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Suffering & Death

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Jesus Carrying Cross

Suffering & Death

"I pray God may open your eyes and let you see what hidden treasures He bestows on us in the trials from which the world thinks only to flee." (St. John of Avila)

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Suffering Has Meaning

How to Suffer

When a Loved One is Suffering or Dying

When a Loved One Has Died

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Suffering Has Meaning

"[T]here the greater shall be our joy, the more we have suffered here below." (Pope St. Gregory)

Although we humans often try to escape suffering, the truth is that suffering is an important part of life. Christ, although innocent, carried a cross and told us that it is necessary for us to do the same. Suffering, although difficult, brings with it many & great rewards.

Suffering borne patiently...

* Tests our faith

"In this you rejoice, although now for a little while you may have to suffer through various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith, more precious than gold that is perishable even though tested by fire, may prove to be for praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ." (1 Pt. 1:6-7)

"There is no doubt that suffering is the greatest trial against our faith; it causes us either to lose it or to strengthen it." (Amorth)

* Helps the Church

"And I glory in tribulations if I have been counted worthy to endure any for the sake of the Church. This, truly, is my glory and the lifting up of my head: the triumph of the Church. For if we have been sharers of her troubles, we shall be also of her consolation. We must work and suffer with our mother." (St. Bernard of Clairvaux, Doctor of the Church)

"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" (Col. 1:24)

* Purifies & tries us

"A true Christian is proved in the fire of tribulation." (St. Robert Southwell)

"One and the same violence of affliction proves, purifies and melts the good, and condemns, wastes and casts out the bad." (St. Augustine, Doctor of the Church) 

"But different kinds of sufferings are imposed on us to test and prove us, and many forms of temptations are inflicted upon us by loss of wealth, burning fevers, torments of wounds, by the death of dear ones. Nothing else distinguishes the unjust and the just more than this, that in adversities the unjust man complains and blasphemes because of impatience, while the just man is proved by patience, as it is written: 'I thy sorrow endure and in thy humiliation keep patience, for gold and silver are tried in fire.'" (St. Cyprian of Carthage)

"Consider it all joy, my brothers, when you encounter various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. And let perseverance be perfect, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing." (Jms. 1:2-4)

* Expiates our sins (and those of others)

"Shall we base worms, who have nothing to boast of before men only our having concealed from them our baseness and ignominy, and to whom the most cruel outrages from creatures would be too mild a treatment, considering our sins, shall we, I say, complain of injuries which we ought to receive with patience and joy as the easy means of canceling our own sins, and procuring for ourselves the greatest graces and mercy?" (Butler)

* Proves our love for God

"The truly loving heart loves God's good pleasure not in consolations only, but, and especially, in afflictions also." (St. Francis de Sales, Doctor of the Church)

"What a weakness it is to love Jesus Christ only when He caresses us, and to be cold immediately (when) He afflicts us. This is not true love. Those who love thus, love themselves too much to love God with all their heart." (St. Margaret Mary Alacoque)

* Strengthens us

"This, in short, is the difference between us and others who know not God, that in misfortune they complain and murmur, while adversity does not call us away from the truth of virtue and faith, but strengthens us by its suffering." (St. Cyprian)

* Gives us endurance

"[St. Paul], an able wrestler, urges us on in the struggle for immortality, so that we may receive a crown, and so that we may regard as a precious crown that which we acquire by our own struggle, and which does not grow on us spontaneously. And because it comes to us in a struggle, it is therefore the more precious; and as it is the more precious, let us love it always the more. Those things which come to us spontaneously are not loved as much as those which are obtained by anxious care." (St. Irenaeus)

"Let them not, however, lose heart; to face bitter combats is a mark of Christians, and to endure grave labors to the end is a mark of them who, as good soldiers of Christ, follow Him closely." (Pope Pius XI, "Quadragesimo Anno", 1931)

"The crown of victory is promised only to those who engage in the struggle." (St. Augustine, Doctor of the Church)

"[W]ithout the battle there is no victory" (St.. John of Avila)

* Increases our merit before God

"Nothing, how little soever, that is suffered for God's sake, can pass without merit in the sight of God." (Kempis)

"As this life is checkered by many and various afflictions, the faithful are to be particularly reminded that those who patiently bear all the trials and afflictions coming from the hand of God acquire abundant satisfaction and merit; whereas those who suffer with reluctance and impatience deprive themselves of all the fruits of satisfaction, merely enduring the punishment which the just judgment of God inflicts upon their sins." (Catechism of the Council of Trent)

"Though abstinence and prayer be of great merit, yet sickness, suffered with patience, is of much greater." (St. Pachomius)

"The jewels which give the greatest splendor to the crown of the saints in Heaven, are the tribulations which they bore with patience, as coming from the hands the Lord." (St. Alphonsus Liguori, Doctor of the Church)

"Jesus Christ, when He redeemed us with plentiful redemption, took not away the pains and sorrows which in such large proportion are woven together in the web of our mortal life. He transformed them into motives of virtue and occasions of merit; and no man can hope for eternal reward unless he follow in the blood-stained footprints of his Savior. 'If we suffer with Him, we shall also reign with Him.' Christ's labors and sufferings, accepted of His own free will, have marvelously sweetened all suffering and all labor. And not only by His example, but by His grace and by the hope held forth of everlasting recompense, has He made pain and grief more easy to endure; 'for that which is at present momentary and light of our tribulation, worketh for us above measure exceedingly an eternal weight of glory.'" (Pope Leo XIII, "Rerum Novarum", 1891) 

* Will be rewarded

"No suffering borne out of love for Christ, even poorly borne, will go unrewarded in eternal life. Trust and hope in the merits of Jesus and in this way even poor clay will become finest gold which will shine in the palace of the king of heaven." (St. Padre Pio of Pietrelcina)

"So great is the good which I expect that all pain is to me a delight." (St. Francis of Assisi)

