While my friends were at the Catholic New Media Conference this week, my husband tended to me as I lay in bed with a terrible stomach bug. This was the first time I’d been sick while married, and both Dan and I were quite scared when I woke up Tuesday morning without strength to stand…or when I was convulsing from dehydration.
The week gave me time to reflect on a Conference I attended last weekend: “Why the Cross? Salvation and Suffering in Scripture” presented by Fullness of Truth Catholic evangelization ministries. Quite unexpectedly, that conference changed my life.
When Suffering Hit
As mentioned in a previous blog, my family has just begun the process of grief after losing my great-grandmother. She was really the matriarch of my dad’s side; common in Hispanic culture. After the Rosary last Tuesday and funeral Wednesday, I went back to work Thursday morning to a stressed-out office. Friday, I set up our apostolate’s booth at the Fullness of Truth conference.
Needless to say, I felt stretched thin.
Saturday and Sunday morning, I awoke with weakness and pain, but went to work at the Fullness of Truth conference. Reaching out to folks all day is exhausting for an introvert like me.
Redemptive Suffering Explained
Catholics have this Weird and Wonderful Way to view suffering. That very Weird and Wonderful Way was opened up to me in a totally new light during the talks by Dr. Scott Hahn, Dr. Brant Pitre, Dr. Michael Barber, and Dr. John Bergsma last weekend. Half these men are converts to Catholicism. All of them completely opened my eyes.
Now? This is one of my favorite Scripture verses:
Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body, which is the church. (Saint Paul to the Colossians 1:24)
I don’t usually like to admit it, but the fact is that I live in constant expectation of pain. My fibromyalgia leaves me no choice. Last weekend, as I sat amid 1,500 other people hearing these talks, I had that kind of existential epiphany: God brought you to work this Conference for your own good.
Suffering in today’s world has no meaning. Pointless. Fruitless. That’s why we try so tirelessly to rid ourselves of all suffering.
And it’s true that suffering is not good! Now, I can’t explicate entirely the Catholic Weird and Wonderful Way to deal with suffering, but suffice it to say that we are Pauline:
…For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the spirit of sonship. When we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’ it is the Spirit himself bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. (Romans 8:15-17)
Baptized Into Christ’s Death
In particular, Dr. Brant Pitre’s talk “Baptism: The Sacrament of Crucifixion” both empowered and solaced me. Pitre demonstrated how our baptism unites us with Christ Crucified. A few nuggets he connected:
Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. (Romans 6:3-4)
Henceforth let no man trouble me; for I bear on my body the marks (Greek: stigmata) of Jesus. (Galatians 6:15)
Enjoy this video from the start of Pitre’s talk. If you want to hear the entire thing, Fullness of Truth has the audio for sale on their site.