I get into bed after a long day. My feet ache from chasing my three-year-old, preparing meals for the weekend, and running errands. I feel the sharp twinge of pain in my lower left abdomen as I lay down and am reminded of the shot I took earlier in the day for infertility. My heart breaks anew. I can feel myself turning inward, focusing on the aches and the pangs.
I open up my phone and see the article I saved to read earlier that day. The first paragraph makes all my little pains seem so insignificant. I am reminded that thinking of others instead of ourselves is often the greatest cure for pain:
On Good Friday 1940, the Nazi SS Guards of Dachau Concentration Camp found pretext to punish sixty-some priest-prisoners with an hour on “the tree.” One former Dachau prisoner describes the torture saying, ‘They tie a man’s hands together behind his back, palms facing out and fingers pointing backward. Then they turn his hands inwards, tie a chain around his wrists and hoist him up by it. His own weight twists his joints and pulls them apart.’ The barbaric aptitude of the guards of Dachau incarnated the demonic for the some 2500 priests condemned to incarceration in the camp during the years 1933–1945. Priests were crowned with crowns of barbed wire while groups of Jewish prisoners were forced to hail them as kings. Guards mocked, spat upon, and forced priests to carry railroad ties, all in imitation of the crucified Lord. -Br. Patrick Mary Briscoe, O.P
The Brave Priests
I think of those brave priests, uniting their horrific suffering to Jesus’ Passion in such a literal way. I reflect on what their thoughts must have been, or if they were even able to think. I wonder what prayers and petitions they must have offered up. What if their prayers, their holy courage, and their martyrs’ blood was for me? For us? What if they offered it up for the Church—for you and for me? May their blood and cries to God not be in vain.
Taking Up Our Cross
Why is there so much suffering in the world if God is good?
It’s a question most of us have asked. It’s a question I asked after reading about the sixty priest-prisoners hanging on the tree. I opened up the Catechism for an answer, and this is what I found in paragraph 618:
Christ calls His disciples to ‘take up their cross and follow Him’, for ‘Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example so that we should follow in His steps.’ This is achieved supremely in the case of His mother, who was associated more intimately than any other person in the mystery of His redemptive suffering. Apart from the cross there is no other ladder by which we may get to heaven.
Apart from the cross there is no other ladder by which we may get to heaven. -CCC 618 #BISblog // Click To Tweet
What Our Lady’s Suffering Teaches Us
“Achieved supremely in the case of His Mother.” That sentence penetrated my heart.
Mother Mary teaches us how to suffer because she followed Jesus’ example of redemptive suffering the most perfectly. Not only did she suffer greatly at the foot of the Cross, she suffers with us, her children.
St. Teresa of Calcutta, one of the greatest Saints of modernity, wrote that, “Our Lady’s role is to bring you face to face with the love in the Heart of Jesus crucified.”
There is Merit in Suffering
Our Lady, in perfect imitation of her Son, teaches us that there is merit in our suffering. From the cross comes our salvation. After the Passion, there is the joy of the Resurrection. One day, we too will share in her Glorious Mysteries and be with Him body and soul in Heaven and crowned in glory.
Our Lady of Lourdes and St. Bernadette
Today, on the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, I am reminded of a young French girl who was accustomed to suffering, St. Bernadette Soubirous.
Mother Mary appeared to St. Bernadette in Lourdes, France eighteen times between February 11th and July 16th, 1858. Our Lady, who always began and ended the apparitions with the recitation of the Rosary, communicated to Bernadette, “You must pray to God for sinners.”
The Message of Lourdes
The message of Lourdes is a call to penance and prayer, for the conversion of sinners and in reparation to God. St. Bernadette spent the remainder of her life doing just as Our Lady asked.
Because of her own “fiat” there are countless miracles still occurring today at the healing spring and baths of Lourdes. St. Bernadette’s suffering—the humiliation and mockery she experienced, her physical pains, and the deep longing to see Our Lady’s heavenly beauty again—was united with Christ’s suffering, redeeming both her soul and ours.
Christ in His Mercy Gave Us A Loving Mother
Yes, Christ’s Passion, Death, and Resurrection is enough. As one of the greatest Marian Saints, St. Louis de Montfort reminds us that Mary is, “less than an atom” in comparison with the infinite majesty of Christ.
Yet, he continues to say, “God having willed to commence and complete His greatest works by the most Holy Virgin ever since He created her, we may well think He will not change His conduct in the eternal ages.”
New Meaning to Suffering
At Lourdes with Bernadette, just as she did at Calvary with John, Mother Mary teaches us to unite everything to her Immaculate Heart so that she may perfect our offering and present it to her Son. She invites us to give her our pain, sorrow, joys, frustrations, and anxiety. Our suffering has merit, for our own souls and for others.
“By His passion and death on the cross Christ has given a new meaning to suffering: it can henceforth configure us to Him and unite us with His redemptive passion” (CCC 1505).
Tangible Ways to Unite Our Suffering To Christ Through Our Lady
How do we unite ourselves and our suffering to Mother Mary for our own souls and the souls of others? Some beautiful ways are through the recitation of the Rosary just as Mary gave as an example in Lourdes, or through Marian consecration. Wearing a scapular or reciting a Hail Mary are powerful ways, too. Yet, my favorite way is just a simple prayer St. Teresa of Calcutta would pray throughout each day, “Mary, lend me your heart and keep me in your most pure heart.”
Our Lady of Lourdes, give us your heart so full of love for your Son, Jesus, and for sinners, that we may always see the face of Christ in all we meet. Keep us safely within your most pure heart, so that when we meet Christ in Heaven, He may see only your deep, indescribable love for Him—the love you had as you held Him, as you first gazed at Him in Bethlehem, and as you beheld Him at the foot of the Cross. Amen.
How has Our Lady impacted your view on suffering?Our Lady of Lourdes and Redemptive Suffering #BISblog // Click To Tweet