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Tag Archives: bereavement

JAMES BOND STAR: THE ONLY THING THAT KEPT ME GOING IS MY CATHOLIC FAITH

“Former James Bond star Pierce Brosnan has said the only thing that kept him going when his first wife and her daughter died was his Catholic faith.

Both died of ovarian cancer. His wife, Cassandra Harris, died in 1991 aged 43; Charlotte, her daughter, whom Brosnan adopted in 1986, died last year aged 41.

‘My faith has always helped me. I’m Catholic,’ he told the German newspaper ‘Bild’ last week.

‘That’s all you have left when your heart is just a dark hole at four in the morning and you have the weight of the world on your shoulders. No one can escape life’s pain. That’s life.’

In an interview with RTE three years ago he said that ‘prayer helps me to be a father, to be an actor and to be a man. It always helps to have a bit of prayer in your back pocket. At the end of the day, you have to have something and for me that is God, Jesus, my Catholic upbringing, my faith.’

He continued: ‘My faith has been good to me in the moments of deepest suffering, doubt and fear. It is a constant, the language of prayer. Recalling being taught by the Christian Brothers as a child in Ireland he said: ‘I certainly got a strapping amount of faith.'”
– This article by David V Barrett entitled “Brosnan: faith kept me going in dark time” was published in “The Catholic Herald” issue February 21 2014. For subscriptions please visit http://www.catholicherald.co.uk (external link).

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PRAISE THE LORD! – IF GOD DOES “SEND” SUFFERING, IT IS MORE LIKELY TO BE TO A SAINT THAN TO A SINNER, BECAUSE THE SAINT IS BETTER “QUALIFIED”

And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me (Mat 1:38).

“THE POWER OF PAIN

Pain is one of our great supernatural resources. That statement is out of line with our usual pattern of thought. We are accustomed to viewing pain as an unmitigated evil. For some persons, the existence of pain even is a source of temptation against their religious faith. ‘If God is good,’ they ask, ‘why does He permit suffering, particularly so much innocent suffering?’

‘IF GOD IS GOOD,’ THEY ASK, ‘WHY DOES HE PERMIT SUFFERING?’

Thoughtful people realise that we could not have the world we do have, without suffering. A great amount of suffering is caused by man’s own inhumanity to man. To prevent this, God would have to make man a puppet, with God pulling the strings on each man’s actions. Being no longer free, man would cease to be human.

FREE WILL AND CREATION AS WE KNOW IT

Similarly, to eliminate all pain caused by nature, God would have had a different kind of world. Fire burns. Coal tars initiate cancer. Gravity crushes. Electricity kills. The world could not be our world, as we know it, without pain.

Still, after all possible explanations of pain have been made, there does remain a large element of mystery in this question of suffering. For example, why deadly microbes, why poisonous reptiles?

THERE DOES REMAIN A MYSTERY

It helps a little to remember that God’s plan for the universe encompasses billions of years. Our own world with its pain is but one pinpoint in that vast plan and only one moment in those uncounted eons. How the phenomenon of pain may eventually contribute to God’s over-all design, we must await to discover.

‘GREATER LOVE THAN THIS NO MAN HAS, THAT ONE LAY DOWN HIS LIFE FOR HIS FRIENDS’

The really important truth about pain, for the Christian, is the fact that it does have a meaning in the here and now. In Eden God gave to suffering its value as an atonement for sin. On Calvary Jesus Christ gave to suffering its ultimate nobility as He expressed, in the language of pain, God’s infinite love for man. ‘Greater love than this no man has, that one lay down his life for his friends.’

SHARING THE SUBLIME FRUIT OF SUFFERING

Jesus did not hoard to Himself this sublime fruit of suffering, this ability to make one’s pain count for others. In His scheme of salvation, our Lord has chosen to share with us His redemptive work. Each of us who has been baptised in Christ has the privilege of helping Him to carry His cross. Each of us has the power to atone by our sufferings for the sins of others and to crack the locks on hearts that have been closed to God’s grace.

‘WHO NOW REJOICE IN MY SUFFERINGS FOR YOU, AND FILL UP THAT WHICH IS LACKING IN THE SUFFERINGS OF CHRIST IN MY FLESH FOR HIS BODY’S SAKE, WHICH IS THE CHURCH’ (Colossians 1:24)

Whatever pain may be our lot, in honesty we must admit, ‘I deserve this for my sins.’ Only an innocent child can truthfully say, ‘I do not deserve to suffer.’ If God’s justice were not tempered with mercy and if we had to pay the full price of our infidelities, we should be living our whole lives in pain.

However, when suffering does come to us, it would be a mistake to conclude, ‘I am being punished for my sins.’ God is not a vindictive God. He may permit us to suffer for our spiritual good and to better assure our eternal happiness, but He does not send suffering to ‘get even’ with us for our offences against Him.

