Lent, Suffering, and the Death that Brings Life

Lent is here, and quite frequently the weather suits the sombre tone of the season. Ashen gray skies and the bare reaching arms of trees create an atmosphere that is at once stark and solemn.

Yet this season is not entirely bleak or without hope. Warmer days replete with sunshine break up the gloom, and bird songs welcome the green buds shooting forth from once barren trees. Green grass breaks forth in clumps among the coarse and yellowed remnants of the year before. Spring is a time of death mingling with new life—the dormant world waking up with a lingering yawn.

It would be difficult to imagine a time more suited to the Lenten season, in which we remember the death of Christ, but also look forward to his glorious resurrection. It is a time when we remember the death that brings new Life. For the great paradox at the heart of Christianity is that a Death was the remedy for death. It was in losing his life that Christ brought new life to the world.

…. Catholic theology operates on the idea of participation. That is, Christ came to earth and died on the cross, not so that we could avoid death and suffering, but so that he could transform the inevitability of death and suffering from the inside out. By communion with him, by participation in his cross, we could receive eternal life.

After all, what is the fate of each and every human being? Death. It is the great equalizer. No matter how rich, famous, beautiful, or healthy we are, we will all die sooner or later. Death is the consequence of sin, for sin is a movement away from God who is Life itself. Sin is therefore by definition non-Life. It is death by its nature. And because our first parents chose sin, death is the fate of every human being.

Our enemy was gleeful at our demise. He meant for our death to be eternal, and for our physical death to be the gateway into eternal doom. But Christ came and changed all that. He embraced death and death could not hold him. He transformed it from the inside out, changing it from the gateway to eternal death to that of eternal life. In the words of the Byzantine liturgy, “He trampled down death by death.”

Put another way, Christ did not suffer and die so that we do not have to—he suffered and died so that our suffering and death could be transubstantiated into a means of life. He embraced the cross not to keep us from it, but so that our crosses could be changed from instruments of death into healing remedies that bring life.

As baptized Christians, we are members of the body of Christ. We are incorporated into him and we live in communion with him. This communion means that we share in his life—not by making some act of intellectual assent, but by living his life after him. And living his life after him requires carrying the cross after him and sharing in his death. The cross is the price of eternal life.

This is the meaning of Jesus when he said, “Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” Could there be any clearer sign that he did not come to keep us from the cross? No, rather he came to transform our crosses into the means of life.

Having been instructed by Christ himself, St. Paul understood this well. “I die daily.” “I have been crucified with Christ.” “God forbid that I should glory save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.” “The cross is foolishness to them that are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God and the Wisdom of God.” The cross was always in his heart and on his lips, for it was to him, as it is for us all, the means of eternal life.

Suffering is inevitable. To varying degrees, we will all suffer. And with a similar certainty, we will all die. It could be said that a cross lies at the heart of human existence. But the cross need not be a fate to be feared. Our Lord trampled down death by death. In the greatest paradox of all, he changed death into a means of life. What was once our doom is now our salvation.

“You must accept your cross,” said the holy St. John Vianney, “If you bear it courageously it will carry you to heaven.” This Lent, let us not fear or flee the cross, but carry it with love and with hope, as the means not of death but of eternal life.


(c) Sam Guzman | Link | Note: The entire article is available in the given link.

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Saints’ Quotes for Trials and Sufferings

Sufferings include not only the difficulties of daily labours, but also holy inconvenience like self-denial, self-sacrifice, patience, humility, and obedience.

In no particular rank.

1. “Fire cannot last long in water, nor can a shameful thought in a heart that loves God. For every man who loves God suffers gladly, and voluntary suffering is by nature the enemy of sensual pleasure.” -St. Mark the Ascetic

2. “Be very careful to retain peace of heart, because Satan casts his lines in troubled waters.” -St. Paul of the Cross

3. “If you purify your soul of attachment to and desire for things, you will understand them spiritually. If you deny your appetite for them, you will enjoy their truth, understanding what is certain in them.” -St. John of the Cross

4. “Do not put faith in constant happiness, and fear most when all smiles upon you.” -St. Ignatius of Loyola

