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Wednesday 30 October 2013

The Mystery of Pain

The Trials of Job by Leonaert Bramer

I have had many conversations of late with a good, gentle person who believes that all pain is an illusion and merely in the mind.

He thinks I am an empiricist because I am a Thomist. Sigh, such is the heritage of Plato.

This good and spiritual person thinks that one can will away and think away pain. Now, there is a small bit of truth in that statement, in so far as we do not have to dwell on pain and can transcend our pain barriers, which athletes train themselves to do. Too many people pay too much attention to pain.  However, this is not what this man means.

He means that all negativity is not real, and he does not believe in Satan or hell. He does believe in God and in the journey of perfection so that one can become one with God. However, one does not discuss cancer or an injured ankle with this kind person.

He even believes that fleas, bed bugs and other insects can be willed away from someone's presence.

As a person who insects usually hate and avoid, even Midwest kamikaze mosquitoes, I have been surprised at a type of Maltese insect which has taken a liking to me. In fact, these bites are not only painful, but last weeks. I have welts on both legs and on one arm.

I still have not figured out what insect is attacking me, but these poor creatures cannot be discussed with my friend.

As my son said, these "poor, little insects are totally unaware of their nonexistence." He has a sense of humor.

But, pain is real and so are these bites and so are these insects. Why they like me and not him, if we are walking out at night, for example, is a mystery as well. I think they are sand fleas.

As a good Catholic girl, I can offer up these bites and welts for priests, sems, and whoever has asked for prayers.  I can even offer these up for the person who does not believe that these insects are real or that I need to be bitten.

I join myself with St. Francis and St. John of the Cross who endured sand fleas and other things. I join myself in a very small and little teeny way to the Cross of Christ, who endured God-like pain for the sake of the entire human race.

The welts are there for several reasons.

One, to remind me that I am mortal and not a disembodied spirit. My friend denies the body beyond Catholic teaching. To endure bodily discomfort is a result of Original Sin and to be expected to a certain degree. My friend claims I did not have to have cancer or Hashimoto's Disease either, as I could have willed those away. I see illnesses merely as a result of sin and corruption.

Two, pain is remedy for sin and is also grist for the prayer mill. When one joins with Christ is discomfort, one finds a peace and calm, even in serious illnesses, such as cancer. I tried to explain to my friend that when I was going through the cancer op and results, I felt like I was on retreat daily for weeks. God was very close, the Crucified One was with me the whole way.

Three, pain purifies and keeps our priorities straight.

Four, pain is humiliating, which is a good thing. Unlike my friend, who apparently can control bad things, I submit to the discomforts and learn humility through the realization that my body is far from perfect. Such predominant faults as pride and vainglory can be dealt with through pain.

Five, Christ, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity and the Son of God willed pain in His life. He did not escape the results of Original Sin but willed to join us in what we experience daily. His redemptive suffering raises pain to a level of Godliness, which is a mystery.

There are more reasons for the mystery of pain and suffering. This discussion will continue....