Positive Thoughts on Suffering
by Theologian William G. Most
Bodily Conflict due to Original Sin
The Superior Will of Man is made to Lovingly
serve the Divine Will of God
Solely motivated by Love
Interior Battle of Wills
Man's Superior Will being placed, as it were, Mid-Way between the
Divine Will, which is above It - and the
Inferior Will, or Will of the Senses,
which is beneath It, is continually Assaulted in
an Interior Battle of Wills by both Appetites and Wills; each seeking in turn to Attract and
Subdue, and Bring It into Obedience.
Because of Original Sin, the Sensual
Appetites and Inferior Will tend to Blindly serve their own
Commonly described by the Words: Body-Appetite,
Suffering is needed to help us rise-above the
Weakness that is found in our Nature as a result of Original Sin.
For we are inclined-to Evil and are like a bent piece of springy metal. Imagine a
piece of such metal standing up, the lower part straight, the upper part bent. To make it finally become straight, it is necessary to
push it beyond the center position many times. Similarly, Suffering helps us regain
Freedom. Otherwise we can become as it were a Slave to these Tendencies, in a sort of
To explain this Damage from Sin, we notice
First, it is not the Total Corruption of which
Luther spoke - then, since Saint Paul says we are Temples of the Holy
Spirit, it would mean the Holy Spirit would dwell in
Total Corruption! The real meaning of the Damage is this. It means
that our Nature is left where it would have been, if God had created it without any added
Gifts. Human Body and
Soul each have many Drives or Needs - none
Evil per se, but yet each Drive goes
for its own Object Mechanically, Automatically, Blindly, without regard to the Needs of the other
Drives or of other Persons. God gave Adam and
Eve a Coordinating Gift, or, the Gift of
Integrity, which made it easy to keep these in-place. By Sin they
Lost that Gift and so did not have it to
pass-on to us. We see this fact since after the Fall,
God asked Adam: Adam, where are you? - I
was naked and I hid myself. - How did you find that out if you did not sin? Before the
Fall he was naked, but it did not bother him. After it, it did bother him, because
of Loss of the Coordinating Gift. To regain
the Freedom Adam once had, we need Self-imposed Mortification, or
acceptance-of Suffering sent by God.
Man from Adam/Eve (Original Justice) until after the
Last Judgment (Glorified Nature)
States of Man >
Infused Grace & Knowledge
Lost Grace -
Grace Restored -
Vision of God
Tends to Malice
Tends to Malice
The Loss of the Harmony, Integrity, Coordination or Balance between Body and
Soul. The Emotions of the Body are not
Docile Servants of the Soul, but often Rebel against the limitations which
Reason enlightened by Faith impose as the Norm of Action.
Pope John Paul II said in General Audience of Oct 8, 1986:
"According to the Church's Teaching it is a case of a Relative and not an Absolute Deterioration, not
Intrinsic to the Human Faculties . . . . not of a Loss of their Essential Capacities even in relation to the Knowledge and Love of
God". It is only in this sense that we can speak of our Mind as
Darkened and Will
Suffering, whether Self-Imposed, or Providentially
sent, has a Related Aspect; it makes one more open to Divine Inspirations and Guidance. We
might start with Matthew 6:21; "Where your Treasure is, there is your Heart
also". In a Narrow Sense that would mean a Box of Coins buried under the floor of the house.
One who had it would love to think of it, it would be like a Magnet to pull his Thoughts and his
Heart. But one can put Treasure in almost anything - in Huge Meals, in Gourmet Meals, in Sex, in Travel, in Study, even
in the Study of Scripture. These are all Lower than God, in various degrees. In-proportion-to
how much Lower they are, they make it that much less-easy for Thoughts and Hearts to
rise to God. But there is another, a Second
Factor: how 'Strongly' a Person lets these things get hold of him. At the Mild End of the Scale, they pull only far enough
to lead him into Imperfection, which is less than Venial
Sin. The Next Step would be Occasional Venial
Sin >> then Habitual Venial Sin >> then
Occasional Mortal Sin >> then Habitual Mortal
Sin. When the Pulls are very strong, and the thing to which they pull is much-lower than
God, Blindness can result; it will be almost impossible for Thoughts and
Heart to Rise to God. We can see this with
the help of another comparison, which means the same thing. We think of a Galvanometer, which is merely a Compass Needle on its Pivot,
surrounded by a Coil of Wire. We send a Current through the Coil, and the Needle swings, the Right Direction and the Right Amount. It
will read correctly if there is no Competition from 'Outside Pulls', such as a 30,000 Volt Power Line, or a lot of Magnetic Steel.
