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Mar 8 – St. Maximilian – Small Crosses are Wellsprings of Grace

By March 8, 2008April 30th, 2008Fr. Ignatius Manfredonia, St. Maximilian Daily

Ave Maria!March’s Theme: Suffering

“To assist us in our activity for the good of souls, God permits small crosses of various kinds, depending on or independent of the will of others, coming from or not from, an upright will. This is an immense field of innumerable wellsprings of grace which must be utilized.” (SK #925)

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  • James Hastings says:

    Hi,
    With regard to your views on suffering:
    I wonder if you believe throughout His life (and I am not referring to his Passion) if Jesus suffered? Did He suffer from illness, sickness or disability? Did Jesus experience headaches or depression or any kind of illness?
    If he didn’t, why should we?

    Blessings

    James

  • Coletta says:

    Hi,

    I do not want to address whether or not Jesus suffered the things you mentioned, I will leave that to someone else.

    We suffer many things because we have sinned. We also suffer from the sins of others, because God gives us all free will. We also suffer from the wounds of the original sin.

  • James Hastings says:

    Hi,

    Where does healing come in all of this theology of suffering?

    James

  • Fr. Ignatius says:

    Dear James,

    According to the Saints (St. Alphonsus, St. Margaret of Cortona) our Lord suffered from the moment of His conception until the consummation on the Cross. St. Alphonsus writes, “Consider that all the sufferings and ignominy that Jesus endured in his life and death, all were present to him from the first moment of his life, ‘My sorrow is continually before me’ (Ps. 37:18)… beginning even then to fulfill His office of Redeemer.” The Saint explains that Jesus suffered an unspeakable sorrow due to men’s sins, the offence thus given to the Father, and the evil procured by souls, especially those who would “trample under foot His blood and despise His grace”, dying impenitent.

    I am not sure whether or not our Lord suffered from sickness during His life. I don’t recall having read anything in any Church documents or in the writings of the Saints but I suppose one could make an argument for it basing himself on Is. 53:4, “Surely he has borne our sicknesses and carried our pains” and Heb. 4:15, “For we have not a high priest who cannot have compassion on our infirmities: but one tempted in all things like as we are, without sin.”

    As for healing, the Catechism says, “Life and physical health are precious gifts entrusted to us by God. We must take reasonable care of them, taking into account the needs of others and the common good.” (#2288) Note that it says “reasonable” care. Our health, though a good, is not an absolute good.(cf. Catechism #2289) It is always subordinate to our, and our neighbors, spiritual good. The Council of Trent, in treating of Extreme Unction, states, “…the liturgy has never failed to beg the Lord that the sick person may recover his health if it would be conducive to his salvation.” (cf. Catechism #1512)

    Some other useful resources for you may be John Paul II’s “Salvifici Doloris” (1984) and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s “Instruction on Prayers for Healing” dated Sept. 14, 2000.

    In the Immaculate,

    Fr. Ignatius

  • James Hastings says:

    Dear Fr Ignatius,

    I’m sure you believe sickness entered the world through one man, Adam. But Jesus was not affected by the Fall. How could sickness therefore affect Jesus?
    As the result of the Fall, the natural world became unnatural.
    Jesus was tempted but did not sin; cancer approached Jesus,but it gained no stronghold. I believe Jesus suffered horribly in His Passion and on the cross; but to say sickness or illness took control of Jesus before His terrible Passion, would be akin to saying Jesus gave in to temptation. He did not. Therefore He did not suffer sickness, back pain, cancer, TB, ingrown toenails or dandruff.
    As for healing; well, have a look at what Fr Bob deGrandis says. He suggests the Catholic church has a huge theology on suffering but not on healing and that is an imbalance.
    I can’t recall any Scripture where Jesus said to someone: “You know, I could heal you but it is better you suffer and offer up that suffering. ”
    Jesus healed 10 lepers but only one returned to give praise; but Jesus still healed ten!
    Its not a case of us asking God to heal; it is more a case of God giving us the power of proxy to heal in Jesus name. Whether or not we take up that power, is up to us.

