posted Nov 21, 2011, 9:25 PM by Aaron Cobb
updated Nov 28, 2011, 9:20 AM
Pope Benedict XVI, in his encyclical letter Spe Salvi, writes the following:
“The true measure of humanity is essentially determined in relationship to suffering and to the sufferer. This holds true both for the individual and for society. A society unable to accept its suffering members and incapable of helping to share their suffering and to bear it inwardly through “compassion” is a cruel and inhuman society. Yet society cannot accept its suffering members and support them in their trials unless individuals are capable of doing so themselves; moreover, the individual cannot accept another's suffering unless he personally is able to find meaning in suffering, a path of purification and growth in maturity, a journey of hope. Indeed, to accept the “other” who suffers, means that I take up his suffering in such a way that it becomes mine also. Because it has now become a shared suffering, though, in which another person is present, this suffering is penetrated by the light of love. The Latin word consolatio,“consolation”, expresses this beautifully. It suggests being with the other in his solitude, so that it ceases to be solitude."
These are deeply troubling words because they are true and because we often do not measure up.
We often do not accept sufferers into our midst; it is too discomforting.
We often do not appropriate the suffering of others into our lives; it is too unsettling to make their suffering our own.
I often cannot find meaning in suffering and I often doubt whether I can produce significance out of my suffering; I find myself succumbing to despair.
But in the consolation of friends, of love, I find myself with others who suffer with me. I am not alone. And because of this, I can hope again.