Suffering is a mercy to us. If only I had realised that long ago…
Today, as I was praying for the intentions of my family and my friends and all of you who pray with me, it occurred to me that my list of intentions is growing and growing. When I ask others to pray, I often hear fervent yeses resounding before the request has even left my lips.
Perhaps the people that join with me in praying for the intentions of my heart do not realise how much comfort it brings to know that I am not alone and that others truly and deeply care for me and the trial that I am undergoing.
In recent months, I too often join others in prayer. When I tell them I will pray for them, it is not a careless word thrown away without thought. It is a conscious commitment, holding firm in the hope that God will glean from my soul the intentions that are perhaps clouded by the frailty of my weak and sinful human nature.
Being in this position – of deliberately remining open to prayer – means that I am very often confronted with stories of the Crosses that other people carry that are dreadfully, terribly heavy. It is a terrible burden to realise that despite all my best intentions, my burdens are so tiny that surely they cannot give homage to God.
Like the weakness of my soul, my Cross too is tiny.
There was a time – not long ago – when the burdens of my heart were so severe and significant that I could not see any way to proceed. And yet, through the matter of some small amount of Grace – lovingly bestowed on me through no merit of my own – the same burdens, the same grief, the same sadness – is a sacrifice I can willingly make. Though there has been no Earthly change in any of it…
This is not the result of time. I have heard the adage that time heals all wounds over and over and over again. But I do not believe it. There are some wounds, so deep and terrible, that time itself is no match for their pain.
The other day I spoke with a dear friend who is in her seventies. She showed me a picture of a beautiful little saint – her baby brother who died suddenly, aged 4, over sixty years earlier. While she was speaking of this child and his sudden death, her eyes filled with tears. Her grief and sadness – almost seventy years after this event – was palpable, even despite her strong faith and conviction that this child, her brother, was in Heaven.
It caused me to think about this sadness that we experience when we make sacrifices and about our perspective on pain. Saint Faustina in her conversations with Christ, was taught to understand that suffering is a sign of God’s mercy. Suffering is a mechanism to ensure that we are purified and made ready to meet God. Scott Hahn in his book, “Reasons to Believe” says, “God allows us to suffer because of his mercy. He won’t allow us to escape the plan of maturity that even Jesus Christ had to complete.”
That purification will happen, in this life – or through the mercy of God – in the next.
While here, in this Earthly life we are purified through temporal sufferings – grief, loss, abandonment, loneliness. All of these things terrify most of us. How often do we say to ourselves or God – please God I will give you anything – but please do not ask me for that….
And yet, without suffering on Earth, we are unable to be purified – to be made ready – to stand in the presence of God.
This is why we suffer.
If we do not endure that suffering or burden on Earth, we will surely endure it for a time in Purgatory – we must suffer to be ready for God…
And so today, I pray for the Lost Souls of Purgatory. For through the loving mercy of God I may well be one of them myself one day…
And I do this, in alignment with the beliefs of Saint Jean Marie Baptiste Vianney (the Curé of Ars)…
“The one who saves a soul from Hell saves this soul and his own as well.”
For with prayers for the conversion of sinners and the Lost Souls everything is clear. Here. At the Foot of the Cross.