5. “Patience obtains everything.” -St. Teresa of Avila

6. “Do not look forward to what might happen tomorrow; the same Everlasting Father Who cares for you today will take care of you tomorrow and every day. Either He will shield you from suffering or He will give you unfailing strength to bear it. Be at peace, then, and put aside all anxious thoughts and imaginations.” -St. Francis de Sales

7. “If you attach your heart to certain places and occupations, obedience oftentimes places you in some other place that you may not like; to be always cheerful, be always humble and obedient.” -St. Ignatius of Loyola

8. “When harmed, insulted or persecuted by someone, do not think of the present but wait for the future, and you will find he has brought you much good, not only in this life but also in the life to come.” -St. Mark the Ascetic

9. “Nothing great is ever achieved without much enduring.” -St. Catherine of Siena

10. “No man discovers anything big if he does not make himself small.” -Ven. Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen

11. “Don’t say: ‘That person gets on my nerves.’ Think: ‘That person sanctifies me.'” -St. Josemaria Escriva

12. “We put pride into everything like salt. We like to see that our good works are known. If our virtues are seen, we are pleased; if our faults are perceived, we are sad. I remark that in a great many people; if one says anything to them, it disturbs them, it annoys them. The saints were not like that—they were vexed if their virtues were known, and pleased that their imperfections should be seen.” -St. Jean Marie Baptiste Vianney

13. “Place your hopes in the mercy of God and the merits of our Redeemer; say often, looking at the crucifix: There are centered all my hopes.” -St. Paul of the Cross

14. “The greater and more persistent your confidence in God, the more abundantly you will receive all that you ask.” -St. Albert the Great

15. “Be gentle to all and stern with yourself.” -St. Teresa of Avila

16. “Obedience is the complete renunciation of one’s own soul, demonstrated, however, by actions. More exactly, it is the death of the senses in a living soul. Obedience is a freely chosen death, a life without cares, danger without fears, unshakable trust in God, no fear of death. It is a voyage without perils, a journey in your sleep. Obedience is the burial of the will and the resurrection of humility. Obedience is to give up one’s own judgement but to do it with wise consultation. It is very costly, beginning to die to the will and the senses. To continue dying is hard but not indefinitely so. In the end all aversion stops and absolute peace takes command.” -St. John Climacus

17. “It was pride that changed angels into devils; it is humility that makes men as angels.” -St. Augustine

18. “Suffering is the very best gift He has to give us. He gives it only to His chosen friends.” -St. Therese of Lisieux

19. “Blessed the one who continually humbles himself willingly; he will be crowned by the One who willingly humbled himself for our sake.” -St. Ephrem of Syria

20. “When we have to reply to anyone who has insulted us, we should be careful to do it always with gentleness. A soft answer extinguishes the fire of wrath.” -St. Alphonsus Maria de Liguori

21. “Humility if the true guardian of chastity.” -St. Philip Neri

22. “God sends such purgations to you, directors of consciences, that you may acquire the science of the saints and the art of directing souls. You will suffer also in another way. Love will be your executioner. Let it do its work; it knows how. In this martyrdom we have need of extraordinary grace and strength; but God will bestow it. Without this divine help it would be impossible to bear up.” -St Paul of the Cross

23. “We must submit to the Will of God and kiss the hand that strikes us, for we know it is better to suffer in this life than in the next, since one moment of suffering willingly accepted for the love God, is worth an eternity of happiness.” -St. Margaret Mary Alacoque

24. “The more the intellect withdraws from bodily cares, the more clearly it sees the craftiness of the enemy.” -St. Mark the Ascetic

25. “They who load us with insults and ignominies give us the means of acquiring treasures more precious than any that man can gain in this life.” -St. Ignatius of Loyola

26. “We should let God be the One to praise us and not praise ourselves.” -Pope St. Clement I

27. “If humble souls are contradicted, they remain calm; if they are calumniated, they suffer with patience; if they are little esteemed, neglected, or forgotten, they consider that their due; if they are weighed down with occupations, they perform them cheerfully.” -St. Vincent de Paul

28. “Do you wish to rise? Begin by descending.” -St. Augustine

29. “Humility is the mother of many virtues because from it obedience, fear, reverence, patience, modesty, meekness and peace are born.” -St. Thomas of Villanova

