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Love and Suffering
Dear friends, I have chosen to write and talk about one of the most interesting and yet mysterious subjects…. ‘Love and Suffering’.
I have decided to do this for several reasons:
- To give recognition and thanks to Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who gave us all, on the Cross of Calvary, the greatest, the supreme example of …Love….a love for all people, you and myself included. “In this is charity: not as though we had loved God, but because he hath first loved us and sent his Son to be a propitiation for our sins.” (1 John 4:10-11)
- For myself, to come to a better understanding and appreciation of the role that …love and suffering…plays in my life, as a man, and in relation to my future career as a Hospital Chaplain, Lord willing.
- To encourage and challenge myself and others to walk in the footsteps of Jesus and in so doing, bring a bit of ‘Heaven’ here on earth and bring some souls to Jesus.
Just before I left home to come to Saint Paul University, in Ottawa, to study to become a Hospital Chaplain, my precious wife, Claudette, organized a going away party for me. My wife and friends blessed me with many gifts and cards. One particular card spoke to me deeply. In it was a poem by my friend ‘Rose Nadeau’ entitled:
May You Walk In His Ways
May you walk with a loving heart always being kind.
May you burn with zeal, and your purpose be to find.
The lost, the broken-hearted and comfort all the sick.
May you walk in God’s joy never blowing out your wick.
May you walk in His gifts from His Spirit on High.
May you lead others to their homeland in the sky.
May you walk in goodness, may your fruit increase.
May you walk in His Footsteps in the ways of Peace.
By Rose Nadeau
On the front cover of the card it said:
“May you walk in the fruits of His Spirit, the fruits being…’kindness, patience, faithfulness, humility, joy, goodness, self-control, peace and love’.”
I determined upon arriving at University to apply what was said in this card as my ‘Mission Statement’, as my goal to be accomplished while training and learning to be a Hospital Chaplain and thereafter. Upon the beginning of my second trimester I decided to make the following statement an added goal:
…To Know…the patients and families and myself.
…To Love…the patients and families and myself.
And as a result of ‘Knowing and loving’…To Inspire these people to discover the ultimate purpose and meaning in life.
From the three words… ‘To Know…To Love…and to Inspire’…I put my main focus on Love. I chose as my guide and barometer ‘1 Corinthians 13:4-7’…known as the Bible chapter on Love.
“Charity is patient, is kind: charity envieth not, dealeth not perversely, is not puffed up; Is not ambitious, seeketh not her own, is not provoked to anger, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth with the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)
On many of my hospital visits I have been confronted with that never ending, mysterious question… “Why do we suffer?” I will attempt in this short article to share with you my views on “Why do we suffer?” by speaking about ‘Love and Suffering’.
Where…. ‘Love’ ….For Each Of Us Began.
God the Father revealed His love for us through His Son, Jesus Christ. Let us listen to His explanation as told to Saint Catherine of Sienna, a Doctor of the Church:
“The Father tells Saint Catherine in the Dialogue: I who am invisible made myself, as it were, visible by giving you the Word, My Son, veiled in your humanity. He showed Me to you.
And so that you might have no excuse for not looking at My affection, I found a way to unite the Gift (Jesus) and the Giver (Father): I joined the Divine nature with the human. I gave you the Word, My only begotten Son, who is one with Me and I with Him, and because of this union you cannot look at the gift without looking at Me, the Giver.” (Catherine of Sienna On Suffering, (Human Suffering in the Light of Christ Crucified, by Rodrigo F. San Pedro) Saint Catherine thus considers the Father’s gift of Self in the person of His Son as the greatest manifestation of His Love and Mercy. (Ibid)
If we read the Creation story in the Book of Genesis, in the Bible, we discover that God…out of Love for us, created the earth, and then created Adam and Eve. God, out of love for us, in order to erase evil effects and the penalty of sin of Adam and Eve sent His only Son, Jesus Christ to be crucified and suffer like no one else has ever suffered. Out of love for each of us Jesus accepted to suffer the Passion and the Crucifixion. Then to go one step further, Mary, the Virgin Mother of God, accepted to be the chosen Mother of Jesus, our Saviour and then She suffered like no mother ever suffered, as she stood by watching her only Son suffer ‘the Passion’. Mary accepted her role, out of Love for you and me.
