I have read the story of the miracle cure of a young man who saw Pier Frassati during a coma. I knew of his love for the poor, and how he would go hiking and other sportly activities.
On a lark, I looked up quotations. He has a lot to say of suffering and serving. He would attend Mass daily, and frequently go with less and give the difference between a 1st class train ticket and a 3rd class to the poor, or extra bread and other foodstuffs. I have long looked to St. Dr. Giuseppe Moscati for inspiration and support in my work with the poor, and the suffering that occurs on both ends.
“You ask me whether I am in good spirits. How could I not be, so long as my trust in God gives me strength. We must always be cheerful. Sadness should be banished from all Christian souls. For suffering is a far different thing from sadness, which is the worst disease of all. It is almost always caused by lack of Faith. But the purpose for which we have been created shows us the path along which we should go, perhaps strewn with many thorns, but not a sad path. Even in the midst of intense suffering it is one of joy.”
It’s not that we should not suffer. We are called to follow Christ, which inevitably leads to Calvary. Not only in the sense that He took Death for us, but that we also need to suffer. It’s part of salvation. We are called to suffer. Frassati makes an interesting point, that we are to suffer with spiritual joy, not sadness. I cannot pretend to say that this nuance is easy to master. Do you rejoice when you have a headache or a loved one is in the hospital? I do not rejoice when my clients have been hospitalized for psychosis, manic episodes, or suicidal behavior. But, isn’t there a silver lining in that action (the hospitalization) that I and they can capitalize on: they are still alive. Is that not joy?
Suffering that is nourished by the flame of faith becomes something beautiful, because it tempers the soul to deal with suffering.
It is not suffering for the sake of suffering. Frassati is not suggesting you deliberately stub your toe, or choose to put a gravel pebble in your shoe and walk around all day. Even St. Paul speaks of adding to the suffering of Christ Jesus. Not because it is lacking, but because we are called to participate in Calvary. We are called to suffer with and for our Lord. We are told to walk with Him in pain and suffering. The Bride walks toward the Groom: that altar of sacrifice, that sepulchre, that 4-post marriage bed. Think of the aisle towards Christ at Mass as your little Calvary every Sunday and Holy Day of Obligation.
Faith grants meaning to what would otherwise be empty. “Offer it up”. We hear it said frequently. That doesn’t mean: walk around all day grumbling about your headache, scowling, and generally being a dick. Offer it up, means to avoid pain killers if you can handle the pain and still be charitable. If not, take the medication. Tell Jesus, or Momma Mary, or your favorite saint, or Guardian Angel (or all 4) to present it to God as a sacrifice for ______________ : sinners, your own sins, those who die today, for the repose of the souls in purgatory, or &c. Make it a prayer.
Faith transforms suffering from mindless, unending pain, to shouldering a burden for a brother.
I like knowing that I have a new saint-friend who can inspire me beyond the hiking trips and daily Mass attendance, but also in looking at how to suffer with the impoverish in a spiritual manner.