MOST SUFFERING IS THE INEVITABLE RESULT OF LIVING IN THE KIND OF WORLD THAT IS OURS

In fact, it probably is quite rarely that God positively ‘sends’ suffering to anyone. Most suffering, such as disease or accident, is simply the result of natural causes; or, it is the result of the evil will of fellow humans. Most suffering, in other words, is the inevitable result of living in the kind of a world that is ours.

If God does ‘send’ suffering, it is more likely to be to a saint than to a sinner. The saint is better qualified to use suffering unselfishly for the salvation of others.

‘I OFFER THIS CROSS, BELOVED JESUS, IN UNION WITH YOURS’

Suffering comes in all styles and sizes. It may be a simple headache, a slight cold or a minor disappointment. It may be the excruciating agony of cancer or of acute arthritis, or the mental distress of deep despondency or loneliness.

Whatever our particular pain may be, it will be a tragic waste if we refuse or forget to say, ‘I offer this cross, beloved Jesus, in union with Yours. I offer it for my own sins and especially in atonement for the sins of others. Let my suffering bring another soul to You!'”
– Fr Leo J. Trese, 1966 (text within the inverted commas; capital headings added afterwards).

(see also Mt 5:2-12)

 

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“IF WE BELIEVE IN CHRIST, WE HAVE FAITH IN HIS WORDS AND PROMISES”

DEATH THAT GIVES LIFE

“Those who have no hope are saddened by the death of their loved ones. But we who live in hope, who believe in God, who trust, by the passion and resurrection of Christ, that we will remain in Him and rise again for Him and with Him, why should we refuse to leave this world, and become afflicted over our deceased and weep over them as if they were lost?

And yet Jesus Christ our Lord and God admonishes us and says: ‘I am the resurrection. He who believes in me, even if he dies, shall live, and whoever lives and believes in me will have life everlasting’ (Jn 11:25-26). If we believe in Christ, we have faith in His words and promises: let us go to meet Christ, joyful and certain that we will not die eternally, but will live and reign forever with Him.”
– St Cyprian

 
 

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TO A PARENT WHOSE SON OR DAUGHTER HAS DIED

“Death, the sad inheritance of every son of Adam, which no one will escape, is not the end of everything, but rather the beginning of that blessed life which is the only one worthy of being gained. All will pass in this world, from the most humble things to the most grandiose, but eternal life will remain without end, in which there will be no mourning.

MERE WORDS SEEM TO BE OUT OF PLACE IN THIS AGONY

The letter by St Basil the Great: ‘I hesitated to address you due to your dignity, from the idea that, just as to the eye when inflamed even the mildest of remedies causes pain, so to a soul distressed by heavy sorrow, words offered in the moment of agony, even though they do bring much comfort, seem to be somewhat out of place.

But I bethought me that I should be speaking to a Christian woman, who has long ago learned godly lessons, and is not inexperienced in the vicissitudes of human life, and I judged it right not to neglect the duty laid upon me. I know what a mother’s heart is and when I remember how good and gentle you are to all, I can reckon the probable extent of your misery at this present time. You have lost a son whom, while he was alive, all mothers called happy, with prayers that their own might be like him, and on his death bewailed, as though each had hidden her own in the grave.

But our lives are not without Providence, so we have learnt in the Gospel, for not a sparrow falls to the ground without the will of our Father (cfr. Mt 10:29). Whatever has come to pass has come to pass by the will of our Creator. And who can resist God’s will? Let us accept what has befallen us; for if we take it ill we do not mend the past and we work our own ruin. Do not let us arraign the righteous judgment of God. We are all too untaught to assail His ineffable sentences. The Lord is now making trial of your love for Him. Now there is an opportunity for you, through your patience, to take the martyr’s lot. The mother of the Maccabees (cfr. 2 Mac 7) saw the death of seven sons without a sigh, without even shedding one unworthy tear. She gave thanks to God for seeing them freed from the fetters of the flesh by fire and steel and cruel blows, and she won praise from God, and fame among men. The loss is great, as I can say myself; but great too are the rewards laid up by the Lord for the patient.

DO NOT MEASURE YOUR LOSS BY ITSELF, IF YOU DO IT WILL SEEM INTOLERABLE

When first you were made a mother, and saw your boy, and thanked God, you knew all the while that, a mortal yourself, you had given birth to a mortal. What is there astonishing in the death of a mortal? But we are grieved at his dying before his time. Are we sure that this was not his time?

We do not know how to pick and choose what is good for our souls, or how to fix the limits of the life of man. Look around at all the world in which you live; remember that everything you see is mortal, and all subject to corruption.

Look up to Heaven; even it shall be dissolved; look at the sun, not even the sun will last forever. All the stars together, all living things of land and sea, all that is fair on earth, aye, earth itself, all are subject to decay; yet a little while and all shall be no more. Let these considerations be some comfort to you in your trouble. Do not measure your loss by itself; if you do it will seem intolerable; but if you take all human affairs into account you will find that some comfort is to be derived from them.

