This post was originally written on January 2, 2010. I have since exchanged some of the old sufferings for new ones, but the message still applies, and I still have Bipolar Disorder.
In my struggles with depression, mania, anxiety and also now the physical pain that consumes me as a result of chronic Lyme Disease, there is a deep and abiding comfort within me, which defies complete explanation, in knowing that the Passionist Nuns of St. Joseph Monastery are entrusted with my cross in regard to the intentions for which it should be offered. No more do I ask in selfishness ‘why me’ when I am consumed with mental and physical pain. Now, I know ‘why me’. No more do I ask in confusion what is the best use of the graces which will come from this cross that God has presented me with in His love for me. It is no longer my concern.
When my blood boils, when my bones moan, when my mind reels, when my muscles scream and my skin burns, I have peace beyond understanding because, and only because, I give it all to the Passionists as my gift.
A cross is of no use unless it is given to others. A cross is of no avail unless the heart is poured out upon it. Whom do I give it to? Certainly, I must give it, and certainly I must choose the most faithful steward I can find. God has created and revealed to me His faithful stewards, the Passionists.
In my search for peace in a pool of suffering, I have found peace by placing my cross into the hands of the Passionists. I have found peace in entrusting this cross to those whom I have come to understand, without doubt, have placed their total trust in Jesus Christ. They are faithful stewards of His Cross which I now participate in.
This is not something that could be described as merely “important” in my spiritual journey. Rather, it is something that I know I’ve been called to do. God has been inviting me to walk closer and closer with Him as my life has unfolded, and this joining with the Passionist community was the next step in my journey. It’s something that I now know was always meant to be in my life, but it took many years for me to understand it.
Our senses tell us that the Cross is the embrace of death. My senses are no different from yours, in this regard. I sense death’s embrace when I am consumed with pain, particularly when it is the pain of depression and confusion. I have come to understand that a response to this pain that is borne from selfishness is the same as embracing the ultimate Death — hopelessness — and it thereby becomes a rejection of the ultimate Life in Christ which abounds in Hope. When the response of the heart is to reject all selfishness, where the heart is poured out in a gift to others, then the soul, though embracing the sensation of death, is embracing Life in Christ because of the Gift of Christ’s union with us in His Body and on His Cross.
It’s difficult not to be selfish on some level when you are suffering, particularly when it is mental suffering. When your mind and your body feel as though they are being terrorized at all times, without respite, the biggest enemy can become selfishness. How can I not be thinking about myself on some level when I am engulfed in pain? I have become pain.
Catholics know that pain is the embrace of the suffering Christ. It is “love beyond all telling” as this college student writes:
In the Heart of Christ are this pain and sorrow totally and completely transformed into love. This love in turn permits us to embrace our pain and delight in our sorrows.
