Posted June 04, 2015:
My Pain is God’s Pain

by a staff worker.

Suffering and joy are both mysteries, but that doesn’t mean we can’t say anything about them. One thing I know is that whatever joy or suffering I experience, Christ is with me and he experiences it with me. Christ and I and, in fact, every person in the Mystical Body, are one.

Caryll Houselander, an English Catholic writer and mystic, who lived in the first half of the twentieth century, was given to see this in an extraordinary way one day when she was riding in a London subway crowded with people.

She saw a vision: "I saw … Christ in them all … Christ in everyone one of them, living in them, dying in them, rejoicing in them, sorrowing in them." (Caryll Houselander: Essential Writing, ed. by Wendy M. Wright, Orbis Books,(2005).


Then she goes on to say, "Realization of our oneness with Christ … is the only ultimate meaning in life, the only thing that gives meaning and purpose to every life" (Ibid.)

I want to look at joy and suffering through the lens of this oneness with Christ. I’ll be looking at my own life since that is what I know, but I hope it will be fruitful for you. And I want to do this through some of the mysteries of the rosary—first of all the joyful ones.

The Annunciation

What a surprise the annunciation must have been to Mary! Especially since it seemed impossible. But when she asked how she could be a mother since she has no husband, the angel answered, "With God nothing is impossible."

Then what a joy she must have felt, a joy that she later expressed in the Magnificat!

I think the annunciation continues in my life when God surprises me in ways that lead to joy. God surprises me all the time because I have my ideas, my categories and my way of seeing the world. Then God turns up in places I would never expect to see him and asks my cooperation.

One example in my life is my vocation. If someone had described this Madonna House life to me before I came, I would have said, "I can’t do that. I need more personal space and time alone."

I had my little idea of myself: that is, I can do this, I can’t do that. But God showed me how much bigger and more beautiful his plan is.

The Birth of Christ

The result of Mary’s cooperation with God was that the Second Person of the Trinity entered time and space as a man to redeem humanity.

God wanted to restore his intimacy with us, and he did this by making himself small and defenseless, by making himself a baby, so he could draw near to us.

I see the nativity of Christ continuing in my life in the Eucharist. The joy of intimacy with God is offered in the Eucharist and, I think us drawing near the Lord gives him joy as well.

The Sorrowful Mysteries

I am going to jump ahead now from the beginning of the life of Jesus to the end and move to the mystery of suffering.

The most consoling words that I have ever heard about suffering is a quotation from Blaise Pascal who said "Christ is in agony until the end of the world."

Christ has so united himself with us that, although he is in heaven, his passion continues in the sufferings on earth of the members of the Mystical Body of Christ (that’s us).

We see this in Scripture where Christ says Whatsoever you do to the least of these you do to me (Mt 25:40), and his words to Paul, who was persecuting the Church, Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? (Acts 9:4)

Caryll Houselander wrote about this union: "Because he has made us ‘other Christs,’ because his passion continues in each one of us, there is nothing that anyone of us can suffer which is not the passion he suffered" (Ibid.)

I will take three events of the passion, three sorrowful mysteries of the rosary, and use them to meditate on several events in my life.

The Agony in the Garden

Throughout my life, I have struggled a lot with anxiety. A few years ago, for example, I was experiencing a lot of anxiety attacks. If you’ve had them you know what I’m talking about.

I felt like I was dying. One thing I clung to during that time was to say to myself, "It is a privilege to suffer like this."

It is a privilege to share in a small way the sufferings of the mentally and emotionally ill who are so often rejected, misunderstood, and mistreated. Christ was rejected, misunderstood, and mistreated, and his passion continues in them.

The Crowning with Thorns

To further look at this idea that our suffering is a participation in the sufferings of Christ, I want to look at another of Caryll Houselander’s visions.

During World War I, Caryll was a student at a boarding school in England run by Sisters. One of the Sisters there was German. There was a lot of anti-German sentiment at the time, and this Sister was in some ways ostracized by the other Sisters and was very lonely.

One day, Caryll came across this Sister polishing the shoes of the younger children.

"It was only when I was quite close to her that I saw that she was weeping. I dropped my eyes and stood in front of her, speechless with embarrassment. At last, with an effort, I raised my head, and then—I saw that nun was crowned with a crown of thorns."

This reminds me of an event in my life. The first time I went to a new school, I was in grade four. I met a group of kids who seemed to like me at first. Then I’m not sure what happened, but at one point they decided they didn’t anymore. They told me they didn’t like me and to stop hanging out with them.

I don’t say this like I’m a victim because I have rejected people myself just as cruelly. It’s an ordinary childhood humiliation, but now I see there was a dignity in my suffering. That dignity is in all suffering. It comes from the sharing of Christ’s passion through which he redeemed the world.

The Crucifixion

Now, I want to look at the death of Jesus. I’ll start with a story from my life. My mother died when I was twenty-three. In the years leading up to her sickness, my family had been in crisis for various reasons.

When my mother was diagnosed with cancer, she was told fairly soon after that that her cancer was terminal.

For me and those in my family, it seemed like the end of the world. She was the one holding us all together through our various struggles, and now she was no longer going to be with us.

Also, there was the pain and grief of seeing someone you love very much die. In this part of my life, I see myself and others who have lost loved ones united with Mary and the other women and apostles in their pain of seeing the passion and death of Jesus and not being able to do anything stop it.

Caryll Houselander wrote: "He who has the eyes of faith sees in the story of Christ’s passion his own individual story and the story of the suffering world, in which Christ’s passion goes on through time to that tomb and the dark sleep of death [and] leads on beyond it to the waking morning of the Resurrection."

When my mother died, I felt like everything had fallen apart. I couldn’t fix it. I just had to wait on God through my own personal tomb and the dark night of death. It’s God who had to knit things back together.


I now see blessings and joy that came through my mother’s death, blessings I could not have foreseen at the time. That doesn’t mean that the pain or the grief went away, but that it’s like the wounds in Christ’s glorified body. The wounds got transformed in Christ.


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