Our website is made possible by displaying online ads to our visitors.
Please consider supporting us by whitelisting our site.

Love, loss and suffering

First slide

“Pain is God’s megaphone to rouse a dulled world.” So wrote C.S. Lewis in his brilliant book, “The Problem of Pain.”

Pain and suffering are part of life, a result of original sin. Each of us will experience them at various points in our lives, to varying degrees.

I have come to know this reality well.

As I entered Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, Md., to begin formation as a seminarian, my father, who had been battling Crohn’s Disease for more than 40 years, had been in the hospital for three months after a failed intestinal transplant surgery. Five weeks after I arrived at the Mount, he had an internal bleed that led to his death a few days later.

As painful as his death was, seeing him in such intense pain near the end of his life was worse. There is nothing harder than watching a loved one suffer and not be able to do anything to relieve it. Reflecting on Our Lord’s words to St. Paul that his grace is “sufficient” for us and that his power is “made perfect in (our) weakness” (2 Cor. 12) helped me a lot over the past year, as has St. John Henry Newman’s meditation from March 7, 1848, in which he writes that all of us have been created by God to do Him “some definite service,” which is often unknown by us in this life.

As a potential future priest, my goal is to be Christ for others, but not just Christ the teacher, healer or counselor, but Christ the victim. So often in our world — which is constantly striving to eliminate pain and suffering — we forget about this role of Jesus. Even at Christmas we can be tempted to think that he came simply to bring peace. Yes, this is true, but it’s not the whole truth.

The whole truth is that Jesus came to die for us, out of love. To prove his love for us, as St. Paul wrote. Though the pain of losing Dad was intense, I have been edified in my vocation by it. Actually, his suffering and pain is part of the reason I applied to seminary. I know that there is a war being waged for souls, and that this war is being fought, largely, over the idea of suffering. The devil is blinding people into thinking that they can go through life without it, that it is something to be eliminated. Jesus, however, teaches that suffering is an essential element of a disciple.

Through the suffering that my family experienced over the past few years, I have learned this well. I have come to appreciate suffering because I know that it conforms me more perfectly to Christ the high priest, who offered himself to forgive our sins and reunite us with God the Father. This aspect of a priest’s life is one that I see as fundamental. Our Lord gives me the chance each day to be conformed to him via suffering, which can be redemptive for me and those I offer it for.

This is the choice that I and my brother seminarians, and all of us, have to make daily: Will we follow Jesus all the way to the cross? Will we embrace our crosses out of love for souls and a desire to be more deeply configured to Christ the victim? Please pray that we will.

Farrell, who is from St. Louis Church in Alexandria, is in his first year of pre-theology at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, Md.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2020