Category Archives: Redemptive Suffering

A Lonely Place

“I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled!  I have a baptism with which to be baptized, and what stress I am under until it is completed! Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division! From now on five in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three; they will be divided: father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.” – Luke 12: 49-53

Being a Christian can feel lonely at times.  In today’s culture you may feel ostracized by the world that just wants you to keep your mouth shut and your beliefs to yourself. Also at times, you may feel a sort of spiritual loneliness; where like David in the Psalms, you feel like God is hiding His face from you. Being a Christian is not always a walk in the park. I have personally found that one of the most painful feelings for me is wanting to share the joy I have found in Christ, but even among those closest to me, they simply do not want to hear about it. Sometimes I desperately want to be open about that part of myself with those I love who are not Catholic, but I know it will be met with silence, sarcasm, or anger. Though I still speak up in defence of the truth, I have also had to find different ways of showing that faith without words to my family and friends who do not believe or are against listening to anything that leans towards objective truth.

In our present culture, where “hate” has become the new catchphrase for anyone who stands up for objective moral truth, it is almost comical to see how much hatred the world has for authentic Christianity. Jesus warned us of the hate we would experience for loving and following Him, but He also reminds us that the world hated Him first.

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The struggle can be difficult at times, yet, we know that there is victory in the struggles that we endure as Christians. The feeling of loneliness we can encounter can become redemptive. We can come to encounter Christ more deeply by offering our suffering to Him and with Him. Saint Teresa of Avila said, “Suffering is a great favor. Remember that everything soon comes to an end… and take courage. Think of how our gain is eternal.” We must take these words to heart and remember that the lives we live here are temporary.

It is of great importance to pray for the gifts of charity, humility, and patience. Charity is one of the hardest things to practice toward someone who speaks ill of you. It can be equally as hard to remain charitable when Christ or His Church is attacked. It can be much easier to get angry than to take a breath, pray for a moment, and speak respectfully to that person. Keep in mind our Blessed Lord before Pontius Pilate. He simply spoke the truth in peace.

It can be difficult to love the people who attack us, whether it be in the online sphere or among our families, friends, co-workers, etc. It is of paramount importance that we continue to love those who hurt us. This doesn’t mean that you have to be best friends, or even get along. It may even mean ending the relationship. But, we must be willing to reach out and serve them. We must remember that they deserve love and respect, even when they don’t give these things to us. Jesus loves the person who attacks us and desires for them to be united with Him for all eternity. Our job is to show that by our deeds, and then our words.

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Remember you are not alone.

I remember years ago feeling very alone and wishing that I wasn’t. I was so caught up in myself that I forgot that I was never alone. I failed so many times to enter into prayer, to recall the saints, or to seek out authentic community. In hindsight, I wish I had been able to remember those painful hours Jesus wept in the garden. I forgot that on the cross, Jesus cried out, “my God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” Now, I understand that I can take consolation in the fact that not only can I offer my struggles, loneliness, and sufferings to Jesus, but that I can unite them with His suffering for the salvation of souls.

Pray for those that persecute you. Pray that their hearts may not be hardened. Pray that they may recognize the love in you as God’s love for them. Pray for them if they abandon you, or if you have to leave that relationship for reasons beyond your control. Leave it all in the hands of the Father. He will take care of His children.

Love,
Catholic Ruki

We should strive to keep our hearts open to the sufferings and wretchedness of other people, and pray continually that God may grant us that spirit of compassion which is truly the spirit of God. – Saint Vincent de Paul

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The True Charity of the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate

Scandals these days are a dime a dozen it seems. In the world and in the so-called “faithful” of the Church, we need not look to far out our front door to see that there is a lot of darkness out there. All we need to do is take a gander into our own hearts and we can see just how dark things can be. It can be greatly discouraging. For those weak in faith to see the scandals within the Church can cause them to give up on the Christian life altogether. Although there needs to be people within the Church pointing out where the darkness is within Her members, it can seem that there are not a lot of great examples of holiness today. Even though we have great things like the lives of the Saints and have access to millions of books on these incredible Catholics of the past, we need authentic witnesses today. Two weeks ago, I saw a beautifully authentic example of this in one of the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate, and felt that it needed to be pointed out.

