Yesterday I was talking to an old acquaintance who’s going through some stuff that makes my piddly little problems seem, well, piddly and little.
I felt really bad for him and wanted to do something to help, and since there’s nothing I can actually do to help, I looked up prayers for comfort in suffering in an old Catholic prayer book I found at the used bookstore.
It reminded me that Catholics have a different view of suffering than the rest of the world; something that I haven’t quite been able to get a handle on. Some Catholic doctrines are like the English constitution: it exists, and everybody lives by it, but it’s not actually written down anywhere, so it’s hard for an outsider to figure it out. But it is reflected in their prayers about suffering.
Merciful master of life, to Thee I lift up my heart, to Thee I raise my eyes in childlike confidence, for from Thee come consolation and salvation. O giver of every good gift, Lord of all, Thou does send sorrows or joys, poverty or wealth, humiliations or honors, sickness or health, life or death, just as Thy goodness and justice and wisdom demand. Certainly Thou wouldst withhold the thorns of this life if I could attain my eternal life without them. Unalloyed bliss is the portion of the blessed in heaven. While a pilgrim on this earth, I may not have complete happiness until I merit by the trials of a long probation to enjoy it in eternity.
How many are the gifts Thous hast given me in the past! Should I not bear adverse days with patience and drink the bitter chalice if Thy hand offers it to me? O infinite Wisdom, Thou canst judge beyond my understanding what will bring me safe to Thee.
Or can I entertain the thought that I deserve a better lot, that sufferings are not my due? God gave me everything that I own. If He reclaims what is His, can I complain?
Let me be consoled, O God, when Thou dost refuse my requests which might, if they were granted, do me harm. Thou knowest we are not made for this earth, and that temporal welfare is not our highest goal. And Thou alone dost know the hour when we must part from earth.
Though my life should be fraught with sorrow, what is its length beside the unending reaches of eternity? The time will come when sorrow will be turned to joy. Now, indeed, I tread a path that is obscured by darkness. Yet with Thee, O divine Leader of mankind, I know that I am safe. Shouldest Thou keep back Thy favors for a time, I will not be dismayed. I will wait in patience as long as it pleases Thee.
“Come to Me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.” From this I know Thou wilt hear me and wilt not try me beyond my strength. Thou art my Savior, whose love ever watches over me.
O Lord, take everything from me except the confidence I have in Thee and the lesson Thou didst teach by Thy choice of innumerable pains of body and soul in preference to the royal state that could have been Thine. Let me follow Thee most constantly, even on the bloody path to Golgotha.