"It is the reflection of St. Austin, that if, with the martyrs, we seriously considered the rewards that await us, we should account all trouble and pains in this life as nothing; and should be astonished that the divine bounty gives so great a salary for so little labor. To obtain eternal rest, should require, if it had been possible, eternal labor; to purchase a happiness without bounds, a man should be willing to suffer for a whole eternity. That indeed is impossible; but our trials might have been very long. What are a thousand years, or ten hundred thousand ages, in comparison to eternity? There can be no proportion between what is finite, and that which is infinite. Yet God in his great mercy does not bid us suffer so long. He says, not a million, or a thousand years, or even five hundred, but only labor the few years that you live; and in these the dew of my consolations shall not be wanting; and I will recompense your patience for all with a glory that has no end. Though we were to be loaded with miseries, pain, and grief our whole life, the thoughts of heaven alone ought to make us bear its sharpest trials with cheerfulness and joy." (Butler) 

* Can help both ourselves and others

"With the heart of a father We exhort all those who from whatever cause are plunged in grief and anguish to lift their eyes trustfully to heaven and to offer their sorrows to Him who will one day reward them abundantly. Let them all remember that their sufferings are not in vain, but that they will turn to their own immense gain and that of the Church, if to this end they bear them with patience." (Pope Pius XII, "Mystici Corporis Christi", 1943)

* Increases our compassion

* Keeps us focused on the true purpose of our lives / detaches us from the world

"Seeing therefore that all our troubles, penalties, restraints, and afflictions are but means to remind us of our state and the dangers of our profession, and but seeds of eternal glory, how much soever they may seem covered and corrupted here on earth, let us solace ourselves in hope of our joyful harvest. We are but pilgrims here; we have no place of abode, but seek a future place of rest. If the way had been filled with pleasures, with true delights, we should easily have been drawn aside in our journey towards heaven, attracted and withheld by the pleasant view and desire of these allurements. God hath therefore made our journey tedious, uncomfortable and distressing, that we may hasten to our repose, and swiftly run over the course of this life." (St. Robert Southwell)

"All the joys of this life are accompanied by sorrows: if they were not, we would grow too much absorbed in them." (St. Teresa of Avila, Doctor of the Church)

* Makes us more Christ-like

"As in Heaven, nothing will be sweeter than to resemble Him in His glory, so here on earth, nothing is more to our advantage than to be like Him in His Passion." (St. Robert Bellarmine, Doctor of the Church)

"Can we say that we are walking in His footsteps if we are not on the road to Calvary?" (Liturgical Year)

* Pleases God

"And how can a person who seeks to please God, enjoy greater happiness than that which arises from cheerfully embracing the cross which God sends him, and from the conviction that, in embracing it, he pleases God in the highest degree?" (St. Alphonsus Liguori, Doctor of the Church)

* Keeps us from becoming arrogant

"If things always went wrong, no one could endure it; if things always went well, everyone would become arrogant." (St. Bernard of Clairvaux, Doctor of the Church)

* Teaches us to trust God

"But God in His good Providence allows so many terrors, sorrows, and dangers to be put in our way by our enemy that He may break down our spirit, give us lowly hearts, and train us to submissiveness of mind and humility, so that we may never in the future feel any trust in our own prudence, but all entire trust in His Divine Protection." (St. Francis Xavier)

* Reminds us of our dependence on Christ

* Heals us

"Pain and sorrow are the almost necessary medicines of the impetuosity of nature. Without these, men though men, are like spoilt children; they act as if they considered everything must give way to their own wishes and conveniences." (Cardinal Newman)

"In the same way that a powerful medicine cures an illness, so illness itself is a medicine to cure passion. And there is much profit of soul in bearing illness quietly and giving thanks to God." (St. Syncletice)

"O my God, how good thou art. Thou does use the very sickness of man's body to heal the soul." (St. Anthony Mary Claret)

"Sorrow is given us on purpose to cure us of sin." (St. John Chrysostom, Doctor of the Church)

* Brings out the good in us

"[S]uffering born patiently brings out all that is good in us." (Fr. O'Sullivan)

* May convert sinners

"It is only by sacrifice and suffering, offered as penance, that you will be able, by the grace of God, to convert sinners." (St. John Vianney)

* Is necessary to gain heaven

"[W]hoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me." (Our Lord Jesus Christ, Mt. 10:38)

"Then Jesus said to his disciples, 'Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.'" (Mt 16:24)

"[Jesus] summoned the crowd with his disciples and said to them, 'Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.'" (Mk. 8:34)

"Then [Jesus] said to all, 'If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me." (Lk. 9:23) 

"Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple." (Our Lord Jesus Christ, Lk. 14:27)

"Alas! O my God, if they are so few to bear the cross, there will only be few to adore thee in eternity." (St. John Vianney)

"Can you expect to go to heaven for nothing? Did not our dear Savior track the whole way to it with His tears and blood? And yet you start at every little pain." (St. Elizabeth Ann Seton) 

"All those who are willing to be saved through the cross will find salvation there. But those who desire to be saved without it will perish miserably. There is no salvation except in this cross." (St. Francis de Sales, Doctor of the Church)

"The prototype, the example on which one should reflect and model one's self is Jesus Christ. But Jesus chose the cross as his standard, so he wants all his followers to tread the path to Calvary, carrying the cross and then dying stretched out on it. Only this way do we reach salvation." (St. Padre Pio of Pietrelcina)

* Is for our good

"We must remember that all incapacity and distress is sent to us by God. Life and death, health and sickness, are all ordered by Him; and in whatever form they come, it is always to help us and for our good." (St. Vincent de Paul)

"In sending us tribulations, God intends to make us saints." (St. Alphonsus Liguori, Doctor of the Church)

"For as the toils of the contests bring athletes their crowns, so the test which comes to Christians through their tribulations leads them on to perfection, if with fitting patience in all thanksgiving we accept the Lord's dispensations." (St. Basil)

"God sufferth not His servants to be afflicted save for their good." (St. Bonaventure, Doctor of the Church)

"He sends us crosses, not because he wishes evil to us, but because he desires our welfare, and because he knows that they are conducive to our salvation." (St. Alphonsus Liguori, Doctor of the Church)

* Awakens faith

"That illness has been your salvation. You have suffered, but your life has not been in danger. This is what the Lord has said; 'I will strike him, and I will cure him.' He has struck you, your illness has awakened your faith, and that has been your cure." (St. Ambrose, Doctor of the Church)