    Blessings

    James

  • Fr. Ignatius says:

    Dear James,

    I am not ready to affirm that Jesus did in fact suffer sickness during His life but I do think someone could make an argument for it:

    1. Based on the Scripture passages I mentioned above.

    2. Based on the fact that our Lord did not suffer His Passion and Death because He had to, but because He wanted to. “They sought therefore to apprehend him: but no man laid hands on him, because his hour was not yet come.” (Jn. 7:30) and “No man taketh it (my life) away from me: but I lay it down of myself” (Jn. 10:18). He did this not out of necessity, but “ex caritate”, out of love; out of love for His Father (to fulfill His will), and out of love for His neighbor (to save us sinners).

    Similarly, it seems to me that one could argue that Jesus could have suffered sickness during His life, not as a consequence of Original Sin or personal sin (there was none), but “ex caritate”, out of love. All of this could be said as well for the Immaculate Coredemptrix.

    Suffering sickness is not the same as yielding to temptation. The first is a physical evil which can be meritorious, the second is a moral evil and is always demeritorious.

    I took a look at some of the titles and brief explanations of Fr. de Grandis’ books and I would agree in that I am not aware of any theology of healing as such. It also seemed that Fr. de Grandis’ books focused on spiritual healing, (i.e. growth in virtue especially that of forgiveness (mercy)), psychological healing (finding interior peace) which, of course, usually accompanies growth in holiness, but not so much on physical healing. Strictly speaking, only the first would pertain to theology and there is an abundance written on it.
    It isn’t clear to me the point you are making in the rest of your comment, starting from “I can’t recall…”; that God does not want us suffer? Are you referring to physical, psychological, or spiritual healing?

    God bless,

    Fr. Ignatius

  • James Hastings says:

    Hi Fr Ignatius,

    I was discussing this issue today with a Catholic friend. We both felt since Jesus was so much one with the Father, disease and sickness could have no hold on Him. If cancer did try to come upon Jesus, He has such close spiritual union with the Father, such deep authority and power, sickness simply could not ‘get a hold’ so to speak.
    That was how it was meant to be in Eden, but we lost it through the Fall. Jesus’ death and resurrection restored the original plan.
    Jesus’ time to be poor, sick or racked with disease, happened when He was on the cross. That was all. His death and life defeated Satan and returned us to a rightful state with the Father.
    People often quote Jesus when he said ‘take up your cross,’ – what about quoting the many more times he told people their faith had saved them, made them well; let’s start saying – ‘take up your healing.’
    I’d suggest the command to carry our cross had more to do with persecution for following the Gospel, rather than every ache, sickness or calamity that befalls us.
    Jesus has won the victory. Why continue to live as if we are in defeat with Satan having power and authority over us through the Fall?
    Fr deGrandis recognised this among Christians, especially Catholic where there is a huge theology on suffering, but not healing.
    John Paul’s great suffering in his last years was a tremendous example in a world gone made with abortion, euthanasia and a general anti-life philosophy. But his suffering is the exception, not the rule.
    We are meant to be well, because Jesus has commanded us to heal and to live life, in abundance.

    Its only in recent years that I encountered this radical theology. It is prominent not only amongst Evangelicals like myself, but in approved Catholic charismatic groups. Check out Flame Ministries in Australia and Cor et Lumen Christi, England. The latter has started to put miracles and healings on YouTube as so many Catholics have cast doubt on the numerous healing taking place there. I mean healing and miracles in every sense – spiritual, physical, emotional, psychological, financial – even raising the dead!

    I don’t want to hog your blog. I just want Christians to know that God is healing today. If people don’t see it in their churches, its not because God has stopped; its those churches which no longer teach or preach it, only suffering.

