JMJT! Praise be Jesus Christ! Now and Forever!
Suffering is definitely a word most people want to erase from their consciousness and their vocabulary, especially when describing one's own life or those dear to us. Yet, we all know that life entails suffering and it is inevitable. People can have all sorts of material possessions, seemingly glamorous lives, or live in beautiful surroundings, but are still unable to escape the reality of being crushed in some way by life's circumstances, by the unexpected. Suffering finds us all, regardless of wealth, status, genetics, connections, faith, race, nationality, gender, etc. And suffering is unique to each individual and comes in a myriad of forms.
Fortunately, Christians have been given a roadmap for how to embrace suffering and behave in such moments. Jesus tells us, [Mt 16:24-26] For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps." [1 Peter 2:21]
Yet, when push comes to shove, when we find ourselves suffering due to grief and loss, physical and/or emotional pain, mental or physical illness, loneliness, unemployment, dysfunctional relationships, etc. it can be hard to know how to proceed and succeed in our call to carry our Cross. For me, I have had some time these past few months to ponder the true meaning of this call and believe that the saints who have walked the journey before us, give us the blueprint to suffering gracefully and joyfully.
I turn to the most recent saint in our Church, St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta, who suffered spiritually, physically, and emotionally for nearly 50 years. She saw such abject poverty and rejection of those dying in the streets. She experienced all of these scourges herself in so many ways in the dark night of her soul, in her own poverty, and the constant need to beg for the needs of her sisters and her patients. Yet, she never gave up and saw suffering as a great gift from God. She tells us,