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“NO MAN’S CROSS IS LAID UPON HIM FOR HIMSELF ALONE, BUT FOR THE HEALING OF THE WHOLE WORLD”

“Look at this cross, so much bigger than the man whose body will be stretched to fit it. So much higher than the height of the man who will be lifted up above the earth on it and who, being lifted up, will draw all peoples to himself. Christ receives it with joy because he knows that this is the dead weight that must have crushed humankind had he not lifted it from their backs. This is the dead wood which at his touch is transformed to a living tree. At his touch, the hewn tree takes root again, and the roots thrust down into the earth, and the tree breaks into flower…

THE TREE BREAKS INTO FLOWER

Because Christ is to be stretched to the size of the cross, those who love him will grow to the size of it, not only to the size of man’s suffering, which is bigger than man, but to the size of Christ’s love that is bigger than all suffering. Because Christ is to be lifted up on the cross, all those who love him will be lifted up above the world by the world’s sorrow. He, being lifted up, will draw all men to himself.

CHRIST CHANGED SUFFERING TO REDEMPTION

Because Christ has changed death to life, and suffering to redemption, the suffering of those who love him will be a communion between them. All that hidden daily suffering that seems insignificant will be redeeming the world, it will be healing the wounds of the world. The acceptance of pain, of old age, of the fear of death, and of death will be our gift of Christ’s love to one another; our gift of Christ’s life to one another.

JOY AND SUPERNATURAL LIFE

No man’s cross is laid upon him for himself alone, but for the healing of the whole world, for the mutual comforting and sweetening of sorrow, for the giving of joy and supernatural life to one another. For Christ receives our cross that we may receive his. Receiving his cross, the cross of the whole world made his, we receive him. He gives us his hands to take hold of, his power to make it a redeeming thing, a blessed thing, his life to cause it to flower, his heart to enable us to rejoice in accepting our own and one another’s burdens.”
– Caryll Houselander

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“BLESSED ARE THEY WHO MOURN” (Mt 5:4) – FOR WHAT SHALL WE MOURN?

GOD NEVER IS CLOSER THAN WHEN, HUMANLY SPEAKING, LIFE SEEMS MOST HOPELESS. UNLESS HE CHOOSES TO BLOCK GOD OUT OF HIS LIFE, NO MAN EVER CAN TRUTHFULLY SAY, ‘I SUFFER ALONE’.

“If you are of cheerful disposition and generally inclined to look on the bright side of life, you may feel a little uncomfortable as you listen to Jesus say, in His Sermon on the Mount, ‘Blessed are they who mourn.’ You may feel a twinge of guilt at the thought of your own inveterate cheerfulness, and may wonder whether it is quite Christian to feel as happy as you do. Just what does Jesus mean, anyway?

WHAT DOES JESUS MEAN, ANYWAY?

His first meaning is a literal one. He means exactly what He says. Jesus was addressing a crowd of people who, for the most part, were poor and who daily lived with sorrow. There was no social security, no unemployment insurance, no farm subsidies. There were few parents among his listeners who did not know at times the awful anxiety of being unable to provide bread for their children.

The science of medicine was rudimentary, too. There were no wonder drugs. The infant mortality rate was high. Childhood diseases and adult illnesses were too often fatal. Death and grief were frequent intruders in the homes of Christ’s hearers.

THE MEANING OF SUFFERING

Jesus wanted them (and us) to know that God is not indifferent to the sorrows of His children. Indeed, there is nothing which exerts a more powerful claim upon God for His compassionate attention than does the mental anguish of persons of good will. This is the type of suffering which is closest to the agony of God’s own Son.

God will give the strength to survive sorrow. God will give the grace to make grief a purifying and sanctifying force and a sure path to heaven. God never is closer than when, humanly speaking, life seems most hopeless. Unless he chooses to block God out of his life, no man ever can truthfully say, ‘I suffer alone.’ And in heaven there surely will be, very close to the martyrs, a degree of glory and happiness reserved for those who have been burdened with mental distress.

MORE THAN JUST THE LITERAL SENSE

When Jesus said, ‘Blessed are they who mourn, for they shall be comforted,’ He meant His word to be taken literally, but He did not l i m i t His meaning to the literal sense. No matter how free from other grief we may be, we all have the obligation to mourn for our sins, to sorrow for the times we have rejected God’s love and for the graces we have wasted. From this type of grief – tempered by our confidence in God’s mercy – we never must be free.

THOSE WHO REJECT GOD OR DO NOT KNOW HIM

There is still another kind of sorrow to which the Christian must not be a stranger. This is the sorrow engendered in us by the suffering – spiritual, mental and physical – of others.

We should be deeply concerned, for example, that so many of our brothers and sisters live their lives completely divorced from God. We should be concerned that so many choose to make sin a way of life. We should be concerned that so many have not yet heard of the Gospel message of God’s love and Christ’s redemption. We should be concerned that there are so many divisions among Christians. We should be concerned that there is so much hatred in the world, so many people at one another’s throats. We should be concerned that millions of our fellow men do not have decent shelter or enough to eat.

WE ARE LESS MOVED TO WEEP THAN TO TAKE ACTION

There is more than enough reason for us to mourn if we have the sense of responsibility for our neighbour which, as members of Christ’s Body, we must have. This is a type of grief which expresses itself less in the emotions than in the will. We are less moved to weep than we are to take action.

THE GRIEF WE SHARE WITH CHRIST AT THE MISERY OF OTHERS

What action we can take, either individually or as a member of a group, will vary with each of us. We shall pray for sufferers, of course, but we may not be content with prayer alone if there is something we can d o . The grief which we share with Christ at the misery of others is a dynamic force. It seeks for an outlet, for a deed to be done, and is not content until it has found that outlet.

If we have to confess, ‘I have done nothing during this past month (or two months or a year) to alleviate human suffering,’ we have reason to feel uneasy. We can hardly qualify for Christ’s promise: the promise of God’s healing and comforting embrace, here and hereafter, for all who mourn.”
– Fr Leo J. Trese, 1966

 

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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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“ARE YOU STRUGGLING AFTER AN ABORTION EXPERIENCE?”

“Are you struggling after an abortion experience?

Call us today on our Helpline 0845 603 8501

Between 7pm and 10pm (seven evenings per week).

All calls are charged at local rates.

ARCH – Abortion Recovery Care and Helpline.”

 
 

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