    I wonder if you are familiar with John Wimber? He came from a non-Christian background. In his 20s after years of drug abuse, he started to attend a church, a Protestant church. After several weeks of boring Sunday services, he asked one of the elders:
    “When do we get to do the stuff in the book????
    “What stuff, what book,??? asked the elder?
    “The book about Jesus and his apostles and how they preached in the market place and healed the sick and raised the dead. When do we get to do that????
    “Oh, we don’t do that any more,??? replied the elder.
    “Well, what do Christians do then,??? asked Wimber, astonished.
    “What we did this morning. The Sunday service,??? said the elder.
    Wimber fixed him with a stare then whispered: “You mean, I gave up drugs -for this!???

    Father, let’s make sure our churches keep ‘doing the stuff!???

    Blessings

    James

  • Fr. Joachim says:

    We know that suffering was not in God’s original plan, it came about because of sin. We suffer in atonement for our own sins and the sins of others. God purifies the soul through suffering, sometimes in this life, sometimes in the next, sometimes both. The mystery of suffering is hard for many people to grasp, but in reality it is a grace from God. The following is taken from the writings of St. Rose of Lima, a very holy woman that was “doing the stuff” during her lifetime.

    Our Lord and Savior lifted up his voice and said with incomparable majesty: “Let all men know that grace comes after tribulation. Let them know that without the burden of afflictions it is impossible to reach the height of grace. Let them know that the gifts of grace increase as the struggles increase. Let men take care not to stray and be deceived. This is the only true stairway to paradise, and without the cross they can find no road to climb to heaven???.

    When I heard these words, a strong force came upon me and seemed to place me in the middle of a street, so that I might say in a loud voice to people of every age, sex and status: “Hear, O people; hear, O nations. I am warning you about the commandment of Christ by using words that came from his own lips: We cannot obtain grace unless we suffer afflictions. We must heap trouble upon trouble to attain a deep participation in the divine nature, the glory of the sons of God and perfect happiness of soul???.

    That same force strongly urged me to proclaim the beauty of divine grace…. I felt as if my soul could no longer be kept in the prison of the body, but that it had burst its chains and was free and alone and was going very swiftly through the whole world saying:

    “If only mortals would learn how great it is to possess divine grace, how beautiful, how noble, how precious. How many riches it hides within itself, how many joys and delights! Without doubt they would devote all their care and concern to winning for themselves pains and afflictions. All men throughout the world would seek trouble, infirmities and torments, instead of good fortune, in order to attain the unfathomable treasure of grace. This is the reward and the final gain of patience. No one would complain about his cross or about troubles that may happen to him, if he would come to know the scales on which they are weighed when they are distributed to men???.

    Ave Maria! God bless you!

    Fr. Joachim

  • James Hastings says:

    Dear Fr Joachim,

    If I only concentrated on healings and miracles, ignoring the value of suffering, you might suspect my theology was one-sided. You would be right. When you emphasis suffering so much, without a word on healing, I too feel suspicious that you are only reading half the Gospel.
    The Scriptures and the church’s early tradition, are loaded with miracles and healing. Jesus sent his disciples out with orders to heal; he told his followers they would do greater works than he and Jesus raised at least three people from the dead! The ministries at Cor et Lumen, Flame Ministries, the late John Wimber, Fr deGrandis and my own church in England (among many others) are doing that, but how many Christians really are? Not enough!
    Healing is at the centre of Jesus’ life. At no point, did He tell anyone in Scripture that He could heal them but He preferred they suffered and offer it up! Jesus delt with sickness on the cross. Let’s accept that gift.

    Andrew Wommack says: “Self-denial is only good when it is denying ourselves for the singular purpose of exalting Jesus and His will for us in some area of our life. Some have made a religion out of self-denial and find pleasure in their denial–not in Jesus’ lordship. This leads to legalism and bondage, which Paul condemned as will worship (Col. 2:23). We are told not only to deny ourselves, but to deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Jesus. That cross is not every sickness or ache and pain, but the persecution of preaching the Gospel.”

    As for Rose of Lima. By all accounts she was a very beautiful woman. Upset at men remarking on this, she rubbed soil into her complexion to disfigure her beauty. This is not godly. Jesus said if your eye causes you to sin (that would include lust) pluck it out. He did not say: ‘If that woman’s beauty causes you to sin, tell her to make herself ugly to spare you.’