"[Faith] grows brighter and stronger under trial." (Liturgical Year)

* Brings us closer to Christ

"Down through the centuries and generations it has been seen that in suffering there is concealed a particular power that draws a person interiorly close to Christ, a special grace. To this grace many saints, such as Saint Francis of Assisi, Saint Ignatius of Loyola and others, owe their profound conversion. A result of such a conversion 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. This discovery is a particular confirmation of the spiritual greatness which in man surpasses the body in a way that is completely beyond compare. When this body is gravely ill, totally incapacitated, and the person is almost incapable of living and acting, all the more do interior maturity and spiritual greatness become evident, constituting a touching lesson to those who are healthy and normal. This interior maturity and spiritual greatness in suffering are certainly the result of a particular conversion and cooperation with the grace of the Crucified Redeemer." (Pope John Paul II)

* Corrects faults

"Thank and sweetly kiss the hand of God that strikes you, because it is always the hand of a Father who strikes you because he loves you." (St. Padre Pio of Pietrelcina)

* Teaches us humility

"What do you think the bed of tribulation is? It is simply the school of humility." (St. Francis de Sales, Doctor of the Church)

* Punishes & helps us

"[I]t is better to be punished and cleansed now than to be sent to the torment to come, when it will be time for punishing only, and not for cleansing" (St. Gregory of Nazianz, Doctor of the Church, c. 373)

"[T]he punishments inflicted by God under the Christian dispensation are part of his justice and mercy, and have a moral purpose; they lead us to realize more vividly that life is an undeserved gift from God; they lead us to employ our lives in those activities by which the moral purpose of our existence is fulfilled; they lead us to become more helpful and compassionate to our neighbors; they allow us to expiate our sins and those of others." (Amerio)

"[A] Christian may reasonably take misfortune and treat it as an expiation, penalty or correction for his own sins or those of others, given the fact that he is in some sense a sinner, and that the attainment of true virtue is incomparably more important than any suffering." (Amerio)

* Sanctifies us and helps ensure our salvation

"Every illness and every trial is permitted by God as the means whereby we can best ensure our salvation and as the material most fitted for our sanctification." (Bl. Sebastian Valfre)

* Makes us worthy to receive greater graces

"God is touched by our sorrows and does not allow them to last forever. He takes pleasure in trying our love for a time because he sees that trials purify us and render us worthy to receive his greater graces." (St. Claude de la Colombiere)

* Earns merit

"It is in this life that the basis is laid on which a person deserves to have his condition in the afterlife alleviated or aggravated; and therefore let no one hope that what he neglected to do here he will merit with God when he dies." (St. Augustine, Doctor of the Church, 5th century)

* May save others

"At the hour of your death you will see that you have saved more souls by your illness than by all the good works you might have accomplished in health." (St. John Vianney)

* May reduce purgatory time

"[P]ain suffered in this life voluntarily cleanses much more than pain inflicted after death...the pain of martyrdom is of short duration in comparison with the pain endured in purgatory." (St. Thomas Aquinas, Doctor of the Church and "greatest theologian in the history of the Church")

* Etc.

Click Here For More 'Suffering/Death' Reflections

"Afflictions are the steps to heaven." (St. Elizabeth Ann Seton)

"All suffering is slight to gain Heaven." (St. Joseph Calasanctius)

"I consider that the sufferings of this present time are as nothing compared with the glory to be revealed for us." (Rom. 8:18)

"Suffering out of love for God is better than working miracles." (St. John of the Cross, Doctor of the Church)


How to Suffer

"Many suffer, but few know how to suffer well. Suffering is a gift from God; blessed is he who knows how to profit by it." (St. Padre Pio of Pietrelcina)

To gain the most merit from suffering, it is important to know "how to suffer". The CrucifixionFor example, the faithful Catholic should...

* Contemplate Jesus Crucified

"Is there anything that a generous heart would not willingly suffer on contemplating Jesus crucified?" (St. Raphaela Mary)

* Abandon sin

"He who suffers tribulations in this world, should, in the first place, abandon sin and endeavor to recover the grace of God; for as long as he remains in sin, the merit of all his sufferings is lost." (St. Alphonsus Liguori, Doctor of the Church)

* Offer up their sufferings

"Offer suffering to God and it can become 'an instrument of salvation, a path to holiness, that helps us reach Heaven'" (Pope John Paul II)

* Use Christ's sufferings as a guide

"He submitted Himself to the elements, to cold and heat, hunger and thirst... Concealing His power and giving it up, taking on the likeness of man, so that He might teach us weak and wretched mortals with what patience we ought to bear tribulations." (Bl. Angela of Foligno)

"Life goes down to be killed; Bread goes down to suffer hunger; the Way goes down to be exhausted on his journey; the Spring goes down to suffer thirst; and you refuse to suffer?" (St. Augustine, Doctor of the Church)

"There was never anyone more beloved by God, nor anyone more despised by men than Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified by his own people. Notice the gratitude that the world shows him in return for all of his extraordinary deeds and miracles. He is put to death as if he were the worst of thieves and dies as the poorest of men. He does not die in a comfortable feather bed, but on the hard wood of the Cross; not in a house or under a protecting roof, but in the open air, in a frightfully foul place; not in a private room, but publicly on a Cross; not in the company of his disciples, but between two thieves; not in the arms of his loving Mother, but between those of a tall Cross. He did not even have a few handfuls of straw beneath him, nor over him a covering of the poorest linen. He had no pillow for his head, but a crown of sharp thorns instead. There were no sandals on his feet nor gloves on his hands, but as substitutes he had iron nails that pierced through his flesh and bones. In this dire distress of his, there was no one to minister to him, but an impenitent thief at his side, a degenerate criminal, who showered him with shameful insults. There was no one to console him...He could move neither hand nor foot, nor turn on his side - he found no relief for his body's pain, not even in the slightest. He remained immobile, stretched to the straining point, every organ dreadfully distended. No one there tried to console him. No one thought of helping him. No one was interested in him... There remained only his tongue that he could use. He prayed for his enemies" (Thomas a Kempis)

