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The Work Of Suffering: Spiritual Exercise 08/08/22

Please join us Monday 08/08/22 from 6:30 pm to 8:00 pm MT (8:30 pm to 10:00 pm ET).

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Opening Prayer: The Memorare

REMEMBER, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection, implored thy help, or sought thy intercession was left unaided. Inspired with this confidence, I fly to thee, O Virgin of virgins, my Mother; to thee do I come; before thee I stand, sinful and sorrowful. O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in thy mercy hear and answer me.


The Work of Suffering

Is there any real purpose to suffering? Why is there so much of it? What good can possibly come from it? These are questions humanity has asked almost from the beginning of time. No one goes through life without experiencing suffering in one form or other many times over. Sorrow and woe are woven into our existence here whether we like it (and most don’t) or not. But what good is it? Are we meant to do more than endure it? Does it have any power to change things for the better?

One of the newest young people on a path toward beatification, Carlotta Nobile, has a surprising answer to these questions. Carlotta was born in 1988 in Rome and quickly became noticed for her extraordinary musical talent. She was one of the most popular young violinists of her time and became the artistic director of Santa Sophia Academy Chamber Orchestra in Benevento at the age of 21. She won many awards for her music and was involved in many different outreaches and programs for the support of the arts.

At 22, she was unexpectedly diagnosed with melanoma, a cancer that had already metastasized. She endured many treatments and surgeries. During this time, she was deeply touched by a sermon Pope Francis gave to young people in which he told them not to be afraid of the Cross but to embrace it with joy. This is precisely what she strove to do. Her understanding of her illness in the prime of her life, and with so much promise in her future, was recorded in a blog for cancer patients, which she began writing and sharing anonymously. She communicated a remarkable degree of Faith and extraordinary insight into the workings of suffering in her life:

“I don’t even know how many centimeters of surgery scars have been drawn on my body, but I love them all, one by one. Every single centimeter of etched skin which will never be healed! Those are the starting points of my wings. “

“… there’s an Afterwards you’ll never stop fighting for. Because nobody can keep you away from the certainty that – despite all the scars, surgeries, needles in veins, tests, contrast liquids, therapies, and sorrows – there’s a unique happiness waiting for you, there’s your greatest dream which keeps looking at you from the future and can’t wait to reach you. Because you know that all you’re living now will be given back to you.”

Perhaps her most extraordinary understanding is revealed in the following words:

“…in a moment, you understand that the cancer can HEAL YOUR SOUL, restore the balance in your life essence and give you Faith, hope, self abandon, consciousness of finally becoming who you really wanted to be in all your life but never were: a PEACEFUL WOMAN. …in your strengths and weaknesses, it leads you to savour each moment, each smell, each flavour, each perception, each word, each sharing, every little fragment of infinity condensed in a very common and very precious moment. You understand that it’s cancer with its torment and aggressiveness, with its brutality, to bring you the LIGHT in the end. »

Her very last post (she died at the age of 24) witnesses the accomplishment of the work of suffering in her life:

“I’m healed in my soul. In an instant, in an ordinary day, as I awoke from a crisis. I opened my eyes and I found I was a new person. And that’s a miracle. “

— Carlotta Nobile, Il Cancro E Poi_, April 5, 2013

Pope St. John Paul II witnessed the same thing in his own life:

“It is suffering, more than anything else, which clears the way for the grace which transforms human souls.”

What if we were able to look at suffering in the same way? What if we could understand all that happens or is allowed to happen as a means that God will use to heal our immortal souls and prepare them for eternity? If we can see differently, see in Faith, the Cross will begin to lose its terror and shame and become something to embrace for the sake of the joy that lays before us.

Questions for silent reflection:

1. What do you think of the possibility that illness can heal deeper parts of us in the midst of our suffering?

2. Have you experienced unexpected graces from cancer and your own experience with it?

3. If you could live your life over again without cancer, and without suffering, would you choose that? Why or why not?

4. What wisdom from your own suffering would you want to share with others?

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