From Catholic News Service
Pope Benedict spent May 2 by visiting Turin, Italy, where he celebrated an outdoor mass and knelt in silent prayer before the Shroud of Turin
, which many Catholics still believe to be the burial cloth of Jesus Christ despite mountains of evidence to the contrary
After spending time venerating the Shroud, the Pope went to visit with those who were sick and suffering saying, “[l]iving your suffering in union with the crucified and risen Christ, you participate in the mystery of his suffering for the salvation of the world. By offering our pain to God through Christ, we can collaborate in the victory of good over evil because God makes our offering – our act of love – fruitful.”
The Pope went on to say that the Shroud of Turin is an icon of “the most radical solidarity.”
At the mass Pope Benedict said, “[in the shroud] we see reflections of our suffering in the suffering of Christ. Precisely for this reason it is a sign of hope: Christ faced the cross to erect a barrier against evil, to allow us to see in his resurrection an anticipation of that moment when, for us, too, every tear will be dried and there will be no more death, nor mourning, wailing nor pain.”
It seems that, in the Pope's mind, that suffering isn't something that we humans need to try to eradicate or ease, but rather, it's something to be embraced and married with the suffering of Jesus as if that's some kind of virtue.
To be sure, these aren't the ramblings of a man of advanced age, the Catechism of the Catholic Church states the virtues of suffering:
1435 Conversion is accomplished in daily life by gestures of reconciliation, concern for the poor, the exercise and defense of justice and right, by the admission of faults to one's brethren, fraternal correction, revision of life, examination of conscience, spiritual direction, acceptance of suffering, endurance of persecution for the sake of righteousness. Taking up one's cross each day and following Jesus is the surest way of penance
. [emphasis mine]
Indeed, some Catholics do see suffering as a virtuous act even going so far as to inflict pain upon themselves to become closer to Jesus as evidenced by the recent news that Pope John Paul II used to beat himself
with a belt and sleep on the bare floor.
While many believers wrestle with the issue of suffering, and how a loving god could allow it, the Catholic Church puts the issue in a nice, sugary coating by offering wicked platitudes that can't offer any real comfort or rest to those in anguish, and, in fact, even go so far as to make suffering sound beautiful and poetic.
"Why yes, Johnny, your leukemia is helping Jesus save the world from evil. Aww, the chemo made you vomit? Well that makes you a superhero!"
Am I the only one who thinks that it's morally reprehensible to suggest to someone who is truly suffering that their pain is making them a partner with God in the victory of good over evil?
Am I wrong in thinking that it's patently absurd to think that causing myself to suffer because someone else is suffering is virtuous or that it's doing any good for humanity at large?
I don't think so.
I think the Pope's words and ideas about suffering are as delusive as that forged burial cloth so many Christians venerate, and the truth is that it takes a person of great faith -- or great ignorance -- not the see the falsity of both.