This week, a fellow Ignitum Today columnist wrote about the connection between the culture of death and our inability to meaningfully connect with human suffering. Her article, which included the quote from Pope Benedict below (emphasis mine), reminded me of an article I wrote myself a few years ago, which I have republished a Catholic Lane for those who may have missed it the first time around.
“In the struggle for life, talking about God is indispensable. Only in this way does the value of the weak, the disabled, the nonproductive, the incurably ill become apparent; only in this way can we relearn and rediscover, too, the value of suffering: the greatest lesson on human dignity always remains the cross of Christ, our salvation has its origins not in what the Son of God did but in [H]is suffering, and whoever does not know how to suffer does not know how to live” –Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, “The Problem of Threats to Human Life.”
The last line of this passage is what really caught my eye for how similar it was to something I read in a book by Fr. Jacques Philippe, which I based my article on: Refusing to Suffer is Refusing to Live
I think another way to phrase both Ratzinger’s and Philippe’s words and what they mean would be: To know how to suffer is to know how to live.
Life is full of ups and downs. It’s easy to “live life to the fullest” when everything’s going our way. But, only when we learn how to persevere through the hard times and embrace life when sufferings befall us can we truly live the fulness of life.
It’s not easy, to be sure. But, to quote another saintly genius, “as long as we are alive, we have all the life there is” (Fr. Richard John Neuhaus). Even in the midst of extreme suffering, even as our bodies deteriorate and we lose control of some of our basic bodily functions, we are still human beings. Our lives still have meaning. And we can still enjoy all the beauty and goodness that life can bring.