He was an old man of indeterminate years. found him in a beautiful room overlooking the harbor on a sunny Sunday afternoon. He looked terrible: broken shoulder, hip, scars and bruises and obviously in pain. When I spoke his name, one eye opened and Andrew (not his real name) focused on this priest standing by his bedside. I pulled over a chair and asked how he was doing – and began to listen.
It is a story not unfamiliar to many: the pains, aches and illnesses of aging combined with the accidents that accompany those of unsteady gait and balance. And Andrew’s question was simple, sort of: Why does God create us and then with suffering and pain, take our life away?
The meaning of suffering – who of us has not pondered that question? Yet the question becomes especially poignant when one is suffering and/or accompanying a loved one through a crisis. In an article published in the New York Times some time ago, Pico Iyer reflected on the value of suffering:
Wise men in every tradition tell us that suffering brings clarity, illumination; for the Buddha, suffering is the first rule of life, and insofar as some of it arises from our own wrongheadedness — our cherishing of self — we have the cure for it within. Thus in certain cases, suffering may be an effect, as well as a cause, of taking ourselves too seriously. I once met a Zen-trained painter in Japan, in his 90s, who told me that suffering is a privilege, it moves us toward thinking about essential things and shakes us out of shortsighted complacency; when he was a boy, he said, it was believed you should pay for suffering, it proves such a hidden blessing.
Of course, in the Irish Catholic tradition (and in other traditions) suffering is thought to be payback from God for one’s wrongdoing. Yet we all realize such thinking is senseless in the face of suffering of the innocent, for example a child and the victims of natural disasters, wars and so much more.
As Andrew and I continued our conversation, he explained his belief in God. Yet he was puzzled that God had allowed so much suffering to befall him. I asked if he believed God heard his prayers. He said he believed God hears all prayers, everyone’s, but does not necessarily answer them as one wishes. As Andrew spoke more about his life, he laced his comments with humor and wise observations. I came to see a man whose vision, wisdom and faith were extraordinary. I wondered if the suffering that Andrew was enduring was actually a classroom of sorts where he was learning and living at a depth and faith that were preparing him for the life that God has prepared for him.
After celebrating the Sacrament of the Sick and praying with Andrew, he seemed in a very different place then when I first met him. As I rose to prepare to leave, he told me a joke, you know one of those about the rabbi and the priest … I left his room chuckling and wondering about suffering, my own and that of countless others into whose lives I have been invited.
I conclude with the belief that all of life is a gift and never without meaning – ever. God is always at work in and around every one of us, in hard times and in good times. Our invitation to turn to this loving God, even in the darkness of suffering, loss and pain, is that call to go deeper, to the core of our being, and there to seek and find the Hope that is our Creator God.
Fr. Ronan – (reprint)
“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” —Viktor
Religious Education starts this week !
Our program will remain a hybrid program, like last year. Each class (with the exception of Youth Group – Grades 5-8) will meet once a month in person and once a month on Zoom.
– Confirmation classes (grades 9 & 10) will meet once a month IN PERSON at the 6pm Mass, and one Sunday a month at 6pm on Zoom.
If you have any questions, please email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call the Parish Center
The Parish Center is excited to welcome a new puppy:. Katy Fleming, our Religious Education Director, and her family welcomed home their new puppy, Chelsea, this past week.
Thanksgiving Organ Concert
November 20, 2022
St. Mary-St. Catherine of Siena Parish
All are welcome to join our parish family for a concert on our very
own Harris and Woodbury organ, featuring:
ROSALIND MOHNSEN has performed in such venues as Merrill Auditorium in Portland, Maine, Woolsey Hall at Yale University, The National Shrine in Washington, D.C., Holy Cross Cathedral in Boston, and St. Thomas Church in New York City. She has performed for Boston’s First Night, A.G.O. Chapters in Richmond, Lincoln and Pasadena, twenty-three national conventions of the Organ Historical Society, the 2014 A.G.O. National Convention in Boston, and in Riga, Latvia and Stockholm, Sweden. She has been a pianist in the BSO Symphony Café. She served as Interim Organist and Director at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Boston and was the recipient of the 2018 Distinguished Service Award from the Organ Historical Society.
A native of Nebraska, she received the Bachelor of Music in Education degree in piano from the University of Nebraska and the Master of Music degree and Performer’s Certificate in organ from Indiana University. Her organ studies were with Myron J. Roberts, Conrad Morgan, Robert Rayfield, and Jean Langlais. She is Director of Music and Organist at
Immaculate Conception Church of Malden/Medford, MassachuseĴs and was formerly on the faculty of Westmar College, LeMars, Iowa. Rosalind has also been a huge supporter of our parish music ministry through the years.