Helen’s husband abandoned her with a small child.
Rita’s husband was abusive.
Therese was in terrible health all of her short adult life.
Francis never had a dime to his name.
John was harassed by the devil.
Pio had terrible physical wounds and endured skepticism about who he was.
Sebastian was left to die, nursed back to health, only to be killed again later.
What do all these people have in common? They were all saints.
Does suffering happen to them because they have the ability to be saints? No, I think suffering makes saints.
I began thinking about suffering lately as my own life has been turned upside down. In the midst of intense personal suffering, so personal I am not quite ready to talk about it yet, I began to see–that if I could endure this well, if I could let it teach me and mold me, that it was the path to sainthood.
Why does suffering make us holy?
- we pray more.
- Since most suffering involves some kind of loss, we become less attached to “the things of this world.”
- We begin to ask the big questions about life.
- We long for Heaven.
- We figure out what is truly important.
- We learn the difference between what we want and what we need.
- We ask God what He wants from us.
- We begin to understand our total dependence on God.
- It shows us how weak our faith is–and what areas of faith we need to grow in.
- We see our imperfections more clearly.
In posts to come, I will reflect on each of these points in depth as well as reflect on specific saints and what they can teach us in their suffering.
Don’t misunderstand; I’m not saying that God wants us to suffer or that He doesn’t want us to be happy. I think He does, but what He wants more than our happiness is for us to be in Heaven in with Him. And if suffering is the path that gets us there, then He will allow us to endure it. I suspect most people are less in tune, less interested in God when they are happy. And the saints . . .they are happy with their suffering!
I’m being very idealistic of course and believe me, the truth is I only want sainthood on my good days–and those aren’t that many. Most days, I just want it all to go away, to get better.
But we don’t get to choose whether or not to suffer. Usually, we don’t get to choose how we suffer. But looking at the saints can show us how to make the best of it. As Catholics, we believe in the communion of saints. What that means is, we are not alone. Heaven is full of people who understand our suffering; People who care about us, people who will pray with us and intercede for us and can comfort us!
Here is what I will say about my current suffering:
It has changed the whole course of my life.
It is more pain than I even knew was possible to experience.
The grief is incredibly deep, so much so that while I can recognize beauty and joy, I cannot feel it.
It has caused me to question everything–and reflect on everything–and that’s what I’m hoping you can benefit from. Our own suffering comes in many intensities and paths. But it is all so real to us.
Does thinking about what the saints endured help you in your suffering? Do you want to be a saint?