When human suffering is understood in its deepest meaning, it ceases to be something that is experienced in a passive manner. Rather, one becomes free to meet suffering with courage, seeing it as an opportunity for active and positive collaboration in the work of human redemption. Suffering, whether physical, spiritual or psychological, is often an opportunity when many question the existence of God, or at the very least whom this God is who allows suffering, in particular the suffering of the innocent.
This year we celebrate the 27th World Day of the Sick on February 11th. In 1993, Pope John Paul II instituted this annual commemoration as a way to bring compassion and greater attention to the sufferings of humanity, as well as the mystery of suffering itself. Don’t waste your suffering, feel fortunate to suffer, offer it up, I will pray together with you for the redemption of humanity, are all words of St. John Paul II whenever he encountered the sick and suffering.
Charles Spurgeon once said, “Health is a gift from God, but sickness is a gift greater still.” Life is a gift from God. St. Paul asks: “What do you have that you did not receive?” (1 Cor 4:7). Precisely because it is a gift, human life cannot be reduced to a personal possession or private property, especially in the light of medical and biotechnological advances that could tempt us to manipulate the “tree of life” (cf. Gen 3:24). God had an eternal purpose in allowing His own Son to suffer. St. Paul taught that this purpose was that we might understand and know God’s wisdom and love through His plan to redeem us through the death of His Son. Therefore, if God has allowed even His own Son to suffer to fulfill His eternal purpose, then we must also trust that He is working out His eternal purpose in us in the midst of our suffering. God may use our suffering to redeem someone else’s life by our testimony and example.
But, how can we be sure that something good will come of our suffering? St. Paul taught, “We know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Rom 8:28). Note that Paul does not say that all things that happen to us are good, but that God takes all things and works them together for good in order to fulfill His eternal purpose. There is a story in the Gospel about Jesus walking along with his disciples and they see a man begging who was born blind. The disciples ask Jesus, “whose fault is it – this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus says it’s not anyone’s ‘fault’ but rather the man is born blind for the glory of God. The apostle Paul tells the Corinthian church that God’s power is made perfect in our weakness. When St. John Paul II once visited the sick people he said, “I am here with you to pray with you for all those who trust in your prayers.” In its brokenness the human body still reveals itself as a call to make a gift of ourselves in love.
Whenever St. John Paul II had a special intention he went to the sick saying to them, “I am entrusting the Church to you,” because in their weakness they have power. Jesus didn’t suffer so you wouldn’t have to, but Jesus suffered that you will know how to suffer. The Church is not merely a collection of Christians. It is a living instrument of redemption- an extension of Jesus Christ throughout time and space. He continues His salvific work through each member of His body. When a person understands this, he sees that the idea of “offering it up” is a calling to participate in the salvation of the world.
Suffering is also a place of purification. St. Thomas Aquinas in one of his conferences said, “Whoever wishes to live perfectly should do nothing but disdain what Christ disdained on the cross and desire what He desired, for the cross exemplifies every virtue.” In suffering we learn humility, obedience, how to love and be patient as Jesus exemplified on the cross.
You’ve probably heard the saying, “Pain is inevitable; suffering is optional.” Whether we cry or smile the pain does not change but the suffering does. When we accept our pain without resisting it and offer it as a gift, the pain becomes a means of salvation for us and for the whole world.
Today there is a tendency to say “eat more and stay slim” and not worry about one’s own health while consuming a lot of junk food. Man is what he eats; therefore health is the state of being physically and mentally healthy. Living in good health does not mean just the absence of illness, but serenity within oneself and having a peaceful, relaxed and orderly life.
Father Guanella, in his writing “Maxims of Spirit and Method of Action”- Come- with-me, talks about food and its moderation: “As for food, it is good to choose the quality of food and drink that best suits the health of our soul and also of our body.”
It is essential to listen to the body- when to feed it, when to work and when to rest. I would like to quote the religious dietary restriction of Buddha’s five contemplations while eating, in which followers ask themselves: 1. What is this food? 2. Where does it come from? 3. Why am I eating it? 4. When should I eat and benefit from this food? and 5. How should I eat?
