By Fr. Joseph Rinaldo, SdC
One of the more meaningful and fulfilling parts of the Catholic doctrine that is not well developed in other Christian denominations is the incredible value of suffering. Sadly many Christians believe that Jesus suffered and died for us so that we would not have to suffer at all. While Jesus did suffer and die to save us and that the redeemed will one day have every tear wiped from their eyes, our path of salvation to the final, eternal reward in this life is to follow in His footsteps. Christ promised us that, if we are truly His disciples, we will suffer just as He did. Suffering for a Catholic is never meaningless; it is always meant for the sanctification of our souls and to prepare us for heaven, no matter what form it takes: sickness, financial troubles, emotional turmoil, family strife, religious persecution, natural disasters, government oppression and so on. Whether we will it or not, we must suffer. There are some who suffer like the good thief, others like the bad thief. They both suffer equally. Only one knew how to make his suffering meritorious and accept them in spirit of reparation. Jesus said to him, “This day you will be with Me in Paradise.” The other, on the contrary, cried out, uttered blasphemies, and expired in the most frightful despair. There are two ways of suffering: Suffering with love and suffering without love. The saints suffered everything with joy and patience, because they loved. We suffer with anger, because we do not love. If we loved God, we should love crosses and be happy to be able to suffer for the love of Him who lovingly suffered for us. The Cross is consoling! But, we must love while we suffer, and suffer while we love. On the Way to the Cross, only the first step is painful.
Our greater Cross is the fear of Crosses. Most men turn their backs to Crosses. The more they run, the more the Cross pursues them. He who goes out to meet the Cross and embraces it courageously is purified and detached from this world. The Christian lives in the midst of Crosses as the fish lives in the sea. When the good God sends us Crosses, we resist, we complain, we murmur and we are so adverse to whatever contradicts us that we want to be always in a box of cotton, but we ought to be put into a box of thorns. It is by the Cross that we will go to heaven. Illness, temptations and troubles are so many Crosses which will take us to Heaven. Our Lord is our model. Let us take up the Cross and follow Him who has gone before us. The Cross is the ladder to Heaven. The Cross gave peace to the world; it must bring peace to our hearts. Nothing makes us more like our Lord than carrying His Cross. We must never question where our Crosses come from. They come from God. It is always God who is giving us this way of proving our love for Him. One of the greatest gifts in Heaven’s treasury is an understanding of the Way of the Cross, a love for trials and sufferings. If we could just spend a week in heaven we should understand the value of our moments in suffering.
As we are in the Lenten season, it would be appropriate to reflect upon the greatest testament which our beloved Founder St. Louis Guanella left to us his disciples: Prayer and Suffering. It can be well understood from the words of Bishop Aurelio Bacciarini, the successor of Fr. Guanella. Prayer is the first necessary condition for the stability, progress and success of the Houses of Fr. Guanella. He also differentiates prayer and the spirit of prayer: Prayer is the common and ordinary invocation of God that we raise to Him during the day. Spirit of prayer is something more intense and deeper. Therefore for these extraordinary charitable acts not only mere human hands are needed but also the kind and strong intervention of God. Without the spirit of prayer, we would not receive God’s favors. Hence it is a requirement for every member of a community and whole of the congregation to be soaked in prayer and make the Houses of Charity real tabernacles of constant praise to God. How to make our life prayer? a) from the Altar of the Holy Eucharist, let us draw the treasures of Divine Mercy b) from the reception of Holy Communion, let us unite ourselves with Jesus with the fervor of saints, so that nothing of this world may separate us from Him c) From the Holy Tabernacle – Paradise on Earth – let us sanctify our work, our travelling and our rest by keeping our hearts and minds on the Lord, in conversation with heaven.
Suffering is a word that drips drops of blood. Unless and until one is filled with the spirit of prayer, it is highly difficult to understand the term suffering. From the very life of Jesus, we can perceive that there is no redemption without the cross, suffering. The Church of Jesus Christ floats on the blood of the martyrs. All her triumphs are rooted in suffering. The Houses of Fr. Guanella were born from martyrdom. Fr. Louis Guanella suffered martyrdom in everything: contradictions, accusations, opposition, humiliations, disappointments, hunger, thirst, tiredness, agonies of body and soul. Let us understand that suffering is the key to reach paradise. As imitators of Jesus Christ and followers of Fr. Guanella, let us strive to endure daily suffering, suffer discomforts and privations, endure and carry the crosses that faithfully accompany our daily lives. The very legacy of Prayer and Suffering teaches us a lesson to despise the world and detach ourselves from its allurements. Let us live in God by prayer and suffering as our beloved Father and Founder did.
At the invitation of our Holy Father the season of lent is a favorable time which is offered by God as ‘a sacramental sign of our conversion. Lent summons us and enables us, to come back to the Lord wholeheartedly, and in every aspect of our lives’. Prompted by Pope Francis, we shall recollect the aspect of prayer and suffering as Guanellians. He says that prayer should become the driving force to enable us to reach out to the poor, marginalized and the victimized. Prayer is the constant response of our hearts to the will of God. The attitude of penance reminds us that we need to suffer with endurance, to say no to our selfishness. Acts of charity should be the constant striving of our hearts to share our time and resources with those who have nothing or nobody.