MERE WORDS I KNOW CANNOT GIVE COMFORT

Mere words I know cannot give comfort. Just now what is wanted is prayer, and I do pray the Lord Himself to touch your heart by His unspeakable power, and through good thoughts to cause light to shine upon your soul, that you may have a source of consolation in yourself.'”
– This letter by St Basil the Great to the wife of Nectarius was published in “De Vita Contemplativa” (Monthly Magazine for Monasteries), issue Number 11, Year VII.

 
 

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“IS MY HUSBAND IN HEAVEN? WILL I SEE HIM AGAIN? WILL HE STILL BE MY HUSBAND?”

“QUESTION: My husband died recently and I am finding it hard to cope. Is there a place called Heaven? Will I see my husband again when I die? Will he still be my husband?

ANSWER: Please accept my deepest sympathies on your husband’s death. I recommend him to the prayers of all our readers. Of course there is a heaven.

Christ tells us that all those who believe in Him will never die. ‘He who believe in me has eternal life and I will raise him up on the last day,’ Christ told his disciples. ‘I am going to prepare a place for you… I shall return to take you with me’ (Jn:14). The Catholic Catechism (CCC 1023 and CCC 1028) speaking about Heaven says – ‘Those who die in God’s grace and friendship… live forever with Christ. They are like God for ever, for they ‘see him as he is, ‘face to face. The Church calls this… the Beatific Vision.’

So heaven is living for ever with the God who created us and sent his Son to die for us. St Paul writing about heaven (1 Cor 2:9-10) has this to say: ‘We teach what scripture calls: the things that no eye has seen and no ear has heard, things beyond the mind of man, all that God has prepared for those who love him.’ Will you see your husband again when you die? If, as we believe, Heaven is perfect happiness, then we will of course be with the people we loved in this life, especially our family and all those who travelled with us on the road of life. St Catherine tells us that our departed loved ones long for our coming to join them just as our heavenly Father does.”
– This article was published in “Don Bosco’s Madonna” issue July 2010. For donations and subscriptions please visit http://www.donboscosmadonna.org (external link) or http://www.dbmshrine.org (external link).

 
 

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WE MAKE TREMENDOUS PROGRESS IN TIMES OF SPIRITUAL DRYNESS

BEREAVEMENT, LOSS AND OTHER CROSSES

“When blood no longer flows from an open wound, it appears to be healed to the indifferent eye. Nothing could be more wrong; the wound that no longer bleeds is the one that may never heal.

It is surprising to see how much spiritual progress we make in times of aridity, when no conscious joy of any kind unites our souls with God. It is then indeed God himself we love, and not his consolations; and whatever we do then, requiring constant effort and appeals for grace, is indeed duty in all its starkness. Then, when the dusty road is over and the way becomes easier, we are astonished to see how far we have come; sometimes we arrive at a gentle resting place, in peace, near the heart of God.

Observe great reserve concerning everything about my interior life. Whatever I disclose, without the absolute duty of charity, will be of no use to others. We must not foolishly distribute even the smallest amount of our fortune and waste our Master has given us.

When physical or moral suffering threatens our very soul, we must say to it: ‘You shall go no farther.’ We must allow the waves from outside to beat against us without using too many of our resources to resist them. On the contrary, we must avoid any disturbance and strengthen our defences against it. The agitation, bitterness, and all that attacks us from our sensible [fleshly, material] nature quickly pass if we create in ourselves a little silence and take a deep breath in the presence of God.”
– Elisabeth Leseur

 
 

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PERIODS OF DIFFICULTY ENTRUSTED TO GOD ARE TIMES OF SPIRITUAL HARVEST

“There are periods in our lives when we m u s t suffer; our entire existence at the time becomes a means to an end, and to that end alone. Suffering becomes our only duty, our sole occupation, the one thing possible for us. Everything is subservient to this divine will, and in no other way can we please our Heavenly Father save by submitting to his behests. All voluntary resistance, all wilful rebellion serves only to increase the burden. There is no possible alleviation of our pain save a complete submission to it. It controls, encompasses, constrains us – we must simply endure it.

Our poor human nature is in extremity; for, when it flies for refuge to grace, usually its unfailing shelter, it finds this heavenly comforter estranged – never that – but mute, cold, apparently pitiless, grave, severe, even sad, although such sadness is too sacred not to be attractive, and even beneficial to the soul. At such times everything is difficult, even the act of seeking support, of praying and evoking consoling thoughts. These are precious moments, periods of spiritual harvest. But we must say to ourselves that we are the harvest, and that the Sovereign Master reaps and consumes it for the sacred blessing of everything.”
– Mgr. Gay; Elevations

 
 

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