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.


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



SCRIPTURE READINGS: Isaiah 53:10-11; Psalm 32:4-5,18-20,22; Hebrews 4:14-16; Mark 10:35-45 (or >< 10:42-45)

One of the essays we have our young children write about in school is: “What is your ambition in life?”  Indeed, in asking this very important question, we are helping our young people to develop a clear direction in life.  If not, many of them would be studying without a goal and therefore without any motivation.  But ambition alone cannot make us happy or give us fulfillment because it tends to be inward-looking.  It is mainly about self, about amassing honour, status and material gains.  In the gospel, we read how the apostles of Jesus were fighting for positions to fulfill their ambition.  Their motives for following Jesus were no better than ours.  They wanted glory, power and honour.

Ambition is not only self-destructive but often leads us to jealousy, competition and even destruction of others.  It may move some to resort to slander to destroy their opponents in order to achieve their ambition.  It makes us see everyone as a threat and causes us to create enemies.  It fills us with anger and revengefulness, consuming us with thoughts of how to destroy our opponents and winning at all costs.  That was the way the other apostles reacted when James and John sought positions from Jesus.  The evangelist noted, “When the other ten heard this they began to feel indignant with James and John.”

Provoking jealousy does not help to bring peace and unity in our community.   Such a competitive spirit divides people.  Hence, ambition might not bring the desired outcomes of joy, love and unity for ourselves and those whom we work for.  Look at the office politics, not just in secular and corporate offices but even within the Church and in voluntary organizations. There is so much infighting, politicking, scrambling and competition for power, authority, and recognition.  So much so that much of our energy is expended on fending off our enemies, leaving us with not much energy left to employ our resources, skills and talents for the service of God and His people.  So we can fulfill and achieve our ambition, but at the cost of the loss of joy, peace and love.

That is why we must seek for something more than ambition.  We must be driven by higher and more sublime goals in life.   This is called vocation.  Only vocation can bring true happiness and fulfillment in life.  This is because we no longer work for ourselves but for others.  When our energy is no longer directed at ourselves, we have nothing to protect.   Instead, our energy is now directed towards others with a certain sense of detachment, doing all we can for their good.  When we expend all our energy in loving and serving, that energy is not only expansive but keeps on increasing from strength to strength.  Love makes love grow! Indeed, this is what the Lord said about the Suffering Servant, “By his sufferings shall my servant justify many, taking their faults on himself.”

Vocation, unlike ambition, is a call to serve God and humanity, rather ourselves.  Vocation is for the service of others before self.  The interests of those whom we serve come before ours.  Vocation is at the service of life and love.  This entails sacrificing ourselves for others.  Like the Suffering Servant who suffered for his people and for the Lord.  “The Lord has been pleased to crush his servant with suffering.”  Indeed, this is how Jesus saw Himself in His vocation and mission.  He said, “For the Son of Man himself did not come to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Vocation is servanthood.  Jesus instructed His disciples, “You know that among the pagans their so-called rulers lord it over them, and their great men make their authority felt. This is not to happen among you.”  Vocation is humble service, and being a servant and a slave to all.  Jesus said, “No; anyone who wants to become great among you must be your servant, and anyone who wants to be first among you must be slave to all.”   The greatness of a servant lies in the way he serves, humbly, selflessly and totally.

Vocation comes first and foremost as a call from God.  God has put into our hearts a passion for something.  Not only has He put this passion in our hearts, He also provides us the skills and the charisms for the vocation.  It is a call that begins from within before it comes from without.  Unless the Lord has already put that passion in us, regardless of what is without will not evoke in us.  In other words, God has planted the seed of our vocation even before we were born.  Hence, we know it is our vocation when what we are called to do is also matched by the skills and talents the Lord has blessed us with.  In responding to that call in us, we find peace and fulfillment.

However, this voice in us most of the time remains latent until it is stimulated by a voice that comes from without; from our loved ones, from society and from the Church.  Vocation comes from identification and solidarity with the suffering. Like the suffering servant, we are called to take upon the sufferings of others in our own bodies.  We are called to identify ourselves with them in their pain and sufferings and make them as our own so that we can grow in compassion and sympathy. This is what we read of how Jesus identified Himself with us sinners.  “For it is not as if we had a high priest who was incapable of feeling our weaknesses with us; but we have one who has been tempted in every way that we are, though he is without sin.”