* Suffer for love of Christ

"God suffered all the dreadful pains of His Passion for each one of us. How can we refuse to suffer a little for love of Him?" (Fr. O'Sullivan)

* Trust God

"We must have a great confidence in God in times of illness or grief, because it is precisely then that God waits to see whether or not we shall put our trust in him." (St. John Vianney)

* Thank God in all things

"To thank God in all things that are agreeable to us, is acceptable to him; but to accept with cheerfulness what is repugnant to our inclinations, is still more pleasing to him. Father M. Avila used to say, that 'a single blessed be God, in adversity, is better than six thousand thanksgivings in prosperity.'" (St. Alphonsus Liguori, Doctor of the Church)

"And I beg the sick brother to give thanks to the Creator for everything; and whether healthy or sick, since all those whom God has predestined for everlasting life (cf. Acts 13:48) He instructs by means of the afflictions of punishment and sickness in the spirit of repentance. As the Lord says: I correct and punish those whom I love (Rv. 3:19)." (St. Francis of Assisi)

"Follow the Divine Master up the steep slope of Calvary, loaded with the cross and when it pleases Him to place us on the cross by confining us to a bed of pain, let us thank Him and consider ourselves lucky to be honored in this way, aware that to be on the cross with Jesus is infinitely more perfect than merely contemplating Him on the cross." (St. Padre Pio of Pietrelcina)

* Rejoice in tribulations

"Great indeed are the advantages of tribulations. The Lord sends them to us not because he wishes our misfortune, but because he desires our welfare. Hence, when they come upon us, we must embrace them with thanksgiving, and must not only resign ourselves to the divine will, but must also rejoice that God treats us as he treated his son Jesus Christ, whose life upon this Earth was always full of tribulation." (St. Alphonsus Liguori, Doctor of the Church)

"Be proud that you are helping God to bear the Cross, and don't grasp at comforts. It is only mercenaries who expect to be paid by the day. Serve Him without pay." (St. Teresa of Avila, Doctor of the Church)

"The greatest joy and exaltation are born only of suffering, and hence that we should rejoice if we partake of the sufferings of Christ, that when His glory shall be revealed we may also be glad with exceeding joy." (Pope Pius XII, "Mystici Corporis Christi", 1943 A.D.)

* Accept sufferings with patience

"If God sends you adversity, accept it with patience and give thanks for it to our Lord, realizing that you have deserved it and that it will be for your own good. If He gives you prosperity, thank Him humbly for it, so that the gift which should improve you may not, through pride or in any other way make you worse; for one should not use God's gifts to war against Him." (St. Louis IX)

"If there be a true way that leads to the Everlasting Kingdom, it is most certainly that of suffering, patiently endured." (St. Colette)

"Let us, then, brethren, courageously resolve to bear patently with all the sufferings which shall come upon us during the remaining days of our lives: to secure Heaven they are all little and nothing." (St. Alphonsus Liguori, Doctor of the Church)

* Bear afflictions with fortitude

"If troubled by poverty, by sickness, by persecution, or afflictions and anxieties of any sort, let us be convinced that none of these things can happen to us without the permission of God, who is the supreme Arbiter of all things. We should, therefore, not suffer our minds to be too much disturbed by them, but bear up against them with fortitude, having always on our lips the words: The will of the Lord be done; and also those of holy Job, As it hath pleased the Lord, so it is done: blessed be the name of the Lord." (Catechism of the Council of Trent)

* Accept suffering as necessary

"You wonder why God, who is goodness itself, allows us to suffer... But, what would you think of a doctor who lost his patient because he was afraid to give him the necessary but unpleasant treatment?" (St. John Vianney)

* Lift up our eyes to Heaven

"Let us likewise, when we are afflicted by the miseries of this life, raise up our eyes to Heaven, and console ourselves, saying with a sign, Heaven! Heaven! Let us reflect that if we be faithful to God, all these sorrows, miseries, and fears will one day have an end, and we shall be admitted into that blessed country, where we shall enjoy complete happiness as long as God will be God. Behold, the saints are expecting us, Mary is expecting us, and Jesus stands with a crown in His hand, to make us kings in that eternal kingdom." (St. Alphonsus Liguori, Doctor of the Church)

* Pray

"Is anyone among you suffering? He should pray. Is anyone in good spirits? He should sing praise." (Jms. 5:13)

"Indeed, the condition of human life is pointed out by the Lord Himself, when He admonishes us that we are to take up our cross daily and follow Him. Since, therefore, everyone must realize the trials and dangers inseparable from this life, it will not be difficult to convince the faithful that they ought to implore of God deliverance from evil, since no inducement to prayer exercises a more powerful influence over men than a desire and hope of deliverance from those evils which oppress or threaten them. There is in the heart of everyone a natural inclination to have instant recourse to God in the face of danger, as it is written: Fill their face with shame, and they shall seek thy name, O Lord." (Catechism of the Council of Trent)

"When a person is healthy, his eyes are, for the most part, looking to the earth; when he is flat on his back, his eyes look to Heaven. Perhaps it is truer to say that Heaven looks down on him. In such moments when fever, agony, and pain make it hard to pray, the suggestion of prayer that comes from merely holding the Rosary - or better still, for caressing the Crucifix at the end of it - is tremendous. Because our prayers are known by heart, the heart can now pour them out and thus fulfill the scriptural injunction to 'pray always'. Prisoners of war during World War II have told me how the Rosary enabled men to pray, almost continuously, for days before their death. The favorite mysteries then were generally the sorrowful ones, for by meditating on the suffering of Our Savior on the Cross, men were inspired to unite their pains with Him, so that, sharing in His Cross, they might also share in His Resurrection." (Archbishop Fulton Sheen)

Note: Click Here for Prayers & Novenas

* Cast your cares on God

"Cast all your worries upon [God] because he cares for you." (1 Pt. 5:7)

"Cast your care upon God for you are his and he will not forget you. Do not think that he is leaving you alone, for that would be wrong to him." (St. John of the Cross, Doctor of the Church)