30. “Consider the outcome of every involuntary affliction, and you will find it has been the destruction of sin.” -St. Mark the Ascetic

31. “I often thought my constitution would never endure the work I had to do, (but) the Lord said to me: ‘Daughter, obedience gives strength.'” -St. Teresa of Avila

32. “Don’t give in to discouragement. If you are discouraged it is a sign of pride because it shows you trust in your own powers. Never bother about people’s opinions. Be obedient to truth. For with humble obedience, you will never be disturbed.” -Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta

33. “As iron is fashioned by fire and on the anvil, so in the fire of suffering and under the weight of trials, our souls receive that form which our Lord desires them to have.” -St. Madeleine Sophie Barat

34. “Whenever anything disagreeable or displeasing happens to you, remember Christ crucified and be silent.” -St. John of the Cross

35. “If God sends you many sufferings, it is a sign that He has great plans for you and certainly wants to make you a saint.” -St. Ignatius of Loyola

36. “Suffering is a great grace; through suffering the soul becomes like the Saviour; in suffering love becomes crystallised; the greater the suffering, the purer the love.” -St. Faustina

37. “Trials are nothing else but the forge that purifies the soul of all its imperfections.” -St. Mary Magdalen de Pazzi

38. “Never be in a hurry; do everything quietly and in a calm spirit. Do not lose your inner peace for anything whatsoever, even if your whole world seems upset.” -St. Francis de Sales

39. “Be at peace with your own soul, then heaven and earth will be at peace with you.” -St. Jerome

40. “She who desires peace must see, suffer and be silent.” -St. Teresa Margaret

41. “He who knows how to forgive prepares for himself many graces from God. As often as I look upon the cross, so often will I forgive with all my heart.” -St. Faustina

42. “Peace is not just the absence of war. Like a cathedral, peace must be constructed patiently and with unshakable faith.” -Blessed Pope John Paul II

43. “The greatest greatest honor God can do for a soul is not to give it much, but to ask much of it.” -St. Therese of Lisieux

44. “We always find that those who walked closest to Christ were those who had to bear the greatest trials.” -St. Teresa of Avila

45. “When it is all over you will not regret having suffered; rather you will regret having suffered so little, and suffered that little so badly.” -St. Sebastian Valfre

46. “Suffering borne in the will quietly and patiently is a continual, very powerful prayer before God.” -St. Jane Frances de Chantal

47. “Thank God I am deemed worthy to be hated by the world.” -St. Jerome

48. “It is good to think about our having our citizenship in Heaven and the saints of Heaven as our fellow citizens…Then it is easier to bear the things that are on Earth.” -St. Edith Stein

49. “The angels and the saints rejoice at the sight of men on earth who struggle, suffer and labor for the love of Christ.” -Blessed Rafel Arnaiz Baron

50. “He that rises after his falls, with confidence in God and profound humility of heart, will become, in God’s hands, a proper instrument for the accomplishment of great things; but he who acts otherwise can never do any good.” -St. Paul of the Cross


http://bentbow.blogspot.com/2012/10/top-50-saints-quotes-for-trials-and.html

You were chosen to be a saint

by  Fr. Steve Grunow

Today the Church celebrates the Solemnity of All Saints. The Saints are the great heroes of our Faith. The Church describes a Saint as a person of “heroic virtue”.   This means that while many Christians might be willing to settle for lackluster accomplishments as disciples, the Saints engage their relationship with the Lord Jesus vigorous creativity and absolute dedication. Most often, the work of the Saints will go unnoticed and unseen. Saints are not celebrities, and those Saints who capture the attention of the world, view that renown as the imposition of a cross.

Most Saints will disappear into the mission of the Church.

In heaven, we will know the profound impact thousands of hidden Saints had on our lives, but here on earth, as I said, most of the Saints move about and work among us, and do so for the most part unnoticed and unseen.

The work of the Saints is not completed with their deaths. The Saints know better than most Christians that life here in this world is not merely an end in itself, but a means by which God prepares us for a greater and more important mission in heaven. No one who is in Heaven is indolent. Heaven is not a place of indifference to this world but one of interaction and intercession. This means that the Saints continue their mission as disciples of the Lord Jesus, supporting and sustaining the Church, acting to help and support all the baptized.

