March 24, 2010 // Uncategorized

Hope and suffering

By Father William Kummer and Jennifer Kohrman

Opening/Closing song:
“You Are Mine” — “Gather Comprehensive” No. 649

Opening prayer:
Prayer for priests

Gracious and loving God, we thank You for the gift of our priests. Through them, we experience Your presence in the sacraments. Help our priests to be strong in their vocation. Set their souls on fire with love for Your people. Grant them the wisdom, understanding, and strength they need to follow in the footsteps of Jesus.
Inspire them with the vision of Your Kingdom. Give them the words they need to spread the Gospel. Allow them to experience joy in their ministry. Help them to become instruments of Your divine grace.
We ask this through Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns as our Eternal Priest. Amen.
— From the Web site:

Excerpt from Pope Benedict XVI’s Letter to Priests:
I also think, therefore, of the countless situations of suffering endured by many priests, either because they themselves share in the manifold human experience of pain or because they encounter misunderstanding from the very persons to whom they minister.

Commentary from Father Bill Kummer, pastor, St. Michael, Plymouth:
I live out the words of Pope Benedict by taking comfort in knowing the Holy Father keeps in his mind and heart the sufferings of Father Kummer and all priests. This fact surely brings comfort not only to the priests, but also to all the faithful; Benedict’s caring heart and mind bear comfort to all. Sharing humanity, the priest’s life receives no exemption from the rigors which befall all; we, too, are imperfect and must minister to the imperfect. Imperfection causes pain. Three categories of suffering are readily apparent and common for priests. One, (this we share with everyone), is physical weakness: for example, our blood pressure climbs, and the vigor of youth passes to stiffness in the morning, and our heads ache. Two, (this one is unique to priests), our failure to always understand that priestly heartaches lead us to a mystic communion with Christ. Rather than learning the lesson, I run away; I hide. The third, (the real pain), is the knowledge that even the best effort cannot ease the pain of those to whom we minister.

All men like to fix things; we cannot “fix” everything. So we hurt in our bodies and souls. Reading the pope’s words, living the faith and experiencing hurt reinforces, in an odd way, our vocation. Did not Christ Jesus follow His vocation? He suffered that we should live. Perhaps we priests should expect nothing less. The pope does have compassion for priests, but he carefully reminds us of the unity we share with each other and with the Lord in our suffering.

Suffering … the very word can make most of us cringe. Sooner or later, all of us experience suffering whether it manifests physically, emotionally or perhaps even spiritually. When I was growing up, I often heard the phrase “offer it up,” especially if I was suffering from injury or if I was performing a chore I did not particularly like.

We live in a world full of suffering. The world just witnessed the suffering of those in Haiti following the earthquake. As Christians living in a suffering world, we must respond with compassion: “The laity of our Church are moved to act on behalf of those in need because they have come to know Christ in the depths of their own suffering.” — “Called and Gifted for the Third Millennium,” page 5, USCCB, Washington, D.C.

Being followers of Christ does not mean that life will be easy, pain-free or conflict-free. It is in Baptism that Christians are united to Christ’s Death and Resurrection. In Mark’s Gospel, Christ said, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” Jesus freely and completely entered into our human condition … enduring excruciating suffering in His Passion and Death.

In Romans 5, we learn: “Suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.” The Good News is that Jesus has not abandoned us — He is with us today helping us to endure our burdens.

In his encyclical “Spe Salvi,” Pope Benedict XVI wrote, “Hence in all human suffering we are joined by One who experiences and carries that suffering with us; hence con-solatio is present in all suffering, the consolation of God’s compassionate love — and so the star of hope rises. Hope is trusting that God will fulfill His promises even during difficult struggles. Certainly, in our many sufferings and trials we always need the lesser and greater hopes too — a kind visit, the healing of internal and external wounds, a favorable resolution of a crisis, and so on.”

Pope Benedict encourages each of us “to know that I can always continue to hope, even if in my own life, or the historical period in which I am living, there seems to be nothing left to hope for. Only the great certitude of hope that my own life and history in general, despite all failures, are held firm by the indestructible power of Love, and that this gives them their meaning and importance, only this kind of hope can then give the courage to act and to persevere.” — “Spe Salvi,” 35.

Reflection Questions:
• In what ways are you called to care for some segment of human need?
• How does your life experience, including suffering, equip you to carry on Christ’s healing ministry?
• Father Kummer states, “We cannot fix everything.” How do you personally cope with situations that cannot be fixed?
• For what do you most hope? What kind of hope gives you “the courage to act and to persevere?”

Closing prayer
Lord, our God, help us to walk with You on the pathway of the beatitudes and to live out Your mission in today’s world. Bind us to all men and women so that together we may bring the Good News to the ends of the earth. Open our hearts and our communities to the needy, the afflicted and the oppressed. May we radiate the Living Christ and transform our lives in the hope of the Resurrection. This prayer we make to You, our living God, now and forever. Amen.

— “Prayer for Mission” No. 2: adapted from the Web site:

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