2012-09-07-Novice-Investiture-01If you are not familiar with the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate (FFI), they are a beautiful religious order  founded by Fr. Stefano Maria Manelli and Fr. Gabriel Maria Pellettieri, two Franciscan Friars. According to their website they, “like the Seraphic Father St. Francis…strive to be perfectly conformed to the poor, humble, crucified Jesus through a life of charity, supernatural charity and poverty. They are totally consecrated to the Immaculate Virgin after the recent example offered by St. Maximilian Mary Kolbe.” Sadly, in recent years, the FFI received a crushing blow. The Institute, which was one of the fastest growing in the world, was brought to task by the Vatican “to restore among the Franciscans of the Immaculate the original charism that has characterized the service the Institute has rendered to the Church.” Fr. Fidenzio Volpi was assigned by the Congregation for Religious as Apostolic Commissioner to basically bring the order into line. Now a lot of what is being said online leans strongly in the favour of Fr. Volpi being tasked with ending the order itself. I cannot seem to get a clear statement as to the entire purpose of handing the Order over to Fr. Volpi. The situation, however, turned nasty.

The community was made to no longer offer the Mass of the Extraordinary Form, unless given express permission. The founder was also removed from leadership. The subordinates of the Founder were transferred to different countries. He shut down their seminary. He suspended ordinations within the Order. For a year he suppressed the activities of the Lay Apostolates affiliated with the Institute. He also suspended the publications of the Academy of the Immaculate, which produced beautiful catholic literature. There are certainly differing things being said online about how Fr. Volpi handled the Institute. There are people who say that Fr. Volpi slandered and defamed the founder, Fr. Manelli and his family. At any rate, Fr. Volpi truly in the eyes of outsiders, became the “thorn in the side” of this little institute, who though faithful to the Church’s Tradition, are not extremists by any means. Whether all the statements about Fr. Volpi are true or not, they have been treated (and still are, please pray for them) very badly by many members of the clergy and laity, and endure much slander and calumny. I share this because in the midst of all of the craziness at the hands of the Apostolic Commissioner, the Friars and Sisters of the Institute have simply kept their mouths shut and remained obedient. It smells of the sanctity of another Franciscan friar who was placed in solitary confinement for over ten years, the great St. Pio of Pietrelcina (Padre Pio).

Yet, with all of this in mind, these kind Franciscans not only remain obedient, but they also remain completely humble. This is what inspired me two weeks ago. It was announced that Fr. Volpi died on June 7, 2015 (God rest his soul). The response to this from the FFI floored me again. Shortly after his death, Fr. Elias M. Mills offered a Requiem Mass for him. In the description of the video, it states that the Mass was done in “gratitude that the Franciscans of the Immaculate have for the faithful and beautiful service of Fr. Fidenzio Volpi to our community and an additional gesture of unbounded gratitude to His Holiness Pope Francis for appointing such a wonderful priest to guide and govern our Institute. May God grant Fr. Fidenzio a speedy entry into eternal rest and unending peace. Ave Maria!” I encourage you to watch the four minute video of the homily given at the Mass by Fr. Mills. For a community to speak in such kind and generous terms about a man who had done much to effectively destroy the Institute that they loved (though they may not openly admit it), is certainly a beautiful thing and an incredible example of christian charity. Loving your enemies is a true sign of a Christian, and these Franciscans knew how to best love Fr. Volpi, by offering the one thing in the world that matters most – the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. God bless the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate. May we too learn how to speak well of those who have hurt us, and love them with the love that only Jesus Himself can give.