The first scripture for today’s Mass of All Saints is an excerpt from the New Testament Book of Revelation. The Book of Revelation is one of the most mysterious, complex, and misunderstood books of the Bible. It is a theological commentary on events from the past, present and future and it communicates important spiritual insights through fantastic images and symbols. The common impression is that the Book of Revelation is about the end of the world, and as such people are often terrified by its content.

But, properly understood, the Book of Revelation is not simply frightening, but reassuring, as it foresees the victory of God in Christ over all the dark powers, worldly and otherworldly that oppose him.

The Book of Revelation is not simply about the end of the world, but the beginning of a new world in which the great enemies of God, and therefore the enemies of humanity are defeated by the power of God in Christ. These enemies are sin, death and the devil.

The conflict between the dark powers of sin, death and the devil has consequences for the Church as it engages her mission in the world. The Church is opposed as Christ was opposed. The Church suffers as Christ suffered. And in all this, the Saints are on the front lines of the battle.

The Book of Revelation displays all that I just described in symbolic or metaphorical terms. What you heard about was a vast assembly of people from all over the world, clothed in white, who proclaim the coming victory of God in Christ. Who are these people? The text tells us- they are Christians whose heroism was revealed in their willingness to be killed rather than renounce their Christian Faith or cooperate with the dark powers.

Thus, our first scripture for today is about a particular kind of Saint- the martyr. We live even right now in an age of martyrs as multitudes of Christians in Asia, Africa, and the Middle East are persecuted and killed because they are disciples of the Lord Jesus. We might think that the greatest challenge to the Church today is whether or not we should conform to secular values, but far more important than this is the brutal fact that for millions of Christians, professing and practicing the Christian Faith can cost you not just your livelihood, but also your very life.

On this day when the Church celebrates the Saints, it would be good for us to remember, that what is demanded of us as followers of the Lord Jesus is often times far less than what it demanded of others.

We are not compelled by circumstances to die for our Faith in Christ, but are we willing to live for it? If our sacrifice is not to be that of a martyr, what is the sacrifice we will offer?

Our second scripture is a brief passage from the First Letter of John, in which the evangelist articulates an important insight about our identity as Christians. We are not as Christians merely members of a faith-based social club, an ethnic or cultural association, political action committee, or supporters of a 501C3 non-for-profit initiative. In the words of Pope Francis, the Church is not an “NGO”- a non-governmental social service organization.

What are we then? The evangelist John tells us- we are the children of God.

This means that God has made us in Christ his beloved children, and just as children are an expression of their parents love, so too Christians are meant to be for the world an expression of God in Christ’s love.

Being a child of God, means aspiring to be like the One who is revealed to be God’s only beloved Son- Jesus Christ. Being a child of God is not just some privileged title, but a responsibility, an identity, a mission that a Christian accepts. The Christian, as a child of God, is meant to be an expression to others of Christ himself. Thus, when a Christian is baptized, he or she is proclaimed to be what is termed an “alter Christus”, that literally means “another Christ”.

The Saints are expressions of Christ-likeness par excellence. The Saints “re-present” Christ to us and through the Saints Christ acts and introduces himself to us. Saints are not just nice, friendly people who do good things for society, but they are Christians who aspiring to serve Christ as disciples, are given the gift of becoming ever more and more like him.

And that observation brings me to an important clarification: when a Christian is baptized, what is happening to that person is not just inclusion into a community. No!

What happens when a Christian is baptized is that person is chosen as Christ to be like him- a person is chosen by Christ to be a Saint. The realization of your life as a Christian is not simply that you become a member of a faith based club or matriculate through faith-based institutions, but that you become a Saint. That’s what Baptism is all about, indeed, that’s what the Sacraments are about, indeed what the whole life of the Church is about. Being a Christian is about being chosen by Christ to be a Saint. “You have not chosen Christ, he has chosen you!” You will never begin to understand what the Christian life is all about until you understand this universal summons to holiness, this summons to be a Christian, which is God in Christ choosing you to be a Saint!

Finally, in his Gospel, the Lord Jesus presents what are known as “The Beatitudes”- a proclamation of those who are truly blessed by God and who enjoy God’s favor.

