Father Ed Broom, OMV, serves as Associate Pastor at St. Peter Chanel Church in Hawaiian Gardens, California. He is a member of the Religious Order, Oblates of the Virgin Mary, and was ordained by Saint John Paul II in St Peter’s Basilica on May 25, 1986. Fr. Ed is a Retreat Master and teaches Catholic Ignatian Marian Spirituality through articles, podcasts, a radio show, retreats and spiritual direction. He is the author of three books: From Humdrum to Holy, Total. Consecration to Jesus through Mary though the Mysteries of the Rosary and Road Map to Heaven, A Catholic Plan of Life.
Amidst the many distractions of life it is very easy for us to be sidetracked as to really living out the true meaning of Christmas, if you like the true “Reason for the Season.” The very focal point and meaning for the season of Christmas is the Person of Jesus. Christmas indeed is the birthday of Jesus Christ. A little more than 2000 years ago Jesus was born in Bethlehem—meaning “House of Bread” — with the purpose of saving us. Actually His name “Jesus” means “Savior”, as the Archangel Gabriel announces to Mary: “He will save the people of their sins.” How then can we prepare our hearts, minds, and souls for the Birthday of our loving Redeemer? We would like to offer a few concrete suggestions that can be of paramount importance in helping us to prepare well so that Jesus will be born in our hearts this Christmas.
1. LET US PRAY FOR THOSE WHO DO NOT CARE TO BE SAVED. There is a class of persons who really do need frequent and fervent prayers. These are individuals, and there are many of them, who live never thinking of, much less talking to God. For them, living a pagan and hedonistic lifestyle—for the world and the pleasures the world offers— is the end and purpose of their existence. They are blinded to see anything beyond their momentary, fleeting and transitory plight. For them, life and the meaning of life is here and now! Let us pray for these individuals that they might become aware of their dire need for Jesus and be enlightened to see that only Jesus can give true happiness in this life as well as the life to come.
2. LET US PRAY FOR THE ANGRY, THE BITTER, THE RESENTFUL AND THOSE WITH UNFORGIVING HEARTS. This is another class of individuals who urgently need fervent and frequent prayers so that they can truly encounter Jesus when He is born and lives with us. Emmanuel means “God with us”. These are wounded individuals who have gaping wounds from their past. Instead of these wounds healing they grow, become putrid, become infected. In a certain sense, they become cancerous. The worse thing about these individuals is the simple fact that they do not recognize that they are bitter and unforgiving. Everybody is at fault except them. May these individuals be enlightened to the reality of God’s infinite Mercy. May they have the courage to recognize that they have been mortally wounded by others but that they must forgive; if done they will be setting the captives free; indeed, they themselves are the captives who have to be set free!
3. LET US PRAY FOR THOSE WHO ARE SLAVES OF ADDICTIONS. Never have we lived in a society with so many addictions. Drugs, drink, gambling, horses, casinos, sex, pornography, overeating, buying and accumulating—just to mention a few, are all forms of addictions. Jesus came to save all; Jesus also said that sin is slavery. Dragging the moral chains and bonds of sin is actually worse than physical slavery. Saint John the Baptist experienced the bonds and chains of imprisonment as a result of his denouncing the adulteress relationship between King Herod and his brother’s wife. However, King Herod was more a slave and prisoner than John the Baptist! Herod indeed was a slave of his passions—his greed, lust, pride, insecurities; these were more insidious and more perilous bonds then the chains and manacles that bound the Baptist. Let us pray in a very special way for the many people in modern society who are slaves of addictions and are blind or powerless to break asunder these sinful chains. The great Saint Augustine was bound and enslaved to the addiction of lust for more than 30 years. Due to the prayers of his mother, Saint Monica and the powerful and holy example of Saint Ambrose the addiction was conquered! Then Augustine went on to become a great saint, writer, teacher, preacher, Bishop, saint and Father or the Church.
4. LET US PRAY FOR THOSE WHO LIVE IN THE DARKNESS OF IGNORANCE. Never have we lived in a society with so much information, but never have we lived in a society with so much ignorance, especially in the realm of religion. Let us pray for the many Catholic-Christian adults who have not studied their faith for many years, possibly decades. Possibly they were confirmed in their early teens and since then have not opened a religious book, the Bible, nor even a catechism. On a professional level maybe they are thriving, but in knowledge and love for the faith they are spiritually as dead as a door nail. The worse part in this scenario is that they have no hunger and thirst for the truth. Jesus is the Way, the TRUTH, and the Life. Nobody comes to the Father except through Him. Let us pray for these individuals that they will come to a keen awareness of their ignorance of religious truth, and hunger and thirst to dispel this cloak of ignorance. May the Holy Spirit who descended upon Mary and the Apostles that first Pentecost in fire and wind enlighten them and forcefully blow away and dispel their ignorance.
5. LET US PRAY FOR THOSE WHO PERVERT THE INNOCENT. Finally, there is a very important category that we should pray for that they may encounter the Light of Jesus the Savior—those who pervert and damage the innocent! Jesus said regarding those who scandalize or pervert the innocent that it would be better for them to have a millstone tied around their neck and be thrown into the depths of the sea. Very strong words from the lips of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ that should be listened to and obeyed! Many who work in television, many who work in fashion and dress, many who promote indecent websites, many who publish indecent magazines— many of these fall into the category of those who pervert and scandalize the innocent, especially the minds and hearts of children. For these we should pray fervently for their conversion and salvation.
Suffering has positive value only inasmuch as it is united to Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in His life, Passion, death and Resurrection. If not, much of our suffering is wasted and we become a bitter person rather than a better person!
POSITIVE FRUITS OF HUMAN SUFFERING: THE LIST!!!
