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A Meditation on Suffering

Ave Maria Meditations

from St. Maximilian Kolbe: AIM HIGHER


Intention


1. The perfection of every action depends on the perfection of our intention.

2. One acts and suffers everything joyfully for the Immaculata. Regardless of the unpleasantness we meet in life, let us accept all with the intention of strengthening our love toward the Immaculata.

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Suffering

Notwithstanding its being paved at times with crosses and sufferings, the way of the Immaculata is not so difficult, so dark, so unclear that we can always feel her motherly warmth. A cross consists of two pieces of wood, crossed at one point. In every day life our cross consists in our will crossing the will of God. In or­der to remove it, it is necessary to conform our­selves to the will of God. In practice it is necessary that we put off our own will. The saints did not understand life without suffering.for suffering for love nourishes love.

Let us not always wish to feel the sweetness of devotion to the Immaculata, for this would be spiritual greed. Let us permit her to direct us as it pleases her. It is not always time for sweet caresses, be they ever so holy. We also need the trials of dry­ness, abandonment and the like. Let her fit the means to our sanctification according to her will. We must have one quality, continually deepening it: allow­ing ourselves to be led by her, reconciling ourselves to her will ever more perfectly, giving obedience to her will by religious obedience.


Whoever in life strives to avoid crosses as much as possible and does not mortify himself in anything does not know what happiness is. Whoever is capable of suffering much for love can be happy that his love is deep. As the harvest is a period of the farmer’s great­est efforts in gathering the crops into barns and storerooms, so also the soul’s harvest is the time in which it can gather for itself as many priceless merits as possible; these are the moments pregnant with suffering and the cross.


If God visits us with a painful suffering and our soul walks the thorny path, it behooves us to rejoice that God destines us for high perfection. God exhibits a special love for those whom he chastises in this life, because the punishment of purgatory is both long and severe. In this life the voluntary acceptance of crosses merits us an even greater glory in heaven. Hence the saying, “Whom God loves he chastises.”

The more powerful and courageous a soul becomes with the help of God’s grace, the greater the cross God places on its shoulders, so that it might mirror as closely as possible the image of the crucified in its own life. We will lay up so many more graces if, while in external and internal darkness, full of sadness, overworked, suffering, without consolation, per­secuted at every step, amidst continual failures, abandoned by everyone, ridiculed, alone-just as Jesus on the cross-we shall pray for everyone and strive in all ways to draw everyone to God through the lmmaculata and unite them to him as inti­mately as possible.


Temptations and trials befall the soul when it is abandoned and plunged into spiritual darkness; when it as it were hangs upon the cross without respite and consolation, after the pattern of Jesus crucified, and in spite of this, with the help of God’s grace peacefully and joyously received and bears this cross even for a long time: this is true perfection. A soul cannot imag­ine to what great heights it rises and what a great glory God is preparing for it in heaven. When love encompasses and penetrates us, sacrifices become necessary for the soul.

Spiritual joy is born of sacrifice.


When we become tired, when it is hard for us, let us go to the Mother of God with greater confidence so that she will help us. And always, always forward, so as to fulfil the will of the Immaculata better and better. Suffering and sacrifice are the proofs of love, although suffering itself is not the essence of love. Without sacrifice there is no love. Sacrifice the senses, especially the eyes, particularly when one goes out of the cloister among lay people. The same can be said of taste, of hearing and so on.

In case of difficulties, confide them to the Immaculata, that she do with them what she pleases: remove them, lessen them, increase them or leave them without change. Difficulties, no matter how great, ought never disturb us, but they should on the contrary strengthen and steel our will in the direction to overcome these same difficulties.

When the most varied temptations, trials befall the soul; when it is abandoned and plunged into spiritual darkness; when it as it were hangs upon the cross without respite and consolation, after the pattern of Jesus crucified, and in spite of this, with the help of God’s grace peacefully and joyously receives and bears this cross even for a long time: this is true perfection. A soul cannot imag­ine to what great heights it rises and what a great glory God is preparing for it in heaven. When love encompasses and penetrates us, sacrifices become necessary for the soul.

Let us remember that love lives and nourishes itself on sacrifices. Let us thank the Immaculata for interior peace and for the exalta­tion of love, but let us not forget that all this, how­ever good and beautiful, is not as it were the es­sence of love. Without all of this love can exist, and even a perfect love. Love’s summit is the state in which Jesus on the cross said, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”


Although storms rage around us often and thunder resounds, if we are unreservedly dedi­cated to the Immaculata we can be sure that noth­ing will happen to us as long as our best and dear­est mother will not allow it. We shall rest sweetly as we labor and suffer for the salvation of souls.


Crosses may overwhelm us, but the grace of God, having warmed our hearts, will inflame them with such love that we will bum with the desire of suffering, of suffering without bounds, of humili­ations, mockery, abandonment. Thus we will show how we love the Father and our best friend Jesus and his dearest Immaculate Mother. For suffering is the school of love. What peace and happiness will penetrate us on our deathbed to know that we have much, very much toiled and suffered for the Immaculata.

The mercy of Christ is not a cheap grace; it does not presume a trivialization of evil. Christ carries in his body and on his soul all the weight of evil, and all its destructive force. He burns and transforms evil through suffering, in the fire of his suffering love. The day of vindication and the year of favor meet in the paschal mystery, in Christ died and risen. This is the vindication of God: he himself, in the person of the Son, suffers for us. The more we are touched by the mercy of the Lord, the more we draw closer in solidarity with his suffering – and become willing to bear in our flesh “what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ” (Col 1, 24).

-Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger

So That We May Be Glorified

“The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if only we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.” (Rom 8: 16-17)

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The experience of the action of the Holy Spirit extends more widely than prayer. There are times when we rejoice in dying to self, in suffering for the Gospel, in loving and forgiving when we have no capacity for such love. All of this is an unmistak­able experience of the movement of the Holy Spirit within us. Imag­ine: God himself, the Holy Spirit, is actually at work in us to bring us to eternal life! As these things happen to us and we yield to them, we are granted a tiny glimpse of the work of the Spirit in the great saints and martyrs. We are not alone, my friends; the Spirit of God is with us and in us and raises our small capacities beyond them­selves so that we live and act, think and feel, like children of God.

This, then, is his witness along with our own spirit that we are in fact the very adopted children of the Father, loved by him and heirs to all his treasures. What does it mean to be an heir of God? It means that God plans to give us everything except his own divinity, and even then he has made us sharers “in the divine nature” (2 Pt 1: 4) so that we live eternally, body and soul, by the direct gift the Trinity makes of himself to us. If only we suffer with Jesus, join him in the pain of dying to sin, and in bearing the burden of those who have yet to hear the Gospel. There is no one on earth who does not suffer yet how many have the privilege of offering. Their daily pains, their efforts to die to sin, and even the great sufferings that come in life, in such a way that others can draw life from these? This is the privilege of the baptized. We suffer with him so that we may be glorified with him.


The presence of suffering causes us fear and revulsion, as it did you as well, Jesus, in your agony in the garden. You embraced your vocation with the power of the Holy Spirit and the presence and suffering of your Mother. Teach us what it means to suffer with to love with you, and to know the support of Mary, looking forward in hope to the joy set before us. Mary, Mother of God, identify my spirit with every movement of your own.

Fr. Francis Martin