For every one who does evil hates the light, and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does what is true comes to the light, that it may be clearly seen that his deeds have been wrought in God.
John 3:20-21

 

 

The Parentless World

So much of the world, especially western society, promotes a childless lifestyle. In fact, it glorifies it.  A life without children is so often seen as the new American Dream, where all you need to do is focus on yourself and perhaps a significant other. People believe that without children, you can do whatever makes you happy in life without needing to worry about something or someone holding you down. Children are seen as a burden to many, and being a parent as a lifetime chore.

Many view children as horrible, crying, screaming, dirty monsters that ultimately make life worse and prevent us from being happy, wealthy, and free. Maybe it is because they have seen families struggle financially, emotionally, or physically after having children. The idea of sacrificing for someone that is dependent, vulnerable, small, and needy is as much of a turn off as running into a burning building soaked in gasoline.

I guess it may be easy to forget that we all were babies, children, teenagers.

I believe that it isn’t that these people hate babies and children, but rather they hate the suffering that may come with having children. Children require time just as any other relationship.They need constant care and attention, and this means we need to sacrifice the time that we would normally spend doing things for ourselves. Children and babies push  parents to limits of frustration, sleep deprivation, and so on.

I can say that because I know that my own parents struggled many days because of us kids. I know there were days my parents were exhausted after shifts, and yet they still invested the time into caring for us. I know it meant they had less time to do the things that they wanted to do, but they still found joy in doing what they had to do, which was loving us and making sure we had what we needed on a daily basis. Twenty plus years later, I can confidently say that my parents still loved us even when things were hard.

I am pregnant with our baby girl, Evangeline, and already Mike and I brace ourselves for ‘advice’ from people encouraging us to stop at one child, or to maybe try for one boy and one girl and then avoid more in every possible way. It is especially disheartening when the advice is coming from loved ones, or from people who have children and seem to voice regret from having one or two too many.

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Parenthood means loving far beyond yourself, dying to yourself every single day. I may only be 6 months into my pregnancy, but even now, Mike and I have had challenges. We have had to make time for appointments. Mike has had to give up eating certain foods because some things just don’t sit well with me. I don’t sleep the same anymore. I can’t run on the treadmill for an hour every day so I can have a totally in shape, model body. Mike has to endure a woman that wears the baggies clothes most days because her normal clothes just don’t fit the same anymore.

This is only the beginning of changing challenges. The truth is though, I don’t need a perfect body, a perfect sleep schedule, or money to blow on material goods. Those things will not make me or my family holy.

I speak for Mike and myself when I say that we anticipate redemptive suffering which is something that many refuse to even acknowledge exists. We can anticipate sleepless nights. We can anticipate strain on our relationship. We can anticipate temper tantrums, marker drawings on the wall, spilt drinks, and pulled out hair. I do not want to deny us of sacrifices we can give to God out of love for the souls entrusted to us. I do not want to miss the opportunity to try and live as the Holy Family lived on earth and now eternally does in heaven. I do not want to say ‘no’ to God for his gift of life.

We need fathers. We need mothers. The world needs moms and dads who actively demonstrate love for the family that goes beyond wanting to fulfil their own desires. The World needs to see spouses who can’t have children naturally to seek to be parents to children without mothers and fathers or to the community around them. The World needs to see that parenthood is a blessing, not a curse; that children are gifts from God and not simply things we can take for ourselves as a right to have, nor deny when God lays them in our hands to care for them. If your call is to be married, to give yourself to your spouse in fullness and in love, that desire has a natural, God-given purpose: life-giving love, which may bring with it, parenthood.

Let us pray for all those discerning their vocations, that they may discern with willing and open hearts.  Let us pray that couples discerning marriage are open to life. Let us pray that God may grant strength to parents struggling with their state of life, spiritually, physically, and emotionally. Finally, let us pray for our world, that parenthood, children, and life may be celebrated and that we may all be thankful for the gift to emulate the love of the Trinity and of the Holy Family.