* Be gentle & kind

"When you are ill, be sure to be gentle and kind, and do not chafe if those serving you sometimes neglect you, or if the brethren rarely visit you. Think of Jesus, forsaken on his Cross, and stop complaining about trifling inconveniences. Ask Jesus to come to you and seek your support in him, for he can change your desolation into consolation. Forget about this world's disappointing comforts and do not fret about whether your friends love you; rather desire that the angels always be your companions and ask the saints to pray for you. Lift up your eyes to the Crucified and meditate on his sacred wounds. Implore the glorious Virgin by pouring out a special prayer in her honor, for she alone stood staunchly at the foot of the Cross and heard Jesus crying out in a loud voice to the Father. Clear your head of all worldly thoughts and images and concentrate on your heavenly homeland. Christ God as your Father, Jesus and your brother, Mary as your mother, the angels as your friends, and the saints as your relatives. For you are descended from a noble and distinguished family - not according to the flesh but in the freedom of the Spirit. Surrounded by such spiritual defenses and with so many dear patrons upon whom you can call for assistance, you can confidently wait the day of the final Judgment and anchor your hope in the goodness of the merciful Savior." (Thomas a Kempis)

* Don't complain or curse

"When something distasteful or unpleasant comes your way, remember Christ crucified and be silent." (St. John of the Cross, Doctor of the Church)

"If something irritating or troublesome happens, instead of loading with cursing whatever is not going the way we want it to, it would be just as easy and a great deal more beneficial for us to say: 'God bless it!'." (St. John Vianney)

"A good Religious complained one day: 'O Lord, what have I done to be treated thus?' Our Lord answered him: 'And I, what had I done when I was led to Calvary?'" (St. John Vianney)

* Keep quiet about sufferings

"Learn to suffer a little for the love of God without telling everyone about it." (St. Teresa of Avila, Doctor of the Church)

* Remain calm

"[We must] understand clearly that if we remain clam, serene, and patient, suffering loses all its sting, but the moment we get excited, the smallest suffering increase a hundredfold." (Fr. O'Sullivan)

* Bear suffering nobly

"If then, He that had no necessity of being crucified was crucified for our sake, how much more, then, ought we bear all things nobly?" (St. John Chrysostom, Doctor of the Church, c. 403 A.D.)

* Do not fear

"Do not be afraid of anything that you are going to suffer. Indeed, the devil will throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will face an ordeal for ten days. Remain faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life." (Rv. 2:10)

"Come, come, my dear, don't be frightened at your burden; our Lord will help you to carry it." (St. John Vianney)

* Learn how to "profit from your sorrows"

"Do not think that your burden is heavy; it is very light, compared with what you deserve to bear and with what Jesus Christ our Lord bore for your sake; it is slight indeed in comparison to the reward it will bring you. Remember that we shall soon quit this world, and then all the past will seem to us like a short dream, and we shall see that it is better to have labored than to have rested here. Learn how to profit by your sorrows, for they bring great riches to the soul. They cleans it from past sin; what fire is to gold, that tribulation is to the just man, whose heart if purifies. Trials only injure the wicked, for instead of being grateful to God they murmur against Him. Their punishment does them no good, because they turn their sufferings into sins, and so lose where they might have gained, earning hell by painful labor. Do not imitate them, but let your courage increase with your trials. God proves His sons by sorrow, and no one will be crowned but that he has been through the combat. St. James says: Blessed is the man who endureth temptation, for when he hath been proved, he shall receive the crown of life (Jms. 1:4), which God promises to those who love Him. If only we realized the value of this crown, how gladly should we now suffer affliction! Would that we understood how blessed, both now and hereafter, are the tears we shed in this life... Live here as a stranger, your body on earth, but your heart above, so that when our Lord calls you, He may not find you sleeping, but ready to go with Him, and to hear the sweet words: Well done, thou good and faithful servant, enter thou into the joy of the Lord (Mt. 25:21)." (St. John of Avila)

* Ask God to heal you if it is His will

"If when we are ill, our recovery will contribute to the glory of God and the good of our soul, he who healed so many when he was on earth, will certainly heal us. If, on the contrary, the illness is more advantageous to us, he will instead give us the strength to suffer." (St. John Vianney)

"[W]hat physicians may not, Jesus Christ can always do!" (Liturgical Year)

* Realize that afflictions come from God: 

"Hearts could bear sorrows more readily if they could be assured that they came directly from God." (Archbishop Fulton Sheen)

"[Suffering] is not simply an evil, for no one suffered more than the Son of God Himself, more than His Blessed Mother or more than the Saints. Every suffering comes from God. It may appear to come to us by chance or accident or from someone else, but in reality, every suffering comes to us from God. Nothing happens to us without His wish or permission. Not even a hair falls from our heads without His consent." (Fr. O'Sullivan)

* Accept God's will

"But, how great is the folly of those who resist the divine will, and instead of receiving tribulations with patience, get into a rage, and accuse God of treating them with injustice and cruelty! Perhaps they expect that, in consequence of their opposition, what God wills shall not happen? 'Who resists his will?' (Rom. 9:19). Miserable men! Instead of lightening the cross which God sends them, they make it more heavy and painful. 'Who hath resisted him, and hath peace?' (Job 9:4). Let us be resigned to the divine will, and we shall thus render our crosses light, and shall gain great treasures of merits for eternal life. In sending us tribulations, God intends to make us saints." (St. Alphonsus Liguori, Doctor of the Church)

"In all the vicissitudes of life such as illness, losses, and so on, be ever mindful to bow with resignation to the Will of God, and repose on these words: 'God will have it so; so it be done.'" (St. Alphonsus Liguori, Doctor of the Church)

"And so anything that takes places does so according to the will of our Creator. Who can oppose the will of God? And so let us accept what happens, for if we react with anger we will be unable to cope with whatever happens and will ourselves be destroyed." (St. Basil the Great, Doctor of the Church)

* Realize that it will be turned to your good

"Whatever good or evil befalls you, be confident that God will convert it all to your good." (St. Jane Frances de Chantal)

* Remember that God does not leave us comfortless

"Our Lord does not leave us comfortless when He sends us sorrow." (Benson)

"Almighty God sends no trial without consolation." (St. John Vianney)

