This will be my last posting on Jay’s blog for sometime. I have been too ill to continue with my own, and am thankful for Jay for his soapbox.
Over the past several years, I have noticed that there is ONE sin which underlines all the sins of people. This is the sin of Avoidance of Suffering. This is also a name of a generational spirit, which enters families because of a trauma owing to avoidance of suffering.
Let me explain this sin by starting with the opposite, the virtue of the acceptance of suffering. All the saints accepted suffering. Perhaps, the most eloquent description of what a saint is in the world regarding suffering is from a piece by Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman, who wrote this below on the definition of a gentleman. I use this as the kick-off for more thoughts.
I posted this years ago, but it is worth revisiting in a new light.
It is almost a definition of a gentleman to say he is one who never inflicts pain. This description is both refined and, as far as it goes, accurate. He is mainly occupied in merely removing the obstacles which hinder the free and unembarrassed action of those about him; and he concurs with their movements rather than takes the initiative himself. His benefits may be considered as parallel to what are called comforts or conveniences in arrangements of a personal nature: like an easy chair or a good fire, which do their part in dispelling cold and fatigue, though nature provides both means of rest and animal heat without them. The true gentleman in like manner carefully avoids whatever may cause a jar or a jolt in the minds of those with whom he is cast; — all clashing of opinion, or collision of feeling, all restraint, or suspicion, or gloom, or resentment; his great concern being to make every one at their ease and at home. He has his eyes on all his company; he is tender towards the bashful, gentle towards the distant, and merciful towards the absurd; he can recollect to whom he is speaking; he guards against unseasonable allusions, or topics which may irritate; he is seldom prominent in conversation, and never wearisome. He makes light of favours while he does them, and seems to be receiving when he is conferring. He never speaks of himself except when compelled, never defends himself by a mere retort, he has no ears for slander or gossip, is scrupulous in imputing motives to those who interfere with him, and interprets every thing for the best. He is never mean or little in his disputes, never takes unfair advantage, never mistakes personalities or sharp sayings for arguments, or insinuates evil which he dare not say out. From a long-sighted prudence, he observes the maxim of the ancient sage, that we should ever conduct ourselves towards our enemy as if he were one day to be our friend. He has too much good sense to be affronted at insults, he is too well employed to remember injuries, and too indolent to bear malice. He is patient, forbearing, and resigned, on philosophical principles; he submits to pain, because it is inevitable, to bereavement, because it is irreparable, and to death, because it is his destiny. If he engages in controversy of any kind, his disciplined intellect preserves him from the blunder. [From The Idea of a University, 1852]
This definition includes the ideal that a gentleman never causes anyone suffering and that he submits to pain. Whether a man is a husband, a priest, a single man, he is a mature man and a gentleman if he can absorb his own suffering and those of the people around him.
A husband suffers for his wife and children. A son may suffer for his parent’s benefit. Siblings may suffer for each other. This definition specifically addressing men points to a person of authority who is yet gentle, merciful, reflecting in thought and deed, and willing to not cause pain in another person. A true gentleman, “never inflicts pain.”
Women may be included in those who are committing the greatest sin of our time, avoidance of suffering, which is why many women choose not to have children or even get married. However, I want to highlight the lack of the acceptance of suffering among men, as this sin is affecting three areas of Catholic life.
The first is the need for an acceptance of suffering in order to be a priest. To accept the call from God is to accept the Cross. Those young men who cannot face suffering or who do not want to suffer, will not respond to God’s call. It will be too hard. Years ago, a man close to me told me it was too hard to be a Catholic in today’s world. Yes, being a Catholic man means protecting others from suffering and absorbing suffering for the sake of others. Christ is our example.
Within the religious orders, there is plenty of suffering—missionaries face hardships one cannot imagine; monks give up everything under obedience; men are sent to places they may not want to go, in suffering, but out of obedience. This willingness to suffer marks the man who has accepted his vocation.
In marriage, the man is to carry the main suffering of the family, especially that of the wife, and their children. Suffering means inconvenience, giving up things one wants, denying self in small as well as large ways. The man who accepts suffering in marriage will have a holy marriage.