It often entails vicarious suffering for others.  It is a great challenge. Vocation is not meant for the weak and the unenlightened.  Many want to do great things for God and for people, but do not have the capacity to suffer.  In moments of trials, they give up doing good.  That is why Jesus warned the disciples to think through carefully the demands of a vocation.  He said, “You do not know what you are asking.  Can you drink the cup that I must drink, or be baptised with the baptism with which I must be baptised? …  ‘The cup that I must drink you shall drink, and with the baptism with which I must be baptised you shall be baptized.”  We will not be exempted from suffering when doing good.  We will be misunderstood, ridiculed or even opposed by selfish people who are threatened by our good works.

Sacrificing for the greater good of the future and for humanity brings great blessings.  This is what the Lord says, “If he offers his life in atonement, he shall see his heirs, he shall have a long life and through him what the Lord wishes will be done.”  Indeed, the true reward of humble service and love is not honour and glory but the growth in our capacity to love, the experience of joy and peace.  This is what the Lord told His disciples, “but as for seats at my right hand or my left, these are not mine to grant; they belong to those to whom they have been allotted.”

It is within this context that we look at our vocation in life and our profession.  It is not enough to have a profession, but we must see our profession as our vocation.  Once we see our profession as more of a vocation, then our orientation and motive become different.  We feel empowered and our lives become very meaningful.  It is no longer work or simply as a means to make money, but a means to give life to others, to share our love and joy.  Regardless of whether we are priests, doctors, nurses, social workers, lawyers, etc, we are called to give life to others.

When our profession is one with our vocation, we live a life of integrity, peace and unity.  We become who we are and what we do.  Our message and work become our identity as well, when doing and being are one.  Only in this way, can we live an exemplary life in whatever profession we are in.  Jesus was able to walk the talk by being exemplary because His work is the expression of Himself.  The cause and the messenger are one.  It is not enough to exercise our skills and be competent in our profession, but we need to walk the talk and be good examples of what we teach and preach.

In the final analysis, we need His grace to live out our calling.  The author of Hebrews invites us, “Let us be confident, then, in approaching the throne of grace, that we shall have mercy from him and find grace when we are in need of help.”  On our own strength, we cannot live out this vocation of love because the demands on love are too overwhelming.  But if we turn to Him for strength by basking in His love and mercy for us, filled with gratitude, we can then continue to serve humbly and selflessly.

Written by The Most Rev William Goh
Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
© All Rights Reserved


(C) Sabbath; Based on the Readings for September 7, 2015 (Monday)

Just recently I talked to someone who told me the story of a couple who were in their car at the time of super typhoon Yolanda. The winds were dragging their car down the hill towards the creek. They would probably have drowned had not a large mango tree fell onto the bonnet of their new car and stopped it just in time. The couple praised God that their car had been destroyed by a mango tree as it meant they were now safe. So much of our attitude towards events can depend on our particular situation.

In the First Reading today, Paul tells us that even suffering can be used for good. God is so powerful that He can take even negative circumstances and turn them around if we have faith in Him. This is the mystery of suffering and what it means for our lives. If we have no faith in God, then suffering will be a meaningless experience and probably a negative thing for us. However, faith can transform and give new meaning to our painful experiences. This is not to say that we are going to enjoy suffering. However, we will get some satisfaction from our suffering if we know and trust that God is using them for something good. It is like having to undergo an operation in order to save your life from a particular ailment. Through the pain comes healing and a new opportunity for life.

Let us meditate on passages like this one to change our perspectives in life for the better. God does not want us to suffer uselessly and without reason. In fact, He does not want us to suffer at all. However, sin creates suffering to the point that we cannot avoid it. We need to accept suffering when we cannot avoid it, and pray that God will accept our offering of intercession for the sake of the Gospel.

Written by Fr. Steve Tynan, MGL


SCRIPTURE READINGS: Sir 42:15-25; MK 10:46-52

Link: http://www.catholic.org.sg/archbishop/scripture-reflection/

There is nothing more destructive of one’s happiness, fulfillment and meaning in life than living an aimless life.  Without direction, there is no motivation to live, to carry on in life.  Of course, we also need proper directions, since choosing the wrong road will also lead us to destruction even though we may have goals in life.  Nevertheless, those who seek life by choosing the wrong paths will one day also be lost.  Hence, whether we have no direction or are misdirected in life, we are just like the Blind Beggar, Bartimaeus, sitting at the side of the road waiting in hope that we will be able to see the road which we should take again. But how can we ever recover our direction in life if we have lost it or are now without it?  Do we simply drift on and wait passively, hoping that things would change?  This is certainly not the way of faith but of despair.  Indeed, if we truly want God to enlighten us, then we must co-operate in this journey of faith.  How?

