The Deacon's Bench

The Deacon's Bench

“Suddenly, God became very real to me…”

“No sudden flash of insight led my return to God. It was the children who ultimately brought me back–the same group of suffering individuals who had caused me to doubt God’s existence. They buffeted me with questions: Why would God let them be so sick? Why didn’t God make them better? Why weren’t their prayers working? Why did God let their mom and dad break up? Abused children asked me why God had not stepped in to stop their torture: Why wasn’t God on their side? 

In the beginning I fled the children’s questions by hastily leaving their rooms, but soon realized I was meant to hear them and respond. Instead of expecting God to make their lives better, I decided to assume my own role. I sat with children and teenagers when their family members were nowhere to be found–being present with them in their fear, confusion, anger and sorrow. I acknowledged how little I really knew about God’s ways, while exploring what I could do to help. To their never-ending questions, I often said, I don’t know. My refusal to be a know-it-all comforted them. They could see I was in solidarity with them in their suffering.


Suddenly God became very real to me. In the suffering children, the “little ones,” I met the suffering Christ. When I rocked a child in pain, I comforted the suffering God. I remember looking into the faces of young children and asking myself, “Who is this–really–whom I am comforting?” Instead of an impassive, supremely independent God, I met a God who needed me to make a difference in the lives of suffering people. “

 — Pat Fosarelli, M.D., describing a skeptical doctor’s return to the faith.
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posted January 8, 2010 at 3:35 pm

For every Catholic 40 years and older, most probably had a mother who opined to our whines with “Offer it up.” I never bothered to ask for the details, only have come to realize 40 years later how both “simple and deep” that ‘mom theology’ actually was.
I dare to say that the understanding of the theology of “redemptive suffering” may well be what Americans need more than anything right now. Bishop Fulton Sheen would often say “The biggest waste in the world is wasted pain; suffering not offered and united back to Jesus Christ, especially by the terminally ill and the elderly in nursing homes.”
I’ve become both fascinated and perhaps even graced in the desire to study it; the genesis of interest resulting from my own sufferings at the death bed of my beloved mother. Why God allows suffering is too big for any of us really, but the “short answer”, per Father Corapi, is to “Allow a greater good.”
That’s really all we need to know, at least to take advantage of the power behind it; the same power that redeemed the world. United to Christ, human suffering is the most powerful force in universe. Pope John Pope II in ‘Memory and Identity” even teaches that suffering “Consumes Evil.”
I can’t even comprehend the power behind the suffering of children, only comforted in knowing that God is always with us in our sufferings. For those who know that and “unite back”, it’s the greatest power in the world next to creation, allowing/inviting us, like mother Mary at the foot of the cross, the power to join with Christ for the redemption and salvation of souls.
God help us if Obamacare passes where suffering will be treated with a “point demerit” system. We will need the few and far between “Dr. Pat’s” and most of all, the American Catholics who still hear “Offer in up in their heads.”
Based on my own personal experiences, I can assure anyone that God doesn’t get “more real” than when we unite him into our sufferings; and perhaps as “deep” into the mysterious theology as any of us need to venture.

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posted January 8, 2010 at 5:31 pm

I have learned through reading scripture and the many stories that it tells, that God actually produces strength and maturity in us through our trials.
In the book of James, chapter 1 we are reminded to consider it pure joy when we face trials of MANY kinds. It goes on to say that when the testing is complete, it will make us mature and lacking nothing.
We can’t possibly be mature without going through hardships. We shouldn’t cower and ask why me. Instead we should be thanking God and considering it pure joy.
Who has truly succeeded without first tasting defeat? A scientist will prove a theory by testing all other possibilities first. And when we have undergone our possibilities and learned of their failure, it will always bring us back to the one and only Truth.

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posted January 10, 2010 at 5:23 pm

Colossians 1, v 24 says: “Even now I find my joy in the suffering I endure for you. In my own flesh I fill up what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ for the sake of his body, the church.”
A mystery: why we suffer. Paul may have felt there was value in offering up our pain and suffering for others. Biologically, pain tells us of wounds or threats to our physical existence — “Move your hand away from that flame!”
But Jesus in His obedience did everything necessary for our salvation. Then the mystery of Free Will: We still have to say “Yes”.

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