Suffering Has Meaning!

Colossians 1:24
Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of His body, that is, the Church.

Some people complain that the Catholic Church’s theology is a “theology of suffering.”  By this, they mean to accuse the Church of encouraging people to knuckle under in hardship instead of striving to right the wrongs of the world.  It is an accusation that the Church is one vast attempt to make a human being into a sheep.  (Of course, in the next breath, such people also often accuse the Church of making people too warlike, but we won’t address that contradictory complaint today.)  Rather, we simply point out that whether or not we have a theology of suffering, we all suffer anyway.  The Church does not discourage people from fighting injustice (just look at Archbishop Oscar Romero, Dorothy Day or Pope John Paul II).  But it does discourage us from believing the lie that all the suffering we endure is just meaningless junk that has no purpose, goes nowhere, and does no good.  Secularity, which regards pain as the highest evil, simply throws up its hands in mute helplessness at the thought of suffering.  The most creative thing it can think to do in the face of it is to kill the sufferer with euthanasia.  Catholic belief, founded on faith in the Crucified One, rebukes this lie and affirms that even our suffering brother and sister has something to give to the Church.  Today, make an offering of your sufferings to God for the sake of His body, which is the Church.  You have a share in the precious gift of Christ to His people thereby.  You become part of His gift.

Mark Shea


Mark P. Shea is a popular Catholic writer and speaker. The author of numerous books, his most recent work is The Work of Mercy (Servant) and The Heart of Catholic Prayer (Our Sunday Visitor). Mark contributes numerous articles to many magazines, including his popular column “Connecting the Dots” for the National Catholic Register. Mark is known nationally for his one minute “Words of Encouragement” on Catholic radio. He also maintains the Catholic and Enjoying It blog and regularly blogs for National Catholic Register. He lives in Washington state with his wife, Janet, and their four sons.

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