Love,
Catholic Ruki

 

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/matt-walsh/my-kids-dont-make-me-happy_b_4384622.html
http://www.families.com/blog/top-10-benefits-of-having-children

https://orthodoxcatholicism.com/2014/09/01/discerning-the-whisper/
https://orthodoxcatholicism.com/2014/08/15/the-right-to-do-what-we-ought/
https://orthodoxcatholicism.com/2014/04/09/marriage-lessons/
https://orthodoxcatholicism.com/2014/06/09/the-hope-of-marriage/
https://orthodoxcatholicism.com/2014/03/10/the-compassion-deception/

 

Dignity in the Face of Death

On Sunday night, the world was faced with the heartbreaking news of Brittany Maynard’s death. After being diagnosed with terminal brain cancer and told she had a limited number of months to live, she and her husband moved to the State of Oregon where she could legally end her own life and see to it that she “died with dignity.” In reality, what she was really trying to do was avoid the forthcoming pain, under the guise of “dying with dignity”.

As Catholics, we understand that the dignity of the human person is rooted in our being created in the image and likeness of God. Our dignity is fulfilled in our vocation to live in eternal happiness with God (in both this world and the next), and we fully experience what it means to be human when we freely direct ourselves towards our eternal destiny. Because of what Christ did on the Cross, death no longer has the final say. Jesus, the God-man, suffered in our place. He has, therefore, by his own blood, redeemed even our human suffering. Our suffering and death no longer automatically mean our spiritual death. Death and suffering can be used by God for our good and can be redemptive for us and others.

agonyinthegardenIt says in the Catechism of the Catholic Church that “intentional euthanasia, whatever its forms or motives, is murder. It is gravely contrary to the dignity of the human person and to the respect due to the living God, his Creator.” Human life is sacred from conception to natural death because “from its beginning it involves the creative action of God and it remains for ever in a special relationship with the Creator, who is its sole end. God alone is the Lord of life from its beginning until its end: no one can under any circumstance claim for himself the right directly to destroy an innocent human being,” including himself.

Many are calling Brittany’s choice “heroic”, and “not suicide”, because she would have rather lived, but due to the fact that she was expected to die from the disease anyways, it was better for her to die without great pain. I do not propose to know what it is like to suffer in this way, however, the truth is, none of us really want to suffer, to feel pain. Pain, however, is part of the reality of the fallen human condition. Do not be deceived. Euthanasia does not make it truly possible for our loved ones or ourselves to avoid suffering.

Euthanasia or Physician-Assisted Suicide is the intentional act of killing oneself, which is what Brittany did. At its heart, suicide truly lacks heroism and courage. In the case of Brittany, she was not courageous enough to face her pain to come. In committing suicide, we claim our life as our own; our life is ours to do whatever we want with it, whatever the cost, without truly considering anyone else.

The call of the Gospel is the opposite to this current secular worldview. The call of the Gospel is a call to lay down our lives in love and service to God and for others. It is a call to embrace our crosses. It is in responding to that call that we realize what it means to be truly human. St. John Paul II in his Theology of the Body shares that we find what it means to be human by self-donation. It is precisely for this reason that Christ calls us to pick up our Cross, just as He did, and follow him. It is only in doing this that we will enter into communion with Him in this life and the next.

Recently, I was reflecting on the prayer of the “Agnus Dei” (Lamb of God) that we say at every Roman Catholic Mass. I realized in a new way how Christ is both the Priest and Victim. Jesus offered his life in sacrifice for us, and He calls us to imitate Him. In this way, we need to make our lives a living sacrifice. He made the blood sacrifice that was necessary for our salvation. Just like Christ, we can learn to love in the times that are difficult. We can learn to love through our suffering. Our Blessed Lord told St. Faustina, “If the angels were capable of envy, they would envy us for two things; one is the receiving of Holy Communion, and the other is suffering.”

“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.”

palliativecareWith Brittany Maynard’s suicide now made public, this will certainly spark a more widespread debate and push toward giving more people the ability to choose the same outcome for their life, when faced with suffering and pain. William L. Shirer was an American journalist, war correspondent, and historian. He once interviewed a Nazi judge who was condemned to death at Nuremberg. The judge had wept saying, “How could it have come to this?” and Mr. Shirer responded to him, “Herr Judge, it came to this the first time you authorized the killing of an innocent life.”