In worldly terms the blessing of God, the favor of God is many times construed in categories of worldly success or exemption from the harder facts of human existence. Some consider God’s blessing to being the recipient of prosperity and wealth, talent and good looks, power and prestige. God’s favor happens, according to some, when they are exempt from having to suffer or to struggle. Christ the Lord upends these kinds of expectations, and declares that the blessing of God and the favor of God is given, not to those who have the most, but those who have the least; not to those whom the world esteems as successful, but to those who seem to the world to have failed; not to those who have power, but to those who seem to have no power at all; not to those whom the world considers to be significant or influential, but to those who go mostly unnoticed and unappreciated.

In other words, in his Beatitudes, God in Christ announces a revolution!

Blessing is not getting what we want, but having the opportunity to give to others what they truly need. God’s favor is not an exemption from the hard facts of life, but God’s favor is found within the hard facts of life.

The Saints will exemplify in their lives the Beatitudes of the Lord Jesus, their blessing and favor will look like the strange blessing and favor that the Lord Jesus describes. The Saints will not only exemplify the Beatitudes in the decisions they make about the way they live, but also in whom they will seek to serve and choose to associate with. The Saints will seek the company of the kinds of people that Christ describes in his Beatitudes.

Consider the decisions you have made about your life. Have these decisions made you a person whose life looks like the life described in the Beatitudes? Consider the people with whom you associate and whom you esteem. Are these people like the people described in the Beatitudes?

And in our answers to these questions is the challenge for all of us would be saints, saints in the making- do our decisions make of us men and women of the Beatitudes? How many of the people that we seek the company of and consider to be our friends look and live like the kinds of people Christ describes as being truly deserving of his blessing and favor?


Link:

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Beatitudes of St. Thomas More: the taste of life

• Happy are those who know how to laugh at themselves, because they will always end up having fun.
• Happy are those who know how to distinguish a mountain from a pebble, because you will avoid many (worse) problems.
• Happy are those who know how to rest and sleep without looking for excuses because they will be wise.
• Happy are those who know how to listen and shut up, because they will learn new things.
• Happy are those who are intelligent enough, so as not to take themselves too seriously, because it will be appreciated by those around them.
• Happy are those who are attentive to the needs of others, without being critical, for they shall be distributors of joy.
• Happy are those who know how to look seriously at the little things and be quiet big things, because you will go far in life.
• Happy are those who know how to appreciate a smile and forget looks of contempt, because his path will be full of sunshine.
• Happy are those who think before acting and pray before you think, because many things are unpredictable.
• Happy are you if you know how to shut up and smile when you hear calumny against you for it contradicts what they say because it indicates that the gospel has penetrated your heart.

(c) St. Francis of Assisi – Poverello

 

Face your Monsters

By Bo Sanchez

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Once upon a time, a family of frogs lived in a broken-down well.

They lived in isolation, content with their tiny puddle of water.  Sometimes, it got murky and crowded, but no frog dared to leave home.  Why?  Whenever someone would dare leave, everyone would warn him, “There are monsters outside!”

And so for many generations, these frogs were stuck in their little world.

Until one day, a little frog had a dream—to live outside the well.  In his mind, he saw a big pond of water.  Lots of open space.  The vision excited him so much.

He would tell his friends about his dream, but they would tell him: “We had a great-great-great grand uncle who went out and never returned!  He must have been gobbled up by the monsters!”

But the little frog didn’t see the monsters.

He only saw his dream of a big pond.

Finally, he made up his mind.  Without any warning, the little frog jumped as high as he could.  He landed on top of the well.  All his friends below shouted, “Come back!  You’ll be eaten alive!”  But the little frog hopped out.

And what he saw blew his mind.  Almost right beside the well wasn’t a big pond.  Instead, it was a giant lake—a million times bigger than their tiny puddle.

Friends, face your monsters.

Many of us are trapped in our little worlds because of fear.

God has bigger blessings in store for you outside your walls.

How did the frog jump out of the well?   Before he saw the lake with his eyes, he already saw the lake within him.  He felt it in his heart.

What you see with your heart today, you will see with your eyes tomorrow.