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Monday, 19 January 2015

On suffering, again.

What saved us then, what made our real despair still a conditional despair was precisely our suffering. That almost unconscious dignity of the mind saved our minds through the presence of an element which could not be reduced to the absurdity into which everything seemed to be trying to lead us.

I thought I was leaving the Maritains, but the times make me return to one phrase from a later book by Raissa We Have Been Friends Together, which I have.

The above phrase jolted me, jumped out of a page yesterday and gripped my heart. Suffering saves us from despair. This may sound the opposite to what psychologists tell the modern world. The world wants to avoid suffering, but as one sees to clearly today, suffering not only surrounds us, but conditions which will create intense suffering for the remnant have increased the risk of suffering.

How, then, can suffering keep one from despair? When one realizes the dignity of the individual human being, the capacity of humans to create great beauty and culture, the possibilities for love among men and women in a society, even in the darkest of days, one must see that life is not absurd.

Suffering causes one to focus intensely on the spiritual side of man. If one denies the soul, one is denying the very essence of a human being. A human cannot live without a soul and this soul, even in tremendous suffering, is alive because of one reason.


Without God holding the soul, keeping the soul alive in His Providence and care, one dies.

As long as one lives, even in great suffering, and I can attest to this type of suffering, one is given chances for growth in this life. A long time ago, a Jewish-Catholic said to me that without God my life made no sense.

One's life does not make sense without God, and intense suffering brings one back daily to the mystery of God's own suffering, God, the Second Person of the Trinity, whose Passion and Death reveal the greatest love one can imagine.

Last week, I was accused of being a liar four times by a person who does not know me. I realized three things in this unfair, unjust accusation which impacted my life. I pray for him now. He only sees evil and cannot see good anymore. How sad. But, I learned three things in this encounter.

The first was that, as a sinner before God, even though I had not lied, I am not totally innocent, totally pure of sin. Therefore, I deserved, in some strange way, the accusation of evil although I had not committed any evil for which I was being accused. I was peaceful, but firm, calm and clear. However, God allowed this event to occur.

Only Christ could stand before the Sanhedrin, Pilate and Herod as the only completely Pure, Innocent Victim of complete injustice. Only Christ stands before evil without a shadow of sin.

Second, I realized that this is one reason why God wants me and all of us to endure the Dark Night and become pure. How can we stand before those who will persecute us, listening to the words of God, remaining peaceful, even loving, not wanting or even thinking of retaliation unless we are pure of heart?

One cannot respond to evil without anger or revenge unless one is pure of heart.

Third, God allows evil to come into one's life in order to purify us. The dignity of the soul and the human person remains hidden until suffering, which usually brings out the true state of the heart, imagination and soul. One wills, then, to forgive, to pray for one's enemies, to join with Christ on the Cross.

When one's own people turn against a person, one can only think of Christ's rejection by His Own, Beloved People, the Jews.

Raissa's comments draw me back into the mystery of suffering. Indeed, suffering is a crucible, but one in which the soul and mind are purified in order for one to become a saint. One finds the true dignity of being human, which is union with God.

There is no other way.

I think that this is what St. John of the Cross learned when he was imprisoned by his own order for nine months.

In those months, he moved through the two parts of the Dark Night into Illumination and Union.

Suffering opens the heart and mind for grace.