Because Mary loved God, and loved us, she said “Yes” to God and she has suffered much. To go a step further, when parents decide to have children, out of love for God and one another, they too, in turn, will experience many sufferings while raising those children. I say all this to say….
“Love… begets Suffering….and …Suffering
Imagine living in a world where there is no love, no compassion. In this world someone who is suffering calls out for help, for love and no help comes forward, because it is a selfish world, where everyone lives for only… ”me, myself and I”. This would be a type of ‘Hell on earth’.
What I am trying to say is that ‘Suffering’ calls forth ‘Love’. It cries out…”Love…where are you?…”Love I need you, please help me!”
The cries of suffering are many…here are a few examples…
“I am very lonely, will you spend some time with me?
“I need to talk with someone, will you listen to me?”
“I am very hungry and thirsty, I cannot feed myself, will you help me?”
“I am in despair, I am afraid of dying, will you pray for me?”
Love Dominates Suffering
“Love dominates suffering”…is what a young patient told me recently. On one of my visits I encountered a young lady (40) Susan, (fictitious name) who had a breast removed because of cancer. Then, three weeks ago Susan was in a very bad car accident which caused her several head concussions, broken ribs, punctured lung and a broken left arm.
When I entered the hospital room and saw her, her face was shining with happiness and joy! In the course of my visit we spoke about ‘Love and Suffering’. Upon hearing the words love and suffering, she immediately
said: “Love dominates suffering!” I replied: “Would you please explain that to me?” She answered:
“Love is like a needle you can give to a person who is suffering…
it is a needle filled with love and it will remove suffering.”
I inquired… “Am I then a needle of love to patients when I visit them and spend time with them, am present to them, listen to them, pray with them?” She replied: “Yes, doing what you just described with the patient will bring them a needle of Love to take away their pain and suffering.”
Last week, at the hospital, in the cafeteria, I understood so well how ‘Love dominates suffering’. I will share with you the story of Robert (pseudo name) and his wife Jane (pseudo name). Over lunch together Robert shared this with me. He and his wife were married and had five beautiful children. The first ten years of marriage were normal with Robert travelling all over the world as an aircraft mechanic and Jane looking after the children at home.
It was a very happy marriage, each one having a deep love for one another. Suddenly Jane discovered she had ‘schizophrenia’. She went through many electric shock treatments, long stays in mental institutions and many hours spent with psychiatrists. Robert told me his wife could get quite violent, waking him during the night as he would suddenly be assaulted by Jane. There came a time, the burden on Robert was so heavy, he had to place the children in custody for a time, so he could have the strength to cope with his wife.
Years later, Jane developed ‘cystic fibrosis’, a disease which affects all the muscles of the body. It was then that Robert gave up his job, which he enjoyed so much, in order to give proper care to his wife. He did this out of love for his wife, Jane. Five times Jane tried to take her life. Once by drowning, another time by swallowing a poisonous drink, and again by trying to slash her wrists. Just imagine all the suffering Robert and Jane went through.
Jane one day asked a psychiatrist to make up papers that she would sign that would make Robert free to leave her and remarry. That was the pure and unselfish love that Jane had for Robert. After telling me all this, Robert again asked me, “Why is there all this suffering in our life, it was bad enough Jane had schizophrenia, she didn’t need to get cystic fibrosis? I asked Robert what he thought. He had no answers.
I remembered something I had read early that same day….a quote of Saint Johnof the Cross…
“On the eve of life, we shall be examined by LOVE”
Then towards the end of our conversation I was inspired to look in my New Testament and look in First John, chapter three, verses 14-18…
“We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not abideth in death. Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer. And you know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in himself. In this we have known the charity of God, because He hath laid down His life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. He that hath the substance of this world and shall see his brother in need and shall shut up his bowels from him: how doth the charity of God abide in him? My little children, let us not love in word nor in tongue, but in deed and in truth.” (I John 3:14-18)
Earlier on I had asked Robert where he got his strength to manage to stay with his wife in spite of all the hardships and sufferings he had to endure. He was not sure. He said he was not a very spiritual person and that he was not a churchgoer.
