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Home : Faith/Spirituality : The Question Box
6/14/2016 10:08:00 AM
Searching for answers on suffering

Deacon Owen Cummings

Q— I’m disabled with a lot of physical problems.   Once, I had hope. I hope I develop some again. I want to regain heath. It’s really stressful, and hard to enjoy life.

A — My heart goes out to you in your pain and suffering. When you are experiencing such enormous hardship in life, such great stress, it is very difficult to be hopeful and, as you say, hard to enjoy life. What can a theologian say that would make any sense?

Personally, I don’t think that there are any really satisfying intellectual answers to the question of human pain and suffering. Why do human beings experience pain and suffering? Thinkers over the ages have tried to provide persuasive answers to the question but, having looked at lots of these answers — I have a whole shelf of books in my library on the question of pain-and-suffering — I don’t find them particularly persuasive. I would say that Christians don’t have an intellectual answer to the problem of pain and suffering, but they have a response. That response has to do with an intense sense of communion with God in Christ, such an intense sense of being one with Jesus that his sufferings become ours and our sufferings become his. Here are some wonderful words of the little-known Capuchin friar Benedict of Canfield (1563-1611). Benedict was the religious name of William Fitch of Canfield, Essex.

Benedict became a Catholic and a Capuchin, and is the author of several works, the best known of which is his “Rule of Perfection,” published in 1609. In this little book we find this remarkable passage: “Therefore our own pains — insofar as they are not ours but those of Christ — must be deeply respected. How wonderful! And more: our pains are as much to be revered as those of Jesus Christ in His own passion.  For if people correctly adore Him with so much devotion in images on the Good Friday cross, why may we not then revere Him on the living cross that we ourselves are?”

That last sentence of Benedict’s, “Why may we not then revere Him on the living cross that we ourselves are?” I hope might be of some help to you, and even inspire some hope, because following Christ’s cross came the Resurrection, which is the great fundament of hope for us all.

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