Date: April 16, 2021
By: Giorgina A.
As much as I don’t love to admit it, I grew up with a very uneventful life. I never seriously doubted my faith, my family was a stronghold of peace, and I had my parents’ marriage to look up to and never doubt. Yes, we had immigrated to Canada from Venezuela when I was three, and I have heard stories that we went through a period of financial difficulty the first few years after our move, but as far as a young and childishly ignorant Giorgina was concerned, everything was fine and dandy. When I look back, I would never use the term “suffering” as a verb to describe my feelings in action as I grew up. However, this past year has been one in which suffering has come into my life most unexpectedly. It seems as though in the span of six months, I boarded a rollercoaster of events unwillingly, and of which I no longer had the ability to overlook or avoid.
To summarize, in a relatively short timespan, I ended a nine month relationship, my parents decided to sell the house I grew up in, and my sister, her family, as well as my aunt and uncle all embraced opportunities that involved them moving out of Canada. The added layer of COVID-19, as well as the travel and living restrictions related to it, all created a tough situation that I absolutely did not feel equipped to handle. As each difficulty piled on, I must admit that I did not embrace them with an attitude of resignation to Our Lord’s will or complete trust in His plan. While I knew (and still know) that there are others whose experiences are much more trying and painful, I cannot deny that I felt overwhelmed with these events happening one after the other. I would spend much of my time in prayer wondering why He was putting me through these hardships, and questioning what possible good could come out of them. I’m ashamed to think of how many times I have doubted God’s generosity during these past months. While this has been difficult, this time has also provided me with the opportunity to ponder the importance of suffering, as well as its role in my faith.
When I was growing up, I have vivid memories of my father stressing to me and my sister that suffering is a crucial part of Catholicism, one that should not be ignored. He would call attention to the images and statues of Christ crucified, particularly those that would adorn the altar of the parish we attended. He would remind us that Christ’s ultimate act of love for us was to accept and embrace the horrific suffering that would come with his crucifixion. However, I’ve also grown up in a culture that seems to despise suffering and encourages people to avoid it at all costs. I can recognize that myself, as well as others around me, are often tempted to desire joy and triumph without first experiencing the struggle, the hardship, and ultimately the cross. But this is not at all what we are called to do as Christians. Christ not only tolerated the cross, He embraced it lovingly, because He knew that there was a greater purpose in bearing it. If we believe that our God is a loving and trustworthy one, it makes sense that we have to believe that when He allows suffering to enter our life, it is absolutely not for a sick or pointless reason. More often than not, it is an opportunity for sanctification, but this result is ultimately dependent on how we choose to react to our suffering.
While I was immersed in my months of suffering, I stumbled upon this quote by St. Sebastian Valfre: "When it is all over you will not regret having suffered; rather you will regret having suffered so little, and suffered that little so badly." As difficult as it may be, I do desire to live my life in a way that exhibits my belief that suffering has great merit. Instead of wallowing in self-pity or disappointment, I am trying to choose to view hardships as opportunities to mortify my pride, mold me into a saint, and bring me closer to the sacrifice of Jesus; allowing me to experience, on a miniscule level, the pain that was endured on my behalf. Ultimately, my goal in life is not to avoid difficulty or struggle, it is to become a saint. There is not a saint who was created without first having endured some sort of trial, and they set themselves apart from others by enduring their troubles in an admirably sacrificial way. Each and every one of them did not let an ounce of their pain go to waste, but instead offered it up to Our Lord as a sacrificial gift for love of Him.
Life has relatively settled down in the past month, and I have already seen some of the fruits that God has brought into my life. I have moments where I stumble, and probably will continue to, but I know that I must push on in the periods of adversity. The road to heaven is one that is undoubtedly narrow, and on our journey as followers of Christ through it, we can take comfort in the writings of St. Rose of Lima: “Our Lord and Savior lifted up his voice and said with incomparable majesty: ‘Let all men know that grace comes after tribulation. Without the burden of afflictions it is impossible to reach the height of grace. Let them know that the gifts of grace increase as the struggles increase. Let men take care not to stray and be deceived. This is the only true stairway to paradise, and without the cross they can find no road to climb to heaven.’"