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Grace through suffering

How will I, as a future priest, be able to help those who are suffering? More broadly, how do we as Catholics approach suffering?


During Our Lord’s Passion, the Romans placed a cross on his shoulders, and thus the piece of wood upon which he would eventually die became a symbol of our salvation. He showed us a new way to approach suffering. Many of us carry crosses or have loved ones who carry crosses; because we love them, we share in their suffering. Our Lord wants us to offer to him our crosses, our burdens, so that he can turn them into opportunities for grace. This outpouring of grace is what sustains us in carrying our crosses, and also helps us witness God’s radiant love and abundant blessings to our godless culture.


We all have friends who suffer; mine always amaze and inspire me at how gracefully and courageously they do it. We all know people in our parishes, workplaces and schools who, like the saints, quietly and humbly display an incredible heroism every day in the face of very difficult and challenging experiences, and serve as a beacon of hope. We see in their faces the face of Our Lord himself, reinforcing our faith and serving as a wonderful witness to the dignity of offering up their suffering, uniting it to Christ’s and growing in a closer relationship with him.


How we, as Catholics, respond to suffering can transform the culture by showing there is nothing to fear from suffering; rather that there is much dignity and courage in facing it, embracing our cross, and offering it up. Moreover, we are not alone; offering it up unites us to Christ, and to those for whom we offer it. And there is no shortage of intentions, be it something personal, the souls in purgatory, or as mortification on behalf of the church for the victims of sexual abuse, or for the repentance and conversation of those public figures who cause scandal in the church.


What can we do to support those who are suffering? I’ve found that simply just listening is often the best thing, just say nothing and be present to them. Though it goes against our nature that wants to take away their hurt, remember that Our Lord is not offering to take the pain away from those who suffer; he’s offering a chance to turn it into something positive. We are there to show our suffering brother or sister that Jesus truly loves them, that he knows what they are going through and suffers with them. In turn, through their suffering they proclaim to us that wonderful truth: the saving message of hope and love, a most powerful message so desperately needed by our culture.


Lord, thank you for the crosses that you’ve given to us. Help us to see them as opportunities for grace and to offer them up to you. May we rejoice in hope, remain patient in tribulation, persevere through prayer, so as to finish the race and thereby win a crown of victory. Amen.


Wilton, who is from St. John the Beloved Church in McLean, is in his first year of theology at Mount St. Mary Seminary in Emmitsburg, Md.


© Arlington Catholic Herald 2019