Madonna House

The Value of Suffering

by Jenna Murphy

My father has been fighting cancer for six years, and after four plus rounds of chemotherapy and a few experimental drugs, his body is tired of the fight.

Since the beginning of Lent, I’ve had the opportunity to live the way of the Cross in the supernatural realm that surrounds a soul in transition.

My father is a very holy man, and in turn, those around him receive a strong impetus to become holy themselves.

Through my father’s sickness, I have learned what it feels like to be a member of the Body of Christ. I have quietly watched people offer their humble ser-vices with no hope of repayment.

I have watched people bring turkey dinners, fill our house with flowers, vacuum, fix plumbing problems, and shovel our driveway. All this is done with such joy.

When we spend our lives serving others, we are never at a loss. Instead we are storing up treasures for the end of our lives and for heaven. I see this is precisely what my father has done for himself.

Throughout my life, I have regarded death and grief as something “other,” something completely foreign and irrelevant to my life.

When cancer came into my family, however, I became quickly aware, not only of the relevance of death, but also of its glory.

I understand now that our lives should be spent serving those around us and preparing ourselves to meet the Lord.

Our life is merely a means to an end, not an end in itself. Often I have heard this said, but only now do I fully understand.

Of course, it is normal to be fearful of change, but death is not meant to be terrifying, for it is the event that our soul longs for every day.

In St. Faustina’s diary, I read the following words that Our Lord told her: “Pray as much as you can for the dying. By your entreaties, obtain for them trust in my mercy, because they have the most need of trust and have it the least. Be assured that the grace of eternal salvation for certain souls in their final moment depends on your prayer.”

True to these words, my mother got the idea of opening our doors every night for a community rosary.

Every night at 7:30 p.m., a different 30 to 40 people flock to our house to pray for Our Blessed Mother’s intercession. If one word could describe the atmosphere, it would be “peace.”

I have read many books about the saints, and I have noticed that the deaths of those I read were always extraordinary and peaceful—even those of the martyrs! It would be beautiful to be present at such a death because everyone would be so certain of the treasure awaiting the faithful soul.

When we spend time with those who have great faith, we find ourselves becoming more faithful.

Even when someone is dying, his work is not finished. If anything, the impact of his death on others increases dramatically as he nears the end of his earthly life.

At my father’s bedside, I have seen hearts of stone crumble, perspectives change, and minds open after a few whispered words from my father.

I will never again fail to see the value in suffering. If we treated everyone as indispensable, we would see that we too could become indispensable.

Our God operates outside of time. Life is a speck in eternity, a grain of sand on a beach. The pain of this life is a small price to pay for one’s salvation and eternal joy, but also, the salvation and eternal joy of others.

Let us carry our crosses together this Lent and remember that Jesus came to earth for the express purpose of suffering and dying for us.

If suffering is God’s way of attaining salvation for the world, then how much more we should recognize its power to save.

—This article originally appeared in the March 31, 2007 issue of The Atlantic Catholic, a newspaper which no longer exists.