Then Two (2) Forces affect the Needle, the 'Outside Pulls', and the Current in the Coil. If
the Current in the Coil is mild and the 'Outside Pulls' strong, the Current in the Coil may show no-effect on the Needle.
The Galvanometer stands-for my Mind. The Current in the Coil is
Grace, which is Mild in that it Respects my Freedom. But the 'Outside Pulls' do not Respect that -
if I let them get strong-enough, they will make it impossible for the Needle to register the Effect of
If Grace cannot do that, which is the very First Step,
it cannot do other things either. Then the Person is Blind. He is
Eternally Lost unless someone would put an 'Extraordinary Weight' into the Scales, as it were, to call for an
Extraordinary Grace. Such a Grace is
comparable to a Miracle, and it can forestall or even cancel-out Human Resistance.
Suffering is also needed for Reparation for
Sin. Every Sin is a
Debt, which Unbalances the 'Scale of the Objective Order'. The
Holiness of God Loves all that is
Good, and so wants it Rebalanced. Suffering,
freely-accepted, will Rebalance. However, even One (1) Mortal
Sin means an Infinite (∞)
Imbalance, so if the Father wanted to
Fully-Rebalance - He was not Obliged - the only means was the
Incarnation of a Divine Person.
He did that. We can have
Merit, a Claim to Reward, in that we become Members of the Incarnate Divine
Person, Christ, and in as much as we are like
Him - like Him in Suffering
for Reparation. This is the True Sense of Merit.
Suffering as Reparation should be
joined to the Offering of Christ on the
Altar. So it is a Major Component of what Lumen Gentium calls
Spiritual Sacrifices. In
Lumen Gentium 10: "The Baptized through
their Rebirth and the Anointing by the Holy Spirit are Consecrated into a Spiritual House and Holy Priesthood, so that through all the
Works of the Christian Man, they may offer Spiritual Sacrifices ....". In
Lumen Gentium 34: "For all their Works,
Prayers, Apostolic Undertakings, Living in Marriage and Family, Daily Work, Relaxation of Mind and Body, if they are done in the
Spirit -- in fact the Troubles of Life if they are Patiently Endured - become Spiritual Sacrifices, acceptable to God through Jesus Christ,
which are most Devotedly Offered to the Father in the Celebration of the Eucharist along with the Offering of the Lord's Body".
The Theological Framework in regard to their Offering in the Mass was expressed precisely
by Pius XII, in
"It is clear that the Faithful offer the Sacrifice through the Hands of the Priest from the fact that
the Priest at the Altar in offering a Sacrifice in the name of all His Members, does so in the Person of Christ, the Head
[of the Mystical Body]"
"The statement that the People offer the Sacrifice with the Priest does not mean that ... they perform
a Visible Liturgical Rite ... instead, it is based on the fact that the People join their Hearts in Praise, Petition, Expiation, and
Thanksgiving with the Prayers or Intention of the Priest, in fact, of the High Priest Himself, so that in one and same Offering of the
Victim ... they may be presented to God the Father".
The Presentation of the Spiritual Sacrifices
is expressed in the Second Part -- and Suffering
is a specially important part of it, as a Special Likeness to Christ Himself. So someone who is
a Shut-in and who Suffers Chronically can accomplish more by this means than those who
Labor in Apostolic Work.
Our Sufferings, if considered apart-from Christ,
have no Power to bring about an Effect - we are Saved and made
Holy not as Individuals, but to the extent that we are Members of
Christ and like Him (i.e. Members of the
Mystical Body of Christ). Then we get-in-on the Claim, the
Sacrifice, the Merit that He
What if we are inclined to Worry about our Health or other things? Does that mean a
Lack of Confidence in God?
