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Quote for Thought on Handling Hostility

This quote comes from one of my favorite books, “The Secret Diary of Elizabeth Leseur,” a very holy woman who lived with an unbelieving husband who was not only not supportive of her Catholic religion but at times ridiculed it. She offered up her suffering in that regard for the benefit of his soul, and after her death, he converted and became a Catholic priest!!

Here is her thought on handling such hostility, which I think many of us have come upon at some point or another from someone in our lives or, like me this summer, from some man at the park while I was reading this very book!

“There is little suffering that can compare with this: to love, and to be repaid with hatred or at least hostility; to dream of doing good for someone, of giving part of oneself, and to find that this person does not appreciate you, judges you unfairly, and misunderstands everything about you. What should one do then? Not be unjust in return; remember that the Master suffered misunderstanding and contempt; and without reproaches or sorrowful thoughts of self, continue to speak, act, and love, not to gain the affection denied us, but in the higher and supernatural thought of charity.”



Pray Without Ceasing… I think I get it…

Pray without ceasingI have heard many a reference to Paul’s advice in 1 Thessalonians (5:17) to “pray without ceasing.” I have often thought, as perhaps you have too as new Catholics, how in the world can I do that? After all, I’m running my own business, being a wife, mothering two active boys, grocery shopping… you get the drift of excuses, right? I can barely work in my rosary, praying at night and perhaps a lunchtime prayer.

But I think I figured it out, and it’s all tied up with redemptive suffering, which I’ve talked about in previous posts. Light Bulb moment: We can offer up our entire lives as a prayer to God!

Every morning now, I say a prayer to Mary offering her all my sacrifices, sufferings and good works for the day for her to distribute as needed since she’s the one charged with distributing her Son’s graces. I am working hard to make “little” sacrifices as I can during my day in line with St. Therese of Lisieux‘s “little way.”

Maybe that’s forgoing the cookie I want to eat (by the way, I am NOT so good at this one), accepting a humiliation from someone’s comment, reading that last story to my kids even though my eyes want to close with exhaustion, etc. Moms out there, you know there are a million little “sufferings” we can offer up each day.

Instead of just doing them, though, “offer them up” as a prayer to Almighty God. Let them work for your benefit or for another’s. Put them to good use!

And any good works you do that day — perhaps stopping to help someone or just offering a smile, earning a plenary indulgence, folding the laundry with care and love, or all small acts of charity — put those to work too.

I think perhaps this is what St. Paul means when he says “Pray without ceasing.” It would be impossible as humans, especially those of us living in the lay world, to verbally pray constantly. But who says prayer needs to be verbal? Let’s let our actions — our professional work, our family activities, our household duties, our kindness — all of it serve as a prayer to God.

By dedicating these things to God, you’re also likely to be more aware of what you’re doing and less inclined to sin. It’s a win-win!

What do you think? How do you pray without ceasing?

A Catholic Newbie’s Take on Purgatory

Catholic understanding of purgatoryFrom the beginning, purgatory was one of the Catholic teachings that I had a hard time getting my head around. I had always been taught – if you believe in Jesus you go to heaven. So this was a new concept. No one wants to think they have to suffer again after death, right?

I’ve talked with one of my priests about it, heard about it in RCIA (Catholic preparation class), read about it and studied it, but today I finally GOT it and I have to thank the wonderful Father Mitch Pacwa, S.J. He addressed the issue for a caller to Catholic Radio Indy this afternoon and all the pieces of the puzzle suddenly came together for me, making it crystal clear.

I’ve been reading a lot about redemptive suffering, or the idea of letting your suffering “work” and have benefit for other souls, and recently blogged about it. Purgatory is entirely tied to this and I had missed it.

So here goes, a Catholic Newbie’s take on purgatory:

When Christ died on the cross for us, he did so to “take away the sins of the world.” But unlike Protestant churches who believe that once you “accept” Christ that your sins are “poof” entirely forgiven and that you go to heaven if you believe and are sorry for your sins, the Catholic church believes that the taking away of those sins might hurt a little and that there’s more work involved to get there.

When we enter heaven we will be in the presence of a “perfect” Father (to whom we are to model in His “perfection”), and therefore we must be perfect. How could we sully the presence of God with our fallen nature, our shameful thoughts, our bad deeds, our angry words — whether committed in the past or present and forgiven or not.

We do go to confession to be “forgiven” of these sins, but that does not entirely remove their effects. If we have gossiped about someone, the damage we did, even though we are sorry, may be unable to be corrected. We may still harbour anger toward someone even if we are sorry and even if we desire not to.

So we must be “purified” to perfection before we go to heaven — either here or in purgatory.

This is where redemptive suffering comes in. Some humans have purified themselves on earth, many of the saints! This involves suffering, just as we would suffer in purgatory. So many great people endure great suffering. Wonder why? Because they are being purified for heaven. Like Saint Therese of Lisieux who made every tiny act of sacrifice a work for God and dear Elisabeth Leseur who deeply suffered physically and who offered it all to God.

