Polishing Daily Crosses into Heavenly Crowns with Don Dolindo and St Rafqa

Finding Heaven’s Treasure in Earthly Troubles

When we put in long hours at work, we can take comfort in knowing that our effort will be rewarded, whether through a larger paycheck, the satisfaction of a job well done, or the gratitude of those we serve. The Uber driver looks forward to fares stacking up and racks up five-star ratings, the baker fills order after order of birthday cakes, and the physician earns the trust of more patients. Just as labor leads to wages in a secular career, so too do the difficulties and disappointments we face each day present an opportunity to store up spiritual treasures in heaven. The mother who patiently endures the tantrums of her headstrong toddler, the accountant who maintains integrity despite pressure from unethical clients, the teacher who keeps working with a struggling student—when they offer these inconveniences up to Christ out of love, rewards are added in heaven. Our daily crosses, borne in humility and union with Christ’s sacrifice, become the means for atoning our sins and those of others.

Christ himself urges us not to store up fleeting earthly treasures, but rather to lay up eternal spiritual treasures in heaven. When confronted with difficulties or the monotonous daily grind, we can call to mind his teaching: “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal” (Matthew 6:19-21). Our heart follows our treasure – that is, what we value, invest in, and prioritize. So where is our heart anchored? In acquiring more wealth, status, comfort in this life alone? Or in storing up spiritual rewards through a life of love and sacrifice united to Christ? The Father who sees in secret will reward each act, however small, offered up to Him. The crosses woven into our days become the very means of glorifying God when borne with Christ. And storing up treasure in heaven shifts our focus to eternal perspective. 

Just as we eagerly anticipate the direct deposit hitting after a long week’s work, we can remind ourselves with each difficulty encountered or task tackled: this will add to my eternal bottom line. With an eye toward heaven instead of earthly pleasures that fade, we store up our true compensation. Christ spells out as much: “lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven” (Matthew 6:20). Every patient endurance of suffering, every sacrifice made for another’s good, every sting of conscience resisting temptation’s tug – when anchored in loving God above all, such acts become eternal spiritual capital never lost. No market crash or corporate bankruptcy can diminish this reward reserved for the humble of heart who carry crosses alongside the Lord. Our incentive matches the taxi driver eyeing the ticking meter – except our aim is the imperishable crown awaiting in heaven, where the Father who sees in secret will repay with interest each small struggle born for Him.

The profound spiritual writings of Don Dolindo illuminate the Christian belief that earthly sufferings, offered up in union with Christ, store up eternal treasures in heaven. As he comments in his extensive biblical commentary, “The pains become priceless riches, and this is the price of an eternal and ineffable happiness” (Commentary on Revelation). This underscores how sufferings take on spiritual value, becoming incalculable riches that purchase everlasting joy. Don Dolindo goes on to assure that “Those who fear God have a light that shines through the darkness of their troubles, a light that comforts and never goes out” (Commentary on Psalms). Thus, faithfully enduring distress brings an eternal comforting light. Furthermore, “For the good, pains and trials are a title of merit and glory…” (Commentary on Minor Prophets). That is, difficulties faced earn merits recorded in heaven’s ledger, ultimately leading to glory. Finally, by “think[ing] of the eternal reward, the treasure of happiness that the smallest pain produces” (Commentary on Matthew), we recognize every pain’s potential to yield proportionate eternal happiness when united to Christ.

In his reflection on Mark 7 about the deaf and mute man that was brought to Jesus, Don Dolindo uncovers spiritual lessons in physical deprivation: “In the eyes of the world, that poor sick man seemed unhappy; but if he had turned his gaze to Heaven, he would have heard mysterious words of life and would have conversed solely with the Lord” (Commentary on Mark 7). Rather than focusing on earthly limitations, our eyes ought to lift to the realm where spiritual senses apprehend God’s light and voice. Any “unhappiness ultimately becomes happiness because we are not [destined] for this earth but for God.

Don Dolindo likewise unpacks the aridity of “spiritual fasting” when consolation and sensible awareness of God seem to withdraw. Yet even this darkness holds potential for truer sacrifice: “the one of trials, darkness, and aridity, when the soul seems lost and disoriented in its interior desolation…It is then that we can respond to the love of Jesus Christ and offer Him the true homage of our fidelity” (Commentary on Mark 2). As a new wineskin stretches to hold fresh wine, so too our tested souls expand through patient endurance to receive God anew. This fidelity amid dark nights of spirit or soul echoes Christ’s own cry of abandonment at the cross, redeeming through shared suffering.

For Don Dolindo, physical or emotional pains, when anchored in loving God above all, orient us toward our eternal destiny even in their acute hardship. Deprivation strips away false supports, moving us to rely solely on invisible realities which alone can satisfy the longing soul.

As we carry daily crosses or face life’s final passage in death, Don Dolindo beckons us to surrender in unity with Christ’s sacrifice. He writes, “God has given me life so that I may make Him an offering of it in bodily death itself, in which life is consumed to be transformed into eternal life and into glorious resurrection” (Commentary on Matthew 4). Death becomes the ultimate consecration, consummating earthly life through loving oblation. Furthermore, “Every suffering leaves in the body a promise of life, just as every false joy and every degradation of sense leaves a seed of shame and condemnation” (Commentary on Matthew 28). Physical or emotional sufferings plant promises of eventual glory within our mortal bodies, carving holiness through partaking of Christ’s wounds. For “pain places in us the seed of final transfiguration, as it marks us almost like the wounds of Jesus Christ” (Commentary on Matthew 28). 