Firstly, we are told that while waiting, Bartimaeus kept his ears open.  Now, it is certainly true that even when we are lost, God never fully abandons us.  We know that even if we have lost our physical eyesight, nature will compensate our blindness by strengthening the other faculties that are still working.  In the same way too, if we have lost our direction in life and we cannot see where we are going, then we need to listen to the prompting of the Spirit who speaks to us.  Like Bartimaeus, when we have lost our own vision, then we must be ready to listen to the guidance of others and see whether they can help us to find our vision.  And the guidance can come from all directions.  Indeed, this was what Blind Bartimaeus did.  Instead of simply sitting down, he must have been extremely attentive to who were passing by.  He must have heard countless numbers of people sharing their visions.  But when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, the one that people had talked about, he called out to Him.

Secondly, after listening and discerning, we must be like blind Bartimaeus to call out for help.  We must be humble enough to seek for assistance.  The problem with many of us is that even if we have listened and the Holy Spirit has enlightened us to a certain extent regarding our predicament, yet many of us are too proud to seek for help.  We prefer to resolve the problem by ourselves.  We are not willing to be led, counseled and inspired by others.  Humility therefore is the necessary element of recovering our direction in life.  Without humility, we cannot expect to learn or be enlightened in the truth.  Truly, if Blind Bartimaeus had simply sat quietly by the roadside, nobody would have noticed that he was there.  Isn’t it true for many of us?  We complain that God does not care and our friends do not care, when it is because no one knows we are in trouble or need assistance, since we are too proud to cry out for help.

Thirdly, we must reckon that this humility which we speak about is a humility that will be tested by the obstacles we face in the process of responding.  For Blind Bartimaeus, when he tried to seek for help, he was humiliated by the crowd.  They scolded him and told him to keep quiet.  They must have given Bartimaeus the feeling that he was a nobody, a goner.  Jesus certainly would not have time for him.  He was not important to society.  They had given up hope on him.  But we are told that in spite of such negative support and discouragement, Blind Bartimaeus shouted all the louder.  Yes, the humility of Bartimaeus and his sincerity in seeking the true meaning in life gave him the courage and perseverance to use every means to seek for true liberation.

We, too, like Blind Bartimaeus, must not allow wet blankets to kill our enthusiasm and efforts in trying to find our direction and meaning in life.  Once we have heard and discerned what we want to do, we must pluck up our courage and fight on the battle.  Once we are clear of our goals and what we want in life, the obstacles, be they personal or from external forces, should not overwhelm us and kill our vision of life.  Indeed, Jesus took notice.   Just as Jesus called Bartimaeus to Him because of his perseverance, determination and humility, He will also call us to Him if we remain firm in our beliefs and convictions.  Then again if we open our ears wide enough, then we will know that God has sent people into our lives to encourage us.  Indeed, there were some who said to Bartimaeus, “Courage, get up, he is calling you.”   He too is saying these words to us through our friends, or when we read the Word of God, “Courage.”

Fourthly, in our journey of growth, if we take courage, then we must get up as the gospel tells us and throw off our cloak just as Blind Bartimaeus did.  The evangelist told us that he threw off his cloak, “jumped up and went to Jesus.”   Yes, Blind Bartimaeus let go of the very thing that he had hung on to.  It was an act of faith, a leap of faith indeed.  It was this cloak that had burdened him.  It was this cloak that he could not give up, that cloak which seemed to have offered him protection but actually had blinded him.  We too must ask ourselves what is this cloak that we need to get rid of?  Is it the cloak of sin, the cloak of fear, the cloak of pride, the cloak of insecurity, the cloak of narrow-mindedness, the cloak of attachment?  Whatever it is, if we search deep enough into ourselves, we know that it is because we are hanging to our cloaks that we are not liberated.  We do not have the courage to let go for fear that we might be worse off.

But faith requires us to let go.  Jesus requires us to get rid of the cloak that hinders us from seeing life rightly.  But the moment we take the leap of faith and trust in Jesus and take the challenge, then everything comes to perspective and clarity.  This was what happened to Blind Bartimaeus.  He was able to see again.  But we must note what Jesus said to him, “Go, your faith has saved you.”  And the evangelist wrote, “And immediately his sight returned.”  Yes, it is the courage to let go of our past and sin; and the faith to trust in Jesus that allows us to see life clearly again.  Without faith in Jesus and the promises He holds for us, we cannot see like the Blind Man. It is only a man of faith that can see the glory of God in creation, as Sirach in the first reading so beautifully illustrated. Only faith can help us to see God’s design in our lives.