    Pope John Paul wrote a wonderful book called Love and Responsibility. In one section he states if a woman has beautiful legs and she wears a short skirt and in doing so, she is saying ‘I have beautiful legs,’ that is not sinful. Her beauty glorifies God. However, if her intention in wearing the skirt is to state: ‘I am nothing but a pair of legs, look at me lustfully,’ then that is sin.
    Poor old Rose of Lima got it mixed up.

    I send you and all the community God’s blessings and graces on your lives and your work.

    James

  • Fr. Ignatius says:

    Dear James,

    You’ll be interested to know that St. Thomas in the Summa Theologiae affirms that Christ did not suffer sickness, in his own words, “leprosy, epilepsy and the like”. He speaks of this in Part III, q. 14, a. 4, entitled “Whether Christ Ought to Have Assumed All the Bodily Defects of Men”. To sum up his argument:
    1. Christ assumed human defects in order to satisfy for the sin of human nature.
    2. Some human defects do not flow from the whole of human nature in common on account of the sin of our first parent as do death, hunger, thirst, etc. (these Christ assumed) but rather are caused in some men by certain particular causes, as leprosy, epilepsy, and the like; and these defects are sometimes brought about by the fault of man, e.g. from inordinate eating and sometimes by a defect in the formative power. Neither of these pertains to Christ, since His flesh was conceived of the Holy Ghost, Who has infinite wisdom and power, and cannot err or fail, and He Himself did nothing wrong in the order of His life.
    3. Therefore, the second type of defects Christ did not assume.

    If you’re interested, you can read the whole question at: http://www.newadvent.org/summa/4014.htm#4

    I don’t think the situation is as bad as you portray it, at least in regards to spiritual and psychological healing. In fact, spiritual healing (conversion and sanctification) is the proximate end of our mission as Franciscans of the Immaculate (the ultimate end being the maximum glory of God). Thus, we at least indirectly touch also on psychological healing in as much as this is linked with the first and is sometimes a part of spiritual direction (more serious cases are referred to psychologists or psychiatrists).

    If there seems to be a lack of theology of healing with respect to the theology of suffering I would suggest it is because it is normal for those who are sick to seek healing, more so with physical illnesses, because they are more evident, than with psychological or spiritual illnesses, which can sometimes go unnoticed. The “Instruction on Prayers for Healing” states, in fact, that “the Fathers of the Church considered it normal that believers would ask God not only for the health of their soul, but also for that of their body.” You will find a theology of healing in this document in part I entitled, “Doctrinal Aspects”. For the entire instruction visit: http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_20001123_istruzione_en.html

    On the other hand, with suffering that cannot be avoided it is quite natural to fall into complaints and excessive dejection or even anger towards God.  To endure it with patience, uniting oneself to Christ Crucified and offering it for the conversion of sinners, is not nautral, but supernatural.  And since even those who have been “healed” at one time or another must still endure crosses, other illnesses, contradictions, difficulties of every day life, the death of loved ones and finally their own death, the theology of suffering and the preaching the Cross has the more prominent place.  In order to overcome the tendencies of fallen and weak human nature, we all need to be taught this, then reminded of it, and then reminded again.  For this, nothing is better than the lives and writings of the Saints, hence this month’s topic from St. Maximilian.

    You had mentioned that you could not recall any Scripture where Jesus said to someone: “You know, I could heal you but it is better you suffer and offer up that suffering.” However, there is the case of St. Paul asking our Lord to take away “the sting in his flesh” and our Lord responded, “My grace is sufficient for thee: for power is made perfect in infirmity.” (2Cor. 12:9)

    In defense of St. Rose of Lima, since she is a Saint, I think it is unreasonable to say that she got it wrong when she rubbed soil on her face. A better explanation is that she had a particular inspiration of the Holy Spirit which is for our admiration but not necessarily for our imitation.

    Many blessings,

    Fr. Ignatius

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