of prosperity.
Many of us suffer daily and say nothing about it. God bless those who do suffer in silence thus offering it up to the Lord for others.
"Holy Communion is the shortest and the safest way to Heaven. There are others: Innocence, for instance, but that is for little children. Penance, but we are afraid of it. Generous endurance of the trials of life, but when they come we weep and ask to be spared. The surest, easiest, shortest way is by the Eucharist" -St. Pius X.