The purpose of this article is to highlight a list of positive fruits that flow from the person who unites his suffering to the cross of Jesus, as well as the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass where Jesus renews on a daily basis His passion and death through the Sacrament of all Sacraments—the most Holy Eucharist! The following is a list to encourage us to carry our cross more courageously, following in the footsteps of Jesus and His friends the saints. With Saint Francis of Assisi, we acclaim: “We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.”
1. UNION WITH AND IMITATION OF CHRIST. The name Christian means follower or disciple of Christ. By suffering with courage we are united more with Jesus our Savior; we become more like Him and we imitate Him all the more closely.
2. PRAYER GROWTH. In crucial moments of intense suffering the true followers of Christ pray all the more fervently in imitation of Jesus Himself in the Garden… He prayed all the more fervently to the point of shedding huge drops of blood. And it is so true that when we deepen our prayer life we unite ourselves more to Jesus and become living sacrifices pleasing to God the Father.
3. HUMILITY. Confronted with excruciating sufferings—be they physical, moral, emotional, psychological, social, or family, etc.—we find ourselves helpless and like a little child totally dependent upon the care, protection and love of the Eternal Father and His Divine Providence. Humility really means not depending upon myself and my own limited human resources but depending totally upon God. “Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth.” (Psalm 124:8) Also: “The Lord is my Shepherd, there is nothing I shall lack.” (Psalm 23)
4. TRUST. One of the modern spiritual classics is the Diary of Saint Faustina, Divine Mercy in My Soul. This great modern saint suffered intensely but the more she suffered the more she trusted in God for strength and support. So it must be with us; suffering should motivate us to trust in God all the more as our eternal Rock on which we can stand in navigating through the storms of life.
5. PATIENCE. The nature of all suffering is that it takes a toll on us and forces us to practice the virtue of patience—remember the Book of Job. Maybe God Himself has sent us certain sufferings as a means by which we can grow in that all important virtue of PATIENCE! Looking in retrospect on past sufferings that we have more or less accepted, we can attest to the fact that we are at least a little bit more patient in imitation of Jesus, Mary and the saints. Jesus said: “By your patience you will save your souls.” (Lk 21:19)
6. COMPASSION. Still more the virtue of compassion can be a recompense and prize for those who are undergoing the fire and storm of tribulations and sufferings. A classic example might be a woman who has survived breast cancer and is now healthy and thriving. This woman providentially meets another woman who has been diagnosed with breast cancer. Now the former woman having survived the ordeal can definitely commiserate with and have compassion on this woman just diagnosed. Why? For the simple reason that she went through it herself! Those who suffer in a Christian way can definitely be compassionate with others that are going through the same predicament. Actually the word Compassion means the ability to suffer with another.
7. PURIFICATION. As gold is purified by fire so are the friends of the Lord purified by the trial of sufferings. Saint John of the Cross gives us the image of a piece of cold and rusty iron cast into the fire. In time the cold and rusty piece of iron will assume the same heat of the fire and the rust will disintegrate. So it is with human souls cloaked with sin and sinful tendencies. The willing acceptance of suffering for the love of Jesus and in union with Jesus who suffered and died for all of humanity and all of us individually, can be a means of purifying our soul. Indeed, it must be said: we can beg the Lord to give us our Purgatory here on earth so that we can have quicker access to heaven!
8. DETACHMENT. The human person, due to Original Sin, has a strong tendency to attach himself/herself to persons, places, things, ideas, concepts, etc. Many of these attachments are disordered to the point of even being sinful. The storm blast of suffering can shatter these attachments. If one has been diagnosed with cancer and given six months to live then he can start to unpack his life, give things away to others, relinquish what is really not essential and necessary, and prepare himself for death, judgment and the life to come—Heaven! Indeed, suffering can serve as a sober but very real meditation on the transitory and fleeting nature of human life. “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity” if not based on God! (Eccl 1:2)
9. SALVATION OF SOULS. The children of Fatima were educated in the school of suffering, especially Jacinta and Francisco Marto—both died almost within two years of the last apparition of Our Lady of Fatima in 1917. After the graphic vision of hell, July 13, 1917, little Jacinta could not undertake too many sacrifices, offering her sufferings for the salvation of immortal souls! Sacrificing her favorite food—the sweet grapes of Portugal, giving up water on hot days, putting up with the painful insistence of people pestering her with questions, wearing a rough rope around her waist; Jacinta did all of these so as to collaborate with God in the salvation of immortal souls. In other words, her suffering had infinite value because she suffered for and with Jesus. When beatified by Saint Pope John Paul II he gave her the title of little victim soul—such was her thirst for the salvation of immortal souls and her willingness to suffer for them with Jesus!
10. SHORTNESS OF LIFE AND ETERNITY. Finally, in our analysis of the positive meaning of suffering we have to come to terms with our mortality—that all of us one day have to pass through the door of death and this often entails suffering. However, life is very short as the Psalmist reminds us: “Man is like the flower of the field that rises in the morning and withers and dies as the sun goes down.” Jesus said these words to Saint Faustina in the Diary Divine Mercy in My Soul: “You will go back to earth and there you will suffer much, but not for long; you will accomplish my will and my desires and a faithful servant of Mine will help you do this. Now rest on My bosom, on My heart, and draw from it strength and power for these sufferings because you will find neither relief nor help nor comfort anywhere else. Know that you will have much, much to suffer, but don’t let this frighten you; I am with you.” (Diary of Saint Faustina # 36) These words of Jesus are serious, sober, but also consoling. He will always be with us and invites all of us to seek refuge and comfort, not in the things of this passing world, rather refuge in His bosom, comfort in His Most Sacred Heart!
May Our Lady of Sorrows console us all with her loving and maternal presence! She will always be present with Jesus to help us to carry our cross patiently so as to win the award in heaven that awaits us!