Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Pope talks about more than the Devil - he talks about suffering.

The temptation of a Christianity without the Cross

I have a friend who was sexually abused as a child.  The effects have remained with her for life.  She is unmarried and has had several affairs that have been sexually abusive in nature.  Years ago, when I returned to the Church and began to do 'penance', she made a hostile comment to me on my way to Mass one day - "You think the only way to get to heaven is to suffer!"  I laughed and tried to deny it and point out how delightful it is to follow Christ, to receive him in communion, and so on.  She wasn't buying it.

I never forgot what she said, and I'm sure she would make the same protest to me today.  She dislikes the Catholic Church - she doesn't have devotion for the crucifix, if you will.  She rejects the notion of suffering - yet her entire life, though comfortable and filled with every nicety and luxury, is a life of endless suffering.  She involves herself in unhappy sexual relationships doomed to failure.  But she has no friends - she rejected some, the others do not like to be around her.  She suffers and is interiorly miserable.  I know because another friend of ours, who is her confidant, tells me.

Today the Pope talked about triumphalist Catholics and suffering:
"Triumphalism in the Church, impedes the Church. Triumphalism among Christians, impedes Christians. A triumphalist, half-way Church that is a Church that is content with what it is or has, well sorted – well organized - with all its offices, everything in order, everything perfect no? Efficient. But a Church that denies its martyrs, because it does not know that martyrs are needed for Churches’ the journey towards the Cross. A Church that only thinks about triumphs, successes, does not know that rule of Jesus: the rule of triumph through failure, human failure, the failure of the Cross. And this is a temptation that we all have”.
A similar Christianity is proposed by the 'prosperity Gospel' preachers.  Likewise, the new age spiritual currents in Christianity promise happiness without the cross.  'Recovery' Christians can pretty much preach the same thing on some level - it's a great way to sell books and land speaking gigs as well.  Gay Catholics make a lot of 'happy' promises too - most likely a side effect of anti-depressants.  (JK)  I shudder to think how survivors of abuse might tell my friend about all the happiness she is missing out on.  Or me telling a gay friend, "it gets better Poodle!"  It does of course - but not without the cross.  The cross, suffering, is always there.  The wounds remain and on certain occasions, like a mystic's stigmata, they open and bleed.  Some people may be healed right away, most wait a long, long time - in order to learn how to embrace the cross, to learn how to love - to learn how to let themselves be loved.

Again, the Pope says it better than I can:
"I remember once, I was in a dark moment in my spiritual life and I asked a favor from the Lord. Then I went to preach the annual spiritual retreat to nuns and on the last day the made their confession. One elderly nun, over 80 years of age, but with clear, bright eyes came to confession: she was a woman of God. In the end I saw that she really was a woman of God so I said ‘ Sister, as penance, pray for me, because I need a grace, ok? If you asks the Lord for this grace on my behalf, I am sure to receive it'. She stopped for a moment, as if in prayer, and said, 'Of course the Lord will grant you this grace, but do not be deceived: in His own divine manner’. This did me a lot of good. To hear that the Lord always gives us what we ask for, but in His own divine way. And this is the divine way to the very end. The divine way involves the Cross, not out of masochism: no, no! Out of love. For love to the very end”.
"We ask the Lord for the grace that we may not be a half-way Church, a triumphalist Church, of great successes, but a humble Church, that walks with decision, just like Jesus. Forward, forward, forward. With a heart open to the will of the Father, just like Jesus. We ask for this grace. " - VR


  1. That's beautiful, and reassuring. We all do try to avoid all suffering, don't we. I know I do. But my favorite mysteries of the Rosary are the Sorrowful. It's easier for me to wrap my head around Jesus' love for me when I contemplate His suffering, than it is meditating on His hiddenness or glory.

  2. I've been struggling with this today, Terry. When I hear of suffering or taking up the cross, I immediately think I must be doing something extra - more penances. I think that I am not taking up my cross as it is.

    But then I was thinking about penance as recommended at Fatima and it doesn't disturb me in the same way interiorly:

    I struggle when I hear about suffering because I can't seem to reconcile it when the Pope or others call us to be joyful, cheerful, not sad, etc. I guess the fault is with my understanding of suffering.

    1. Simon says... You don’t have to be suffering to carry a cross.

    2. Patrick, remember how Therese said the joy was interior - her soul at peace, amidst her crises of faith?

      Otherwise, fidelity to our normal duties are the penance Our Lord asks - as I mentioned in the post you refer to.

      They speak of the poor in India as being joyful amidst so much poverty - it is charity - love, which opens the heart to joy.

      Our Lord was sad at times - he wept for Lazarus, he wept for Jerusalem.

  3. They decided to remove the enormous crucifix that was suspended behind and above the altar at my church. They decided to erect a light wood cross with a piece of purple cloth draped artfully across it. They put this in front and just off to the side of the altar. It stands there like a really large coat rack. When I asked why the crucifix was removed, I was told that we should be focusing on Jesus's triumph over the cross. Some people even hinted that some parents didn't want to expose their children to the constant "graphic" image of our Lord being tortured because it makes them "sad". Where do you go from there? Other than out the door to find another church?


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