Madonna House

When I Weep, Christ Weeps

by Fr. Pat McNulty

The following article is about a truth that Fr. Pat discovered and contemplated for the last few years of his life. If you really let it in, it can lead to a radical deepening of your relationship with Christ and with other people.

Catherine Doherty literally believed that anything and everything she did to anyone, sinner or saint, she did to Jesus Christ personally, in the flesh. And she believed it because she took Christ literally when He said that what we do to others we do to Him (Mt 25:40).

I had never met anyone like that. I had read about them in the lives of some of the saints—but I had never met one in the flesh.

Nor was it clear to me at all what she was talking about until I had spent a long time “in the desert” and then had access to her personal writings a few years later.

As I went deeper into Catherine’s life, especially through her writings, I realized that not only did she believe that anything and everything she did to anyone, sinner or saint, she did to Jesus Christ but, [she believed that] her pain was His pain and His pain was hers, and thus theirs!

That is how clearly Catherine saw into the depths of the Incarnation and her own personal union with Christ now.

She was indeed aware that Jesus was her personal saviour and that she was called by Him to witness that to the whole world. But far beyond that she had a truly mystical sense that what happened to her now happened to Christ now because we are one!

Her loneliness was His loneliness, and if she came to anyone in their loneliness she came to Christ in His. By assuaging that person, quenching his or her loneliness, she assuaged His. And then He assuaged hers.

Nor did she stop there. Soon, in the late hours of the night, she would awaken and discover in her own flesh the pain of some distant soul and because of her union in Christ she could “walk” with that soul and assuage his or her pain without moving an inch in space. And by walking with him, she walked with Christ…..

I knew, by some faith instinct, that what Catherine Doherty was living and proclaiming was holy because once again I too began to do what all Christians should be doing naturally all the time: namely to look for those “literal” connections in our own personal lives now, with Christ now.

And what I found to be so fascinating at that particular moment on my journey was how this vision of union with Christ opened me up again to the vast wealth of spiritual wisdom and experience from within my own Catholic tradition, especially the lives of the saints, and ultimately to Sacred Scripture.

For Catherine, everything was about Christ. Literally! Everything! Eventually even her tears!

You must never forget … that when I weep, Christ weeps, because Christ is in me. When my tears mingle with those of Christ, then his holiness washes me, not mine

… I believe in faith that they [these tears] are from God, that I am crying with him because he cares for me and cries with me …

Something happened in the world that made God cry and he invited me to cry. Or perhaps I cried and invited him to cry. (Catherine Doherty)

Really? Well, one night in the solitude when I was weeping again, even though my tears were mostly for my own sins, I said to myself, “What if Catherine is right?

What if these are not just my tears but the tears of Christ? What if these are not my tears but those of someone else and Christ is inviting me to weep with them, with him? What if?

What if it is literally true to say that anything I suffer, anything, Christ also suffers in some very real, mystical-body fashion, personally, now?

What if it is literally true to say that there is no suffering in the world that Christ does not also suffer personally in some way, now?

What if it is literally true that our whole lives are a preparation begun by Christ at our Baptism to bring us into the fullness of His Incarnation through our own human condition now? What if?

Do you hear the intellectual wheels turning, pushing away from what it imagines to be irrational? Do you hear the theological wheels grinding out their cry for caution lest you get lost in some devotional neurosis?

Do you hear the social, political wheels screeching to a halt, shouting out their typical historical warning, “That kind of religious mumbo-jumbo has never changed anything?” Do you hear your poor psyche crying out louder than all the rest, “That’s crazy!”?

Well, what if: …

what happens between birth and death is message, challenge, test, succour—is all from his hands. It is not meant to be learned theoretically, but personally experienced and assimilated, and until a man makes this transposition he will have no peace? (Romano Guardini)

Jesus … All that is his is yours—his breath in your breath, his heart in your heart, all the faculties of his soul in the faculties of your soul … you have one breath with him, one soul, one life, one will, one mind, one heart … He desires that whatever is in him may live and rule in you. (St. John Eudes)

What if our personal Christian life is all about Christ in His humanity and our union with His as we are now? And what if my particular human condition, regardless of how I got here, is the primary source of that union, now and that the result is not only that the individual discovers the salvific meaning of suffering but above all that he becomes a completely new person. He discovers a new dimension, as it were, of his entire life and vocation? (St. John Paul II)

Yes! What if?

—Excerpted from I Live Now, Not I, (2008), pp 53, 55-57, 60-63, available from MH Publications (see page 2).