* Remember that God will not less us be tried beyond our strength

"No trial has come to you but what is human. God is faithful and will not let you be tried beyond your strength; but with the trial he will also provide a way out, so that you may be able to bear it." (1 Cor. 10:13)

* Remember that Christ & Mary both suffered, even though sinless

"If the Father gave His Son a Cross and the Mother a sword, then somehow sorrow does fit into the Divine plan of life. If Divine Innocence and His Mother, who was a sinless creature, both underwent agonies, it cannot be that life is a snare and a mockery, but rather it is made clear that love and sorrow often go together in this life and that only in the next life is sorrow left behind." (Archbishop Fulton Sheen)

"If Mary, who was sinless, would with joy accept a Sword from Divine sinlessness, then who of us, who are guilty of sin, shall ever complain if the same Jesus permits us a sorrow for the remission of our sins?" (Archbishop Fulton Sheen)

* Remember that suffering does not last forever

"Whether pleasant or painful, the present does not last forever." (St. Robert Southwell)

* Reflect on the future rewards

"A merchant does not consider the trouble he undergoes in his commerce, but the profit he gains by it." (St. John Vianney)

* Don't give up

"I am fed upon the bread of tribulation and the water of affliction, but nevertheless, I have not given up, and I will not give up, doing my duty." (Pope St. Silverius)

* Remember Mary

"Mary is already in the dust of human lives; she lives amidst terror, brain-washings, false accusations, libels, and all the other instruments of terror. The Immaculate is with the maculate, the sinless with the sinner, and she bears no rancor or bitterness toward them - only pity that they do not see or know how loving that Love is that they are sending to His death. In her purity, Mary is on the mountaintop; in her compassion she is amidst curses, death cells, hangmen, executioners, and blood. A man may despair in his consciousness of sin from crying to God for forgiveness, but he cannot shrink from invoking the intercession of God's Mother, who saw sinners do these things and yet prayed for their forgiveness. If the good Holy Mother, Mary, who deserved to be speared evil, could nevertheless, in the special providence of her Son, have a Cross, then how shall we, who deserve not to be ranked with her, expect to escape our meeting with a cross? 'What have I done to deserve this?' is a cry of pride. What did Jesus do? What did Mary do? Let their be no complaint against God for sending a cross; let there only be wisdom enough to see that Mary is there making it lighter, making it sweeter, making it hers!" (Archbishop Fulton Sheen)

Note: Above is not comprehensive

Note: Of course, one should also be sure to receive the Sacraments as appropriate (e.g. Penance / Confession, Viaticum, Extreme Unction / Anointing of the Sick), and make other preparations for death as applicable (e.g. see below "When a Loved One is Suffering or Dying")

Click Here For More 'Suffering/Death' Reflections

"[S]uffering with patience, resignation, and humility is something far more glorious and more desirable than the most glittering scepters" (Butler)


When a Loved One is Suffering or Dying

Catholics are called to help one another, especially in times of suffering. A good Catholic may help those suffering or dying in various ways. Consider:

* Calling a priest to dispense the Sacraments (e.g. Penance / Confession, Viaticum, Extreme Unction / Anointing of the Sick) and give any applicable blessings. "Is anyone among you sick? He should summon the presbyters Anointing of the Sick[priests] of the church, and they should pray over him and anoint (him) with oil in the name of the Lord, and the prayer of faith will save the sick person, and the Lord will raise him up. If he has committed any sins, he will be forgiven." (Jms. 5:14-15) [Note: This refers to the Sacrament of Extreme Unction (or Anointing of the Sick) which should be received by all Catholics before death. For more information, click here

Note: Although the sacrament of Extreme Unction should certainly be received while one is clearly living, a priest is justly called even after apparent death (e.g. when the person has no heartbeat, no brainwaves, no breathing, etc.), since one cannot be certain that the soul has left the body until the body reaches a certain, irreversible state (i.e. putrefaction). [Note: If a priest does not wish to come after apparent death, he may be reminded of his obligation. Note that he may give the sacrament conditionally if he thinks the person is dead.]

Also note: A plenary indulgence (a complete remission of all temporal punishment due to sin) may be available at death. A person who, in a state of grace, gains a plenary indulgence and then dies without any subsequent sin would go right to heaven and would be spared the great pains of purgatory. For more information on such indulgences and their requirements / conditions, contact a good priest. Note: For more information on Purgatory, click here. [Please note: It is not, however, helpful to maintain that any particular deceased person has, in fact, actually gained such a plenary indulgence. One may not receive the indulgence for a variety of reasons (including the attachment even to a venial sin). Rather, it is best to help the sick person receive the indulgence before they die and then to assume after their death that they did not receive it. That way, you may be less likely to omit prayers for that person, who may be in great need of them if they did not, in fact, actually gain the plenary indulgence.]

Reminder: Only validly ordained bishops & priests may confer the Sacraments of Penance and Extreme Unction / Anointing of the Sick. Lay persons (and nuns) may NOT administer these sacraments.

"At the time of death, the priest should be called to pray for the dying person and to celebrate the Sacraments, especially the Holy Eucharist in the form of Viaticum. The Roman Ritual contains a special section, Pastoral Care of the Dying (Part II of Pastoral Care of the Sick: Rites of Anointing and Viaticum), to direct the priest and the other faithful in assisting spiritually the dying person. The Roman Ritual indicates the distinct purpose of this special section: The ministry to the dying places emphasis on trust in the Lord's promise of eternal life rather than on the struggle against illness which is characteristic of the pastoral care of the sick. (Pastoral Care of the Sick: Rites of Anointing and Viaticum, 1983 ed., No. 161) Care should be taken to call upon the ministry of the priest in a timely manner, not waiting until the moment of death. The greatest help to the dying person is the prayer of the Church and, most of all, the reception of the Holy Eucharist as Viaticum, the spiritual food for the journey from this life to the life which is to come. If the person has already died, the priest should also be called to offer the Church's prayers for the dead and to bless the body. (Cf. Pastoral Care of the Sick: Rites of Anointing and Viaticum, Nos. 223-231)" (On the Christian Burial of the Dead, Bishop Raymond L. Burke/La Crosse)

* Praying for the suffering person (especially Masses, Rosaries, chaplets, Eucharistic adoration, Marian prayers, prayers for the dying, etc.). Note: For prayers for the sick and dying, try the Prayers & Devotions Section (Tip: for A-Z index of prayers, click here).