Christ suffered GREATLY on the cross. Why should we not suffer along with him to get to the wonderful reward he purchased for us by his death? I for one think it’s worth it!

The good news is, guys, that we GET to go to heaven. Before Christ, we could not get there at all no matter what we did. Now, we can work to get there through some suffering. That means suffering is GOOD. Christ made it good!

I think we can also offer up our suffering to purify other souls — both here and in heaven. We can ask to whom that suffering be applied or we can give it to the immense wisdom of our mother Mary or her son Jesus and let them distribute the good works where they know best.

I’d love some comments or questions on this topic. Please pipe in!

A Catholic Understanding of Suffering: One of the Most Amazing Things I’ve Learned

Redemptive sufferingMy most recent Catholic theme seems to revolve around suffering. The idea keeps emerging in the books I’m reading, on Catholic radio, in homilies and more … and wow is it a revelation! Catholics hold to the idea of “redemptive suffering,”  which turns the traditional understanding of suffering on its head, making it a positive, wonderful thing (bear with me :), I’ll explain in a minute).

While I’m not undergoing any true suffering myself (thanks be to God), it’s certainly a topic I’ve always grappled with and I think many nonbelievers do, as well. How could a loving, merciful God allow suffering?

Let’s start by saying we can’t know exactly. Afterall, we cannot know the mind of God, at least not until we reach our glory. That said, there are some clues to the meaning of suffering that we can follow. Let’s start with the greatest suffering of all time: Christ on the Cross.

Christ suffered unbearably, through torture, humiliation, mocking, and what must have been pain beyond belief. Yet, did you notice the greatest good of all time that it produced? Salvation for all who accept it! What can we learn from this? Suffering = Good.

Crazy, I know.

Here’s another clue. If you study the life of the saints, so many of them underwent great personal suffering, especially bodily suffering. Why would God punish them so? Perhaps because it’s not a punishment, but a gift — a wonderful thing.

I am reading a book right now that is the diary of a woman named Elisabeth Leseur who lived in the early 1900’s in France. She is up for sainthood but no progress has been made as of yet. Elisabeth, who was subject to much suffering — both mental and physical — looked upon this suffering as a way to “work” for God. She was married to an atheist, whom she loved dearly and whom she deeply desired to convert, but instead he argued and dissuaded her in her religion, causing her much personal grief.

She says repeatedly in her diary that words and actions do little for her hopes and desires for those souls around her, but rather suffering, prayer and mortifications (fasting, enduring discomfort, etc.) do the greatest work. So instead of complaining or arguing with her husband, she kept her sufferings inside and offered them up to God for the work of converting her husband. Can you imagine the power of using that same principle for problems in your own life?

This reminds me so much of my dear confirmation saint, St Therese of Lisieux, who gave glory to God and worked to help souls —  those of unbelievers, those in purgatory, her loved ones — in her “little way” of doing small acts of sacrifice for God. She too says that prayers, combined with fasting and almsgiving/charity are the quickest way to make your prayers heard.

Elisabeth desired to do much more with her life, but instead was confined to bed for various illnesses throughout her life. She determined that God’s true vocation for her was to “work” through suffering, which she was able to do so well by offering her sacrifices and all works for the intentions of others, so often for those in purgatory.

I recently was watching Super Saints on EWTN with Bob and Penny Lord in an episode about St. Philip Neri. It was said that he too offered many masses and prayers for the souls in purgatory, and when he arrived in heaven, they all greeted him, sharing that they had been praying for him since getting to heaven in gratitude for his kind prayers for them. What a wonderful thought!

If you’ve hung on with me this long, let this be some validation of suffering as the greatest “work” for God. Upon Elisabeth’s death, her long atheist husband converted to Catholicism, and not only that, he became a priest and was the one responsible for publishing her diary that it might help others. I find that to be a true miracle, but one that I have no doubt God granted for Elisabeth’s tireless work.

Let me end with this paragraph from Elizabeth’s diary, so eloquently put, moreso than I can:

“Union with Jesus Christ, which we shall realize in Heaven in joy and vision, is already possible for us on earth in suffering. That is why all souls in love with Jesus, those souls that have heard the  mysterious and irresistible call of Christ, love suffering and, far from rejecting it with an entirely human horror, ask for it, desire it as the sweet forerunner of the Master, as that which ushers us into His presence. It is suffering that reveals the Cross to us, that opens the divine Heart to us, that enables us to enter into this supernatural world that no human thing can reach, which we will know only in eternity, but from which a glimmer shines over us through the grace of suffering and the radiance of the Cross.” — My Spirit Rejoices by Elisabeth Leseur, Sophia Institute Press, 1996.