I remember the first time I was introduced to the idea of ‘redemptive suffering’ — it was offered to me by an elderly priest that I met by chance at the Grotto of Lourdes in Emmitsburg, Maryland. I’m not sure where he was from or why he was there, but I am forever grateful I met him. He said to me,
There are two pieces of advice I want to share with you, and they’re true for you whether or not you ever become a priest. One, trust only in Our Lord, and not in the ‘princes, or the sons of men, in whom there is no salvation’ [Psalm 146:3]. Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus alone and you will be unshakable and unshaken; take your eyes off, and you’ll sink. Second, remember that no matter what the specifics of your trials and hardships are, this fact is always the same: suffering with Our Lord makes a man into a saint. Keep those two things in mind, and you’ll never lose your way.
I remembered that encounter after I came across two great ‘redemptive suffering’ quotes this last week: the first, by N.T. Wright, was shared with me by a friend; and the other, by St. Faustina, I saw quoted in an article.
…as God is leading us in Christ through pain, through the valley of the shadow of death, through apparent despair, then somehow, strangely, as we look around, we discover that God is spreading in every place the fragrance that comes from knowing him, and we become the people through whom the sweet smell of God is actually being wafted to and fro…as the beautiful smell permeates the temple, so the aroma of Christ is to permeate the world—through the life and suffering of the apostles…
Jesus said, ‘If the angels were capable of envy, they would envy us for two things: one is the receiving of Holy Communion, and the other is suffering.’