I said: “Robert, I believe I know where you get your strength….Yes, you get your strength to cope from the genuine, deep love that you have in your heart for your wife. And besides that Robert, you have truly…Laid down your life for Jane, and you are not just loving her in word, but you are loving her in ‘deed and in truth’.”
It was then that I saw a sign of great relief and sense of peace come over Robert, as he seemed to understand better the ‘Why? Of Suffering” He seemed to see now that he was a vessel of love bringing comfort to Jane in her suffering. It was Suffering (Jane) calling
Out… “Love, Love…help me…I need you.” The other important thing I believe Robert realized was that he was much closer to God than he realized.
Don’t Waste Your Sufferings
Each of us, if called upon by God, or by our choice, can willingly choose, like the Apostle Paul, to ‘unite’ our sufferings to those of Christ, whereupon they acquire something of the redeeming value of the Passion itself of the Son of God.Saint Paulsaid:
“Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you and fill up those things that are wanting of the sufferings of Christ, in my flesh, for his body, which is the church.” (1 Colossians 1:24)
I would like to quote ‘John Downs’, who suffered as a quadriplegic for almost forty years:
“…suffering is a key to living an authentic human life. In the school of suffering we are taught to love. (emphasis mine) Suffering can increase love between two persons and between God and a soul. He who is unwilling to suffer/sacrifice cannot love. He who cannot love is less than fully human. We must learn to suffer well for the love of God above all, and in Him, for the love of everyone in our lives, no matter how demanding or difficult or costly that love may be.” “Greater love than this no man hath, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”( John 15: 13) “ (Suffering: A Key to the Meaning of Life, by John F. Downs.pg 26)
Footsteps of Jesus
When we decide to follow in the ‘Footsteps of Jesus’ we begin to reach beyond our own selfish confines and to love someone other than our self. We lay down our selfish desires, our lives, for love of others.
“In this we have known the charity of God, because He hath laid down His life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.” (1 John 3:16)
In my own little way, I have been trying to be God’s vessel of love to the patients, their family, and some of the professionals I visit with at the hospital. While travelling on the bus from University to the hospital (one hour drive minimum) I make it part of my goals to pray for everyone I will meet that day and that I may be God’s vessel of love unto them.
I keep asking the Lord to soften my heart, to make it more sensitive to the cries of those suffering at the hospital. As a Chaplain intern I feel very privileged to have the opportunity to lay down my self-interests, my concerns, and focus in to the hurts of the patients. The didactic classes and interpersonal relationship meetings have been a very practical help for me to learn in a whole new way…”how to listen” to those that are suffering. The good Lord is letting me know that He is there helping me accomplish this desire to be a vessel of love. Just recently in a prayer meeting, He gave me the following scripture… “And I will give you a new heart, and put a new spirit within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and will give you a heart of flesh.” (Ezekiel 36:26)
I thank God the Father for His unselfish love for each of us through His only Son, Jesus Christ..
“And Christ died for all: that they also who live may not now live to themselves, but unto Him who died for them and rose again.” (2 Corinthians 5:15)
Let us bring to mind some of the words mentioned in the poem earlier titled: “May You Walk In His Ways”…
May you walk with a loving heart,
Always being kind and go to the lost,
The broken-hearted and comfort all the sick.
May you walk in His Footsteps.
By being conscious of wanting…to know…to love…and to inspire…. The patients and their families towards a personal encounter with Jesus Christ, it has deeply influenced my lifestyle.
I have deepened my prayer life and have asked my friends to pray for me in my ministry as a Chaplain. I have greatly changed and improved my listening skills, being much less on the defensive and less judgemental with others.
I am beginning more and more, like Mother Teresa, to see ‘Christ’ in the sick. I find myself standing on ‘Holy Ground’ as I meet with and minister to the patients and their families.
I am convinced that in one way or the other, verbally or silently, I bring God’s Love to the ‘suffering ones’ and that my friends is the true calling, the true mission of every Hospital Chaplain and everyone who, as a ‘Good Samaritan’ visits the sick, to give them a ‘needle of Love’ and alleviate their suffering.
Donald Andre Bruneau