Finally, with sight comes direction and life.  Yes, we are told that Blind Bartimaeus did not simply regain his sight, but he followed Jesus along the road.  Once he knew Jesus, he too understood his direction in life.  That is why we know that Blind Bartimaeus was truly healed.  He became a true disciple of Jesus.  Hence, true healing is not physical healing.  That is why some people who have been healed physically again and again are not happy because their healing is superficial, skin deep only.  It only brings temporal relief but no real lasting life and happiness.  But with faith, we will regain our true sight of life, which is manifested by our commitment to Jesus and our personal transformation as happened in the case of Blind Bartimaeus.  If a man claims to be healed of his sight, be it physical or spiritual, and yet does not manifest any transformation, then it is quite certain that no real enlightenment has taken place because the act of faith has not yet been made.  Once the act of faith is made, then we can see ourselves entering into a new world, the world of God, the world of wisdom, the world of marvels, as the author tells us in the first reading.

But in the final analysis, all these opportunities that knock at the door of our hearts would be of no avail if we do not take the courage to get up to open our closed doors and with faith take up the challenge of looking at life from the perspective of the gospel.  Because if we do, we can be certain that we will walk a new path and our lives will be rich and meaningful and full of gratitude and wonder, since in Christ we find the way, the truth and the life.

Written by The Most Rev William Goh
Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
© All Rights Reserved

St. Mary Magdalene de’ Pazzi

As I scan, I came across a tweet showing the photo of this saint. Inspiring story. In awe of the wondrous deeds the Lord has done to His beloved. 🙂 


From http://www.americancatholic.org/features/saints/saint.aspx?id=1393

Mystical ecstasy is the elevation of the spirit to God in such a way that the person is aware of this union with God while both internal and external senses are detached from the sensible world. Mary Magdalene de’ Pazzi was so generously given this special gift of God that she is called the “ecstatic saint.”

She was born into a noble family in Florence in 1566. The normal course would have been for Catherine de’ Pazzi to have married wealth and enjoyed comfort, but she chose to follow her own path. At nine she learned to meditate from the family confessor. She made her first Communion at the then-early age of 10 and made a vow of virginity one month later. When 16, she entered the Carmelite convent in Florence because she could receive Communion daily there.

Catherine had taken the name Mary Magdalene and had been a novice for a year when she became critically ill. Death seemed near so her superiors let her make her profession of vows from a cot in the chapel in a private ceremony. Immediately after, she fell into an ecstasy that lasted about two hours. This was repeated after Communion on the following 40 mornings. These ecstasies were rich experiences of union with God and contained marvelous insights into divine truths.

As a safeguard against deception and to preserve the revelations, her confessor asked Mary Magdalene to dictate her experiences to sister secretaries. Over the next six years, five large volumes were filled. The first three books record ecstasies from May of 1584 through Pentecost week the following year. This week was a preparation for a severe five-year trial. The fourth book records that trial and the fifth is a collection of letters concerning reform and renewal. Another book, Admonitions, is a collection of her sayings arising from her experiences in the formation of women religious.

The extraordinary was ordinary for this saint. She read the thoughts of others and predicted future events. During her lifetime, she appeared to several persons in distant places and cured a number of sick people.

It would be easy to dwell on the ecstasies and pretend that Mary Magdalene only had spiritual highs. This is far from true. It seems that God permitted her this special closeness to prepare her for the five years of desolation that followed when she experienced spiritual dryness. She was plunged into a state of darkness in which she saw nothing but what was horrible in herself and all around her. She had violent temptations and endured great physical suffering. She died in 1607 at 41, and was canonized in 1669.


Intimate union, God’s gift to mystics, is a reminder to all of us of the eternal happiness of union he wishes to give us. The cause of mystical ecstasy in this life is the Holy Spirit, working through spiritual gifts. The ecstasy occurs because of the weakness of the body and its powers to withstand the divine illumination, but as the body is purified and strengthened, ecstasy no longer occurs. On various aspects of ecstasy, see Teresa of Avila, Interior Castle, Chapter 5, and John of the Cross, Dark Night of the Soul, 2:1-2.


There are many people today who see no purpose in suffering. Mary Magdalene de’ Pazzi discovered saving grace in suffering. When she entered religious life she was filled with a desire to suffer for Christ during the rest of her life. The more she suffered, the greater grew her desire for it. Her dying words to her fellow sisters were: “The last thing I ask of you—and I ask it in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ—is that you love him alone, that you trust implicitly in him and that you encourage one another continually to suffer for the love of him.”