Redemptive Suffering, what is it? Is it necessary? Why should I know about it? How important is knowledge of this doctrine in the spiritual life? Should this doctrine be practiced by everyone or only by priests and religious? Much has been written about this doctrine, and yet it is quite unknown and little appreciated in Catholic Spirituality. Suffering is with us in our daily lives—physical, moral, mental, and spiritual. Most of it we have no control over; it is our daily companion. How do we deal with it? Each of us handles it in a different way, according to our temperament, character, and personality. How we handle it makes the difference between suffering and Redemptive Suffering. Acceptance in Faith turns the key. “Here I am, Lord, form me as you will”. Without this acceptance we can become bitter, angry, spiteful persons incapable of enjoying life or appreciating what God has given us. My theory is: people who cannot enjoy life, laugh, or appreciate little things cannot suffer well either. Life holds little or nothing for them, for they are totally turned inward. Yes, suffering is necessary because it forms us. We are weak, blind, selfish, and sinful, and the suffering that comes to us, if we allow it, will turn us toward reality. There is a verse from Isaiah 65:2 that says: “All the day I stretch out my hands to an unbelieving and contradicting people”. This verse, to me, is the most pathetic in all of Scripture, for we throw back in God’s Face what He is offering for our salvation and redemption. We are like pouting children who cannot get what they want. One of the saddest songs I have ever heard was, “I Did It My Way”. Will any of us waltz into heaven because we did it our way? I think not.
This doctrine is important in the spiritual life of all of us, not just priests or religious, because we have all been redeemed objectively; but the merits of Christ must be given to each one of us in time, during our life. Again, the key is acceptance. God has a plan for each one of us. The merits Christ won for us come through the cross, and He hands each one of us a cross to carry during life in order to bring us to the perfection of His plan. We all have the effects of original sin and our own personal sins for which we must repair. Acceptance of daily personal suffering will repair for our own sins and negligences and also for others and those in purgatory. Christ said, “I am the Way” and to follow Him we take up our cross. We accept each day the suffering of inconvenience, the long waits, our stumbles and falls, another’s impatience with our limitations, our past sins and failures, anything life puts in our path from moment to moment. Saint Padre Pio was asked how to avoid purgatory. His reply, “By accepting everything from God’s Hand; by offering everything up to Him with love and thanksgiving He will enable us to pass from our deathbed to paradise”. This also is redemptive suffering. No, it is not easy. Simple, yes, but not a cakewalk either. We all have our fears and worries about the past. “If only I had done this or that or done it better. Maybe we really did do it “MY WAY”, but now we want to do it “CHRIST’S WAY”. The best answer to that is that of the Dominican priest, Fr. Emmerich Vogt. He counsels us; “Give up the hope of a better past”. Entrust yourself, past, present, and future to Christ’s mercy. “MAY WAY” might satisfy us momentarily, but Christ’s Way will bring us peace, peace that comes through the Blood of His Cross.
For those who want to read more on suffering and how to deal with it and understand it, I would recommend “THE CHRISTIAN MEANING OF HUMAN SUFFERING” (Salvifici Doloris) the Apostolic Letter of Blessed Pope John Paul II published in 1984.
Suffering is a mystery, a very human mystery, and wrapped up with the mystery of Redemption and our eternal salvation. Use it for good and let it be Redemptive Suffering. Let it always be “HIS WAY”.