Added to our own physical, psychological, socio-economic problems, the present religious and political situation impels us to march forward with much courage to face the prejudices and persecutions against us Christians in order to be rooted out from a particular country or territory. Generally this might arouse in us questions like where is God? Why all these to us alone? and make us lose hope in God. On a positive note this happens to us because God wants to communicate with us but we are busy doing our work. Often we are after our minds by being too much indulged in social networks, technology, media which keeps us away from the creator who is behind every sphere. Rather we are called to be after our hearts from where love proceeds and inclines us to care for the anthropological aspect of our existence. It is high time this Lent that we fast from the media, network culture and be rooted in communicating with God in prayer and receive graces to face our trials and tribulations. May this Lenten Season help us to have metanoia and a fruitful celebration of the Resurrection of the Lord.
We have just begun the season of Advent which recalls to our memory the coming of Jesus Christ our Savior on Christmas Day. This is a time of hope and expectation for the coming of Christ. We follow the spectacular consequence of our consumerist tradition in shopping and in an external preparation. The mystery of the Incarnation has been reduced to decorations and we have lost sight of the true nature.
It is not only important to know that God became man but it is also quite interesting to learn what type of man he became. I have read in the latest arrival “In Love With Christ”, the secret of St. Francis of Assisi by Father Raniero Cantalamessa O.F.M.CAP, who is integrating the ontological vision of incarnation by describing from John’s Gospel “the word, being God, became man/flesh” and from Paul “Christ, though He was rich, became poor”. Today the humanity and poverty of Christ should be taken seriously in order to understand Christmas. Christmas and the poor cannot be separated. Jesus Christ came for the humble, the little ones, the suffering but this reality never reaches our hearts today.
Jesus came to this world to bring peace and fullness of life. But today catastrophic wars; bottomless cruelty due to extremism and particularly terrorist violence in the name of religion which take away innocent children; people in the war zone; and also false propaganda against life is a great threat for humanity! As religious and people of God, we are called to remain full of hope and to make a grateful remembrance of the recent past and thus open our doors to others. The Year of Consecrated Life speaks of “being in love, of true friendship, of profound communion”. Henceforth, let us take seriously our complexities of Christian living by “being alert and stay awake” to encounter the living Savior of flesh and blood.
Fr. Soosai Rathinam
As we begin this month by celebrating All Saints Day, we are called to remember the variety of colors of Holiness and the luminous faces of them. We have begun the centenary of our Holy Founder and he himself promised on his death bed, “I will pray for you in heaven… I will help you and comfort you from heaven.”
In our life time, we suffer from various physical, mental, emotional and psychological injuries. The process of becoming a normal person, turning to Jesus Christ and experiencing his extravagant love, mercy and forgiveness, is like a course of rehabilitation which consists of pushing and pulling. Saints too had their twistedness and stoniness because they were human with their weaknesses and sins but they were very courageous to change their lives through ‘self denial’ and said ‘yes’ to the spirit and voice of God.
In the Gospel of John 18:36, Jesus openly declared, “My kingdom is not of this world.” Henceforth, His purpose was not to enjoy Himself or become a popular, miracle performer. But, He came to lay down His life as a sacrifice for sin, as a ransom for many. St. Louis Guanella would call his excruciating suffering “God’s providence” and an opportunity to obtain an extraordinary grace. Therefore, problems and hardships we have to deal with are tools in God’s hands for making us holy. The saints purified and accepted their brokenness and failures and showed their willingness to submit to God’s will. As Pope Francis says, “The Church is a vineyard of the Lord, the fertile Mother, who is not afraid to roll up her sleeves to pour oil and wine on people’s wounds; this is the Church: One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic and composed of sinners in need of God’s infinite mercy.”
Holiness or becoming holy does not involve serious study, God is not a topic to study, to make an analysis of, but a person to encounter and embrace. Matthew 5:48 states, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
May the constellation of saints above watch over us and fill us with beauteous light! As our Regulation number 27 recommends to us, “Every year, as an act of communion and a pledge of charity, each confrere priest should celebrate a Holy Mass for the Superior General, possibly on the anniversary of his election; similarly, it should be done for the provincial superior within the province.” Happy anniversary to our Divine Providence Province and a blessed Feast of the Mother of Divine Providence!
Fr. Soosai Rathinam
Chennai – Deepam, meaning ‘light’ which is in fact Jesus Christ, cannot be kept under a bushel basket, but on the lamp stand giving light to the whole house. The 14th edition of Guanellian Deepam was released on October 24th at Don Guanella Major Seminary by Fr. Provincial. This edition is dedicated to the theme ‘New Evangelization’ in the view of the second anniversary of Canonization of Saint Guanella. The theologians wrote many competent essays and there were also articles from various Guanellian houses. Particular appreciation is given to the Editorial Board for encouraging the gift of writing among the confreres and Guanellian Sisters.