Like Don Dolindo, Lebanese Maronite Catholic nun St. Rafqa (1832-1914) powerfully embodied the mysticism of redemptive suffering. At age 27, she had a prayerful desire to participate in Christ’s passion. Ravaging pain soon afflicted her head and eyes, gradually leaving her blind and immobilized for the rest of her life. Yet amid intense agony, Rafqa radiated joy at uniting to Jesus’ wounds. With echoes of Don Dolindo, she remarked, “For the wound in the shoulder of Jesus,” finding eternity in affliction. As bodily anguish transfigured Rafqa’s soul, so too she models long-suffering patience being refined into an imperishable crown. Like gold emerging purified from flames, Rafqa witnessed that even the “unhappiness” of pain becomes blessedness when, in Don Dolindo’s words, life’s gaze lifts “to Heaven.”

Pope John Paul II declaredSt Rafqa: Venerable on February 11, 1982; Beatified on November 17, 1985;a role model in the adoration of the Eucharist during the Jubilee Year 2000.St Rafqa was canonized by Pope John Paul II on June 10, 2001. Feast day is on March 23.

While the wicked outwardly revel in false joys, Don Dolindo discerns their prosperous state masks deeper decay: “their prosperity is like pathogenic virulence that consumes life as it prospers. Look at the lung of a consumptive, and perhaps you will not find a similar breeding ground of germs; they multiply, they cluster together; they devour everything, and they seem victorious. If you look at the lung in this way, you would call that germination prosperity; but if you look at the face of the sick person, and if you consider them in their sufferings, you would call it ruin” (Commentary on Matthew 28). Though sinners appear triumphing, their unrestrained pleasures leads to soul sickness, undoing true life.

Conversely, for the righteous who embrace agony, “in pain the soul is fixed and the flesh is vivified by the spirit, which is thus prepared for eternal triumph” (Commentary on Matthew 28). Outward frailty masks inner fortification. Like pruning or refiner’s fire, sufferings solidify integrity and burn away impurities to ready souls for heaven’s glory. As Don Dolindo urges, “Let us embrace the cross with joy, for it is a promise of prosperity and eternal life; let us embrace the cross, surrendering ourselves to the goodness of God, forgiving, benefiting, loving, as Jesus did on Calvary” (Commentary on Matthew 28). Uniting our sacrifices to Christ’s Passion sows seeds of undying life. For only by walking the cruciform path can we share His victory over death.

As we bring this reflection full circle, let’s reconnect to the initial insight that earthly labor bears external fruit just as inner sacrifices reap imperishable rewards. Yet subconsciously an entitlement mentality often infects us. Inheritors of Adam and Eve’s exile from Paradise, we merit no rights but cling solely to Christ’s mercy. For only grace spares us just punishment. Practicing such poverty of spirit allows us to carry unavoidable crosses as gifts, not burdens. We should not actively seek or enjoy suffering. However, when trials come our way through no fault of our own, we can recognize them as opportunities to store up spiritual rewards when offered to God. Of course seeking relief through ethical means remains sensible, for we employ but never idolize such remedies. In fact, reducing suffering through moral treatment should be pursued. Still, when trials persist despite best efforts, we gain the chance to offer them back to God. By uniting unavoidable pains with Christ’s passion, we let go of entitled resentment and enter into the life of the Holy Trinity who already loves us beyond measure. This ultimate psychological freedom allows even injustice to foster intimacy with Love Itself. Let us therefore take up the crosses woven into our days, gazing not at mere wood but at the triumphant Victor who transforms them into Easter Light.

O Mary, Mother of Sorrows, you stand faithfully beside the Cross, sharing intimately in your Son’s passion. Raise up in our hearts the mystical hope that illuminated Don Dolindo in his many trials. Though false accusations and exile from ministry plunged him into a long dark night, still he clung to you with childlike trust. Just as the very name Dolindo means “pain,” so too did he bear his cross in union with your pierced Immaculate Heart. Grant us courage to walk the way of the Cross with you and Don Dolindo. May we join our sufferings to Christ’s passion, storing up imperishable treasure in heaven, as Saint Rafqa did through her joyful embrace of blindness, paralysis all her life. Teach us to surrender all to God as Don Dolindo did when he prayed, “Jesus, I surrender myself to You, take care of everything.” Lead us to ever deeper trust in Jesus so we may discover true peace. Amen.

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Elie G. Dib has directed his interests towards studying the writings and life journey of the Servant of God, Don Dolindo Ruotolo. Known for his monumental 33-volume commentary, Don Dolindo left an indelible mark on religious literary work. Elie is ardently invested in translating this extensive commentary from Italian to English, with a vision to break the language barrier and make this profound work accessible to a wider audience. Through his translation efforts, Elie aspires to disseminate the teachings of Don Dolindo and inspire others with his deep insights into the scripture. His Substack can be found at: eliegdib.substack.com/. If you would like to read more about Don Dolindo's insights on Sacred Scripture, check out this new book: www.amazon.com/dp/B0CVW121S3..

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