However, the sin and, indeed, the generational demon of the avoidance of suffering, creates a huge problem in 2018, that of the lack and avoidance of commitment. Someone recently commented to me that he would not shackle himself with a spiritual director, or by belonging to a third order, as I have chosen (in both cases). Ironically, this man thinks he can be a saint without a spiritual director, or without any commitment. Of course, he has never married and never joined a religious order. This type of singleness is a chosen state of avoidance of suffering.
When something occurs in a family wherein a member in authority, such as a dad, or grandpa, commits a serious sin, or if there is a serious trauma, a generational demon enters that family. The Avoidance of Suffering is such a demon. Generational demons stop the growth of maturity, lead people to make bad decisions in their lives, and even halt the use of gifts and talents. This particular demon kills vocations, either to the priesthood, or religious life, or to marriage. We now have, two, if not three generations who avoid suffering on purpose.
Fear causes an avoidance of suffering, because suffering is painful. For a woman, the removal of fear and the acceptance of suffering could mean having a baby out of wed-lock instead of having an abortion, or giving up a career instead of practicing birth control.
Suffering is intrinsically evil, but an evil which is in the world owing to Original Sin, and our own personal sins. Suffering must be used and the saints used suffering to become Uber-holy.
Many groups do not want to suffer, such as cliques, and Gnostic-oriented Catholics, who do not want to step outside their comfort zone.
I know very few gentlemen or gentlewomen, sadly, as the culture has created people who do not want to suffer—hence the new rush to pass euthanasia laws. I had to talk a Catholic friend out of starving her aged parent to death as she did not want to wait for his death naturally. Thankfully, when I explained the Church’s teaching, she saw, with grace, that her position was wrong. She then visited her dad daily for weeks in the hospital until he died a natural death of organ failure.
Denying drink and food is murder, period. It also causes a painful death, agony over a long time. Another friend of mine could not change her sister-in-laws mind about this point, and that wife let her husband be starved to death. It took three weeks! Of course, the doctors shoved morphine into this man to kill the pain. The wife did not want to watch suffering, which is a kind of suffering. Again, she helped murder her own husband.
The greatest saints willingly accepted suffering—Padre Pio, Francis, Catherine of Siena, Teresa of Avila, and so on. To become a martyr means that a person has accepted the suffering to come. Grace is given accordingly.
This greatest sin of our time can be seen in so many areas of politics, entertainment, medicine, family relationships. How sad when a mother rejects a child who causes her suffering. How sad for a sister to ignore a homeless brother and not invite him to live with her because of her pride in not wanting to be inconvenienced. How terrible for a family not to be honest about gross sin and face the suffering of rejection for speaking the truth.
Christ is our Example. His passion and death on the Cross is THE ULTIMATE SUFFERING —God suffering for us unworthy ones.
Let me end these thoughts with a reference to the great Dietrich Bonhoeffer, whose writings brought me back to the Church, partly, when I was young person. He wrote about cheap grace and costly grace.
“Cheap grace means grace sold on the market like cheapjacks’ wares. The sacraments, the forgiveness of sin, and the consolations of religion are thrown away at cut prices. Grace is represented as the Church’s inexhaustible treasury, from which she showers blessings with generous hands, without asking questions or fixing limits. Grace without price; grace without cost! The essence of grace, we suppose, is that the account has been paid in advance; and, because it has been paid, everything can be had for nothing. Since the cost was infinite, the possibilities of using and spending it are infinite. What would grace be if it were not cheap?…
Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.
Costly grace is the treasure hidden in the field; for the sake of it a man will go and sell all that he has. It is the pearl of great price to buy which the merchant will sell all his goods. It is the kingly rule of Christ, for whose sake a man will pluck out the eye which causes him to stumble; it is the call of Jesus Christ at which the disciple leaves his nets and follows him.
Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock.
Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life. It is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies the sinner. Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of his Son: “ye were bought at a price,” and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us. Above all, it is grace because God did not reckon his Son too dear a price to pay for our life, but delivered him up for us. Costly grace is the Incarnation of God.” From the Cost of Discipleship
Choose costly grace, and choose to accept suffering for your own sins and the sins of many. And, join those sufferings to the Cross of Christ. Joy may be found in this.
Bye for awhile, Supertradmum
JMJ, Pray for us.
God is good,