Growth in Christlike holiness is the hallmark of each cross along the "cross-road" to Calvary. A sinless Virgin's heart was pierced with a sword of sorrow, watching the heart of her sinless Son pierced with a lance. Shall we who are not sinless resent being pierced with God's well-disguised redemptive love?
The art of suffering can be mastered by looking at it with a God's-eye view. No one has put that view into words better than St. Francis de Sales in his classic prayer card gem, "Your Cross":
The everlasting God has in his wisdom foreseen from eternity the cross he now presents to you as a gift from his inmost heart. This cross he now sends you he has gazed at with his all-knowing eyes, understood with his divine mind, tested with his wise justice, warmed with his loving arms, and weighed with his own hands, to see that it be not one inch too large and not one ounce too heavy for you. He has blessed it with his holy name, anointed it with his pace, perfumed it with his consolation, taken one last glance at you and your courage, and then sent it to you from heaven—a special greeting from God to you, an alms of the all-merciful love of God. That is YOUR CROSS!
A modern mystic with a similar God-view penned a poem while being forged in the crucible of suffering. He was a Trappist monk, and he handed me a copy of his poem while I was visiting his community to conduct a retreat on the theme of suffering. I quote his poem here as a fitting capstone to these reflections on suffering.
The Kiss of Christ
Lo, there He hangs —
Ashened figure pinioned against the wood
God grant that I might love Him
Even as I should.
I draw a little closer
To feel HIS love divine,
And hear Him gently whisper,
"Ah, precious child of mine —
If now I should embrace you,
My hands would stain you red,
And if I leaned to whisper,
My thorns would pierce your head."
Twas there I learned in sorrow
that love demands a price;
Twas then I learned that suffering
Is but the kiss of Christ.
This excerpt is from the book The Art of Loving God by John H. Hampsch, C.M.F., originally published by Servant Publications, 1995. This and other of Fr. Hampsch's books and audio/visual materials can be purchased from Claretian Teaching Ministry, 20610 Manhattan Pl, #120, Torrance, CA 90501-1863. Phone 1-310-782-6408.