* Being there for the suffering person.

* Helping the suffering person to have the proper dispositions, especially when death is near: "We call the words Christ spoke while hanging on the Cross 'the seven last words of Jesus on the Cross.' They teach us the dispositions we should have at the hour of death." (Baltimore Catechism)

* Providing the person with appropriate religions objects (e.g. blessed items such as scapulars, rosaries, holy images, crucifix). Note: For more information on sacramentals, click here.

* Sympathizing with the suffering person: "When one is in pain, it is natural that the sympathy of a friend should afford consolation: whereof the Philosopher indicates a twofold reason (Ethica Nicomachea ix,11). The first is because, since sorrow has a depressing effect, it is like a weight whereof we strive to unburden ourselves: so that when a man sees others saddened by his own sorrow, it seems as though others were bearing the burden with him, striving, as it were, to lessen its weight; wherefore the load of sorrow becomes lighter for him: something like what occurs in the carrying of bodily burdens. The second and better reason is because when a man's friends condole with him, he sees that he is loved by them, and this affords him pleasure... Consequently, since every pleasure assuages follows that sorrow is mitigated by a sympathizing friend." (St. Thomas Aquinas, Doctor of the Church and "greatest theologian in the history of the Church")

* Encouraging the suffering person to face death and prepare themselves for it (especially by repentance): "Still more pernicious is the language addressed sometimes by friends and relations to a person suffering with a mortal disease and on the point of death, when they assure him that there is no danger of dying, telling him to be of good spirits, dissuading him from confession, as though the very thought should fill him with melancholy, and finally withdrawing his attention from all care and thought of the dangers which beset him in the last perilous hour." (Catechism of the Council of Trent)

"If they repent, all who desire it will be able to obtain mercy from God." (St. Justin the Martyr, c. 155 A.D.)

"When once you have departed this life, there is no longer any place for repentance, no way of making satisfaction. Here life is either lost or kept. Here, by the worship of God and by the fruit of faith, provision is made for eternal salvation. Let no one be kept back either by his sins or by his years from coming to obtain salvation. To him who still remains in this world there is no repentance that is too late." (St. Cyprian of Carthage, 252 A.D.)

* Gently reminding the person of hard truths in order to encourage conversion: "But let everyone know that whenever or however a person dies in mortal sin without making amends when he could have done so and did not, the devil snatches up his soul out of his body with so much anguish and tribulation that no one can know it unless he has experienced it." (St. Francis of Assisi)

"What he dieth, that must he be forever; as the tree falleth, so must it lie." (Cardinal Newman)

"If we were required to die twice, we could jettison one death. But man dies once only, and upon this death depends his eternity. Where the tree falls, there it shall lie. If, at the hour of death, someone is living in bad habit, the poor soul will fall on the side of hell. If, on the other hand, he is in the state of grace, it will take the road for heaven. Oh, happy road!" (St. John Vianney)

"Since we know these things and are well aware of that terrible day and of that fire, and have in mind those terrible torments, let us turn aside at last from the path on which we have strayed. For the hour will come when the theater of this world will be dissolved, after which there will be no more contending for the prize, no more exertions to be made after the end of this life, no more crowns to be merited after the collapse of this theater. This is the time for repentance, that the time of judgment." (St. John Chrysostom, Doctor of the Church, 4th century A.D.)

* Don't deny or trivialize judgment. "Human beings die once, and after this the judgment" (Heb. 9:27) [Note: Click here for "Tough Love in the New Testament". Click here for "Reward / Punishment" Reflections.]

* Encourage them to trust God: "Human life and death are thus in the hands of God, in his power: 'In his hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of all mankind', exclaims Job (12:10). 'The Lord brings to death and brings to life; he brings down to Sheol and raises up' (1 Sam. 2:6). He alone can say: 'It is I who bring both death and life' (Deut. 32:39). But God does not exercise this power in an arbitrary and threatening way, but rather as part of his care and loving concern for his creatures. If it is true that human life is in the hands of God, it is no less true that these are loving hands, like those of a mother who accepts, nurtures and takes care of her child" (Pope John Paul II)

* Encourage them to call on Mary: "He will not taste death forever who in his dying moments has recourse to the Blessed Virgin Mary." (Pope Pius XI)

* Help them prepare for the final struggle: "At death, the Devil exerts all his powers to secure the soul that is about to leave this world; for he knows, from the symptoms of the disease, that he has but little time to gain her for eternity." (St. Alphonsus Liguori, Doctor of the Church)

"If the devil tries to terrorize you, invoke the name of Jesus and raise the standard of the holy Cross. If he counters by narrating your many sins and past misdeeds, then respond by reciting the infinite merits of Christ. Also remember the seven words Jesus spoke from the Cross for your instruction... [W]hen you are about to depart this world, you are not to be remiss in voicing and frequently repeating the words of his final commendation ("Father, into your hands I commend my spirit"). You will find at the end that there are none more meaningful than these." (Thomas a Kempis)

"The whole life of a Christian ought to be nothing else than a constant preparation for that tremendous hour which will decide our eternal lot, and in which the devil will assail us with the utmost effort of his fury; and our own weakness in mind and body, the lively remembrance of our past sins, and other alarming circumstances and difficulties, will make us stand in need of the strongest assistance of divine grace and the special patronage of her who is the protectress of all in distress, particularly of her devout clients in their last and most dangerous conflict." (Muller)

* Remember that death can come at any moment: "Every action of yours, every thought, should be those of one who expects to die before the day is out." (Thomas a Kempis)

* Remember that death is inevitable for all of us: "Our physicians cannot heal us, they can merely ward off death for a little." (Benson)

"...we must...look on this present life as a path to the grave. The path may be long or short, but to the tomb it must lead us." (Gueranger)

* Remind them that we must accept death whenever it pleases God to call us.

* Remind them that death is not the end: "Death opens up the way to true life" (Catechism of the Council of Trent)

Note: For Information Regarding Organ Donation, See Flier: "Organ Donation: Act of Charity or License to Kill?