Not necessarily. God has not made a promise anywhere that we will not run into
Cancer or some other Serious Suffering. We
should try to realize that even Worry, understood properly, can make us more like
Christ, and so be of Immense Value. For
He Himself, as the Church teaches us, from
the First Instant of His Human Conception,
saw in His Human Soul the Vision of God, in
which all Knowledge is present. Pope Pius XII, in his great
Encyclical on the Mystical Body, told us that by this means
He knew and Loved each one of us individually,
as clearly as a mother would have her child on her lap. But then it is also evident that He
also knew, in Terrible Detail, everything He
was to Suffer. When we face some Trouble or
Suffering we can say: Perhaps it will not come ... perhaps it will
not be that bad. But such a 'Refuge' was not possible to Him, for by that
Vision He knew Infallibly, and in Merciless Detail,
all He had to Suffer. Imagine living a whole lifetime
with that! He accepted it all gladly as the Will of
Twice during His Public Life
He let us, as it were, look inside Him. In
Luke 12:50 He said: "I have a Baptism to be
Baptized with, and how am I straitened until it be accomplished" - that is: I know I must be plunged into
Deep Suffering. I am as it were in a Tight Place, I cannot get comfortable until I get it
over with. Again in John 12:27, about a week before His
Death, He allowed Himself
to break into a speech to say: "Now My Heart is troubled. What shall I say? Father, save Me from this
hour!" Yet for Love of His Father
and for Love of us, He did not
pull-back. He accepted. It all came to a head in
Gethsemani, when the Interior Tension was so severe that it
Ruptured the Blood Vessels near the Sweat Glands, and sent that Red Tide out through them.
So if we find we cannot avoid Worrying -- we can unite even that with
His, and thus it will be of Immense Value.
The Eucharist is the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ.
The Body and Blood comes from Mary.
Christ's Soul and Divinity comes from God.
It is important to remember that Our Lady still has a Role in each
Mass - this is to be expected, since she had such a Role in the
Original Bloody Sacrifice. For Vatican II, on Liturgy 10, said the
Mass is the Renewal of the New Covenant. The
Council of Trent said that the Mass is the same as
Calvary, "only the Manner of Offering being changed". If that is
the only change, she must be involved. Hence John Paul II,
in an address of Feb 12, 1984, said: "Every Liturgical Action
... is an Occasion of Communion ... and in a particular way with Mary ... Because the Liturgy is the Action of Christ and of the Church ... she
is inseparable from one and the other ... Mary is present in the Memorial - the Liturgical Action - because she was present at the Saving Event ...
She is at every Altar where the Memorial of the Passion and Resurrection is celebrated, because she was present, Faithful with her whole
being, to the Father's Plan, at the Historic Salvific Occasion of Christ's Death". - To be specific:
(1) as to the External Sign: the Body and Blood on the Altar still came
from her - (2) as to the Interior Dispositions:
her Interior Union of Dispositions with His is
still the same as that which she had on Calvary. -
Therefore, the more-fully one is United with Christ on the
Altar, the more fully, ipso facto, with her
- and the more-fully one is United with her, the more-fully with
In passing we can see why Our Lady at Fatima asked for
Prayers and Sacrifices for many who would be
Lost unless someone does it for them. They are Blind, and only an
Extraordinary Grace can Rescue them. To get that, an Extraordinary Weight needs to be put
into the 'Scales of the Objective Order'.
2Corinthians 4:17: "That which is Light and Momentary in our Tribulations, is working
(producing) for us beyond all measure and eternal weight of Glory". - If this is true of what is Light and Momentary
- what of something that is not Light, but Heavy, and not Momentary, but Long Running!
Romans 8:17-18: "If we are Sons, we are Heirs, Heirs indeed of God, Fellow Heirs with
Christ - if only we Suffer with Him, so we may be Glorified with Him. I judge that the Sufferings of the present time are not worthy to
be compared to the Glory that is to be revealed to us".
. . . . . . No Gain
. . . . . . No Glory
. . . . . No
Many fine Theologians, beginning with the ancient Rabbis and extending even to modern Catholic Theologians, think it
probable that if at the End of Life a Person has Long and
Difficult Suffering, and yet he/she accepts it as the Will of the
Father, he/she may escape Purgatory
altogether. Surely a Great Prize to strive for! Acceptance means not merely
refraining from Complaining, but Positively saying Thanks to the
Father for giving us a share in the Sufferings
of His Son.
Saint Francis de Sales on Suffering
The Everlasting God has in His Wisdom foreseen from Eternity the Cross that He now presents to you as a Gift from His inmost Heart.
This Cross He now sends you He has considered with His All-Knowing Eyes, understood with His Divine Mind, tested with His Wise Justice,
warmed with Loving Arms and weighed with His Own Hands to see that it be not one inch too large and not one ounce too heavy for you.
He has Blessed it with His Holy Name, Anointed it with His Grace, Perfumed it with His Consolation, taken one last glance at you and
your Courage, and then sent it to you from Heaven, a Special Greeting from God to you, an Alms of the all-Merciful Love of God.
St Francis de Sales