It is worth mentioning the wisdom of Father Guanella “Food and drink are necessary to sustain the body, which is the vase of our soul and the servant of our spirit therefore spiritual people approach food and drink as objects dangerous for their soul, and use them as a sword to cut and not to be cut.” In the personal and community project, we have to keep in mind equilibrium while everyone should avoid working in a disorganized fashion. Therefore let us pay attention to avoid mediocre living, control our attitudes, habits, stress and depression; by eating a healthy diet we can moderate and maintain a healthy weight and thus we could prevent disease and maintain good health.
September 8th, the feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, is also commemorated as the feast of our Lady of Good Health, in Vailankanni, known as “The Lourdes of the East.” May she protect all of us and ensure good health of body and mind.
Manila – Every year, the Guanella Center offers the same activities being conducted in “normal” schools to let special children and other persons with disabilities (PWD) feel that they belong. On July 19, 2013, Guanella Center staff and teachers from Non-school for Crippled Children-Guanella Center Annex planned a program called “Gutom at malnutrisyon, sama-sama nating wakasan,” (Together we can end hunger and malnutrition). One of the most important areas associated with the PWDs is their health and since July was Nutrition Month; programs were offered to raise awareness of nutritious foods that will help maintain a healthy body.
Hearing impaired adviser, Mr. Marvin Lava, and Physical Therapy intern, Ms. Haja Bansil, were the masters of the ceremony; kicking off the event with a costume parade. Bro. Solomon Raja, SdC led the opening prayer; followed by singing of the national anthem by Mr. Lava and the hearing impaired students. Presentations were given by Daisy’s Special Education class; by the Hearing Impaired class and a song from Christopher Pellejera of Gloria’s Pre-Vocational class were performed. Announcement of the top 20 candidates for Nutrition Month winners followed. The final performance came from the Guanella Home boys and caregivers from Dr. Carlos Lanting College.
Participants who competed for best costume were judged individually by Fr. Eduardo Cerbito, SdC and art teacher-benefactor, Ms. Jenny Villanueva. Among the twenty participants, five were given awards: Maricar Maravillas for Early Bird award, Darling of the Crowd to Marwin Ostras, Nicole Roux for Best in Costume, Most Creative to Richard Pamintuan, and Mr. and Ms. Nutrition Month to Joshua Cueno and Nicole Roux.
The newly elected officers for the Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) took their oath before the program ended. Fr. Eduardo Cerbito, SdC closed the program with a prayer. Food sharing capped the event by the snacks brought by the parents. The event was successful: everyone had a good time and the PWDs felt loved.
Manila – On Monday March 18, 2013, The Servants of Charity, from Guanella Center in Tandang Sora reached out and performed a rescue of two elderly women from the local area. Candida (83 years old) and Carmen (57 years old) Ramirez are a mother and daughter who had been participating in various activities in Guanella Center for the past few years. However, over the past 6 months their attendance was less and less often. It was reported that Carmen had become completely blind due to diabetes, and was suffering from a large wound which had become infected. Candida, because of the effects of her age was unable to take proper care of herself or her daughter. Their living conditions had become sub-human, as the house had become full of garbage. On Friday March 15th, Fr. Charlton Viray went for a pastoral visit and immediately decided that something had to be done.
On the day of the rescue Servants of Charity brothers, novices, seminarians, staff, and volunteers helped to carry the women from their home and transport them to our housing project near Guanella Center. Once they arrived, the women were given baths, food, and medical attention. (Bro. Bob Neimeyer)
Thalavadi – Throughout July, the residents of Nazareth Illam undertook a great task; eradicating Parthinium and other unhealthy plants in and around the campus. Parthinium can cause many health problems: wheezing, cancer, skin allergies, sinus, etc. With the help of the mentally ill residents, the plants were removed, the environment improved, and the awareness of the neighbors was heightened. This activity is a great benefit to the entire community. Please continue to support them with your prayers.