Note: Above is not comprehensive

Click Here For More 'Suffering/Death' Reflections

Note: Topics May Include...

Acceptance of Death



All Things Are From God

The Cross / Crosses

Death & Dying [Pg.]

Death & Those We Love

Death / Pain

Extreme Unction

Fear of Death

A Happy Death is Our Principal Concern In Life

How One Dies is How One Remains Forever

Jesus' Death

Longing For Death

The Moment of Death

Necessity of / Reasons for Suffering

Our Deaths & The Blessed Virgin


Praise of Death

Preparing For Death

Sickness / Illness

Sorrow / Sorrows


Trials & Tribulations

Uncertain Moment of Death

Words of Advice

Words of Encouragement


"Of all the things of life, a happy death is our principal concern. For if we attain that, it matters little if we lose all the rest. But if we do not attain that, nothing else is of any value." (Bl. Juniperro Serra)


When a Loved One Has Died

We are assured by Christ that death is not the end. In Sorrowful Motherfact, for the just, death is the beginning of true life. Scripture assures us of this fact, as do the saints:

"I am not dying; I am entering life." (St. Therese of Lisieux, Doctor of the Church)

"But it is flesh that dies; the soul is immortal." (St. Epiphanius of Salamis, c. 374 A.D.)

"To the good man to die is gain." (St. Ambrose, Doctor of the Church, 4th century A.D.)

"When you awake in that world, you will find that nothing could tempt you to return to this!" (St. Elizabeth Ann Seton)

"[W]e are compelled to assent to the resurrection of the dead, which God will bring about at its appointed time, when in His works He will make good His own promises." (St. Gregory of Nyssa, 4th century A.D.)

"What I pray you is dying? Just what it is to put off a garment. For the body is about the soul as a garment; and after laying this aside for a short time by means of death, we shall resume it again with more splendor." (St. John Chrysostom, Doctor of the Church, 4th century A.D.)

"Our brethren who are freed from this world by the Lord's summons are not to be mourned, since we know that they are not lost to us, but only sent on ahead of us. Departing from us, they precede us as travelers, just as navigators are accustomed to do." (St. Cyprian of Carthage)

"It is not Death that will come to fetch me, it is the good God. Death is no phantom, no horrible specter, as presented in pictures. In the catechism it is stated that death is the separation of soul and body, that is all! Well, I am not afraid of a separation which will unite me to the good God forever." (St. Therese of Lisieux, Doctor of the Church)

"How consoling it is to see a just man die! His death is good, because it ends his miseries; it is better still, because he begins a new life; it is excellent, because it places him in sweet security. From this bed of mourning, whereon he leaves a precious load of virtues, he goes to take possession of the true land of the living, Jesus acknowledges him as His brother and as His friend, for he has died to the world before closing his eyes from its dazzling light. Such is the death of the saints, a death very precious in the sight of God." (St. Bernard of Clairvaux, Doctor of the Church)

Although we miss our loved ones, we must accept death when it pleases God: "We must accept our own death, and that of our relations, when God shall send it to us, and not desire it at any other time; for it is sometimes necessary that it should happen at that particular moment, for the good of our own and their souls." (St. Philip Neri)

Despite the promise of eternal life, however, we must not lose sight of the fact that those who die will often have sins to expiate. It is wrong (and uncharitable) to instantly "canonize" loved ones after death. Such actions leave the poor souls - who are unable to assist themselves - without relief from those remaining on earth. In fact, it has been said that seven years of penance is due for each mortal sin committed during one's life. Therefore, it is good to assume that any particular loved one - no matter how good they appeared to you in life - may be in Purgatory and therefore is in great in need of prayers, Masses, etc. Note that it is very possible that some of your friends and relatives who passed away long ago may still remain in Purgatory.

"That purgatorial fire itself will be more difficult than any punishments that can be seen or imagined or felt in this life." (St. Caesar of Arles, c. 540 A.D.)

"We must say many prayers for the souls of the faithful departed, for one must be so pure to enter heaven!" (St. John Vianney)

"Day and night I am pursued by the same thought: One does not pray enough for the dead. Eighty thousand people die in this nation [France] every day." (Bl. Eugenie Smet)

"According to the holy Doctors, for every mortal sin a man is obliged by God to seven years of penance in this world, or the equivalent in purgatory; the reason being that every mortal sin is an offense against the seven Gifts of the Holy Ghost." (St. Vincent Ferrer)

"[I]f you assign, on the average, as St. Frances of Rome says, seven years for the expiation of one mortal sin, remitted as to the guilt, who does not see that we arrive at an appalling duration and that the expiation may especially be prolonged for many years, and even for centuries? Years and centuries of torments! Oh! if we only thought of it, with what care should we not avoid the least faults! with what fervor should we not practice penance to make satisfaction in this world!" (Fr. Schouppe) 

Click Here for Prayers for Deceased Persons

Be sure to pray regularly for the deceased! And, besides praying for the deceased and gaining indulgences, you should also arrange to have Masses said on their behalf (especially Gregorian Masses, and particularly Masses at privileged altars). Don't limit your charity to the living!

Click Here For More 'Death & Dying' Reflections

Note: Topics May Include...

Cemeteries / Burial

Death & Those We Love

Death Becomes Evil Only By the Retribution Which Follows

Death is Not the End / Resurrection

Death of the Just

Death of the Wicked

Ecclesiastical Funerals / Burial

Prayer For the Dead

Traditional Teaching on Cremation 

Click Here For Information on the Purgatory Release Project (Catholic Activities Section)

Note: Topics May Include...

Why do the poor souls need my help?

Which souls are in Purgatory?

Must I believe in Purgatory?

Why do the poor souls suffer?

Doesn't penance eliminate all Purgatory time?

What if none of my loved ones are in Purgatory?

How do my prayers help?

How else can I assist the poor souls?

Why should I join the PRP effort?

How can I participate in the Purgatory Release Project (PRP)?

"The silence of death will tell us so plainly that our life is but a vapor, the world a passing scene, its dearest hopes illusive; that God and eternity are our all and all forever." (St. Elizabeth Ann Seton)


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