The more that Euthanasia may be approved and legalized, the worse things will become. It is surely an unavoidable slippery slope. Holland legalized euthanasia in 1984. What began as simply a few extraordinary cases, such as what Brittany Maynard and others are vouching for, has now become a routine practice. Statistics show that approximately “130,000 people die each year in Holland, and up to 20,000 are either killed or helped to die by doctors. As many as half did not ask to be killed.” These numbers now include newborns who are said to have a poor quality of life, depressed adults who are physically well, as well as depressed teenagers. Theo Boer, a European who was once adamantly for euthanasia, is now saying, “don’t do it.”

Pro-euthanasia advocates consistently emphasize the reasons for choosing it because of the expected uncontrollable and agonizing pain. The truth is that physical pain, with some rare exceptions, can certainly be controlled, even in a drug induced coma, if it be necessary. The type of pain which is the primary reason why people seek to be killed, is emotional pain, from despair and hopelessness, to being unloved and alone, being tired of living life, and not wanting to be dependent on others.

saynotoeuthanasiaThere are many reasons why we should be actively fighting euthanasia, and fighting for the bettering of quality health care, particularly end of life care. These reasons to oppose euthanasia include:

  • The fact that doctors are very often wrong in judging when or that a patient will die. Sometimes a patient can make an unexpected recovery.
  • When the only living witnesses are those who want the person dead, who is there to confirm that they actually asked to die?
  • If society approves euthanasia, many will ask for it so that they avoid being a burden to their family.
  • Doctors and family members can easily pressure patients into asking to die.
  • In Holland, advancements in palliative care have practically disappeared. There are now only a small handful of hospices there. In nearby Britain, there are over 300 hospices.
  • Given the increasing numbers of older people and the costs of their health care, good palliative care will quickly become unavailable if euthanasia becomes legal.

We should look to the wisdom of the Church for how to properly care for those who are suffering. The Catechism of the Catholic Church says:

Thus an act or omission which, of itself or by intention, causes death in order to eliminate suffering constitutes a murder gravely contrary to the dignity of the human person and to the respect due to the living God, his Creator. The error of judgment into which one can fall in good faith does not change the nature of this murderous act, which must always be forbidden and excluded. Discontinuing medical procedures that are burdensome, dangerous, extraordinary, or disproportionate to the expected outcome can be legitimate; it is the refusal of “over-zealous” treatment. Here one does not will to cause death; one’s inability to impede it is merely accepted. The decisions should be made by the patient if he is competent and able or, if not, by those legally entitled to act for the patient, whose reasonable will and legitimate interests must always be respected. Even if death is thought imminent, the ordinary care owed to a sick person cannot be legitimately interrupted. The use of painkillers to alleviate the sufferings of the dying, even at the risk of shortening their days, can be morally in conformity with human dignity if death is not willed as either an end or a means, but only foreseen and tolerated as inevitable Palliative care is a special form of disinterested charity. As such it should be encouraged.

All of us will face our time to die, whether through tragic accidents, death in our sleep, or terminal illnesses – death is coming for every one of us. St. Therese of Lisieux, in her last words, said “I have reached the point of not being able to suffer any more, because all suffering is sweet to me. My God, I love you.” May we not only pray for the protection of human life from conception to natural death, and for an increase in the betterment of the care that we provide to those who are suffering, but may we fight with every ounce of our being for the true dignity of the human person, which is not found in ease of life, but in attaining union with God.

 

http://www.lifeissues.org/euthanasia/euthbrochure.htm

http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p3s2c2a5.htm

http://www.infoplease.com/spot/euthanasia1.html

http://www.aleteia.org/en/society/article/the-gift-of-angelo-a-conversation-with-the-single-mother-of-a-boy-with-down-syndrome-5819022960492544?page=2

http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p3s1c1a2.htm

http://www.lifeissues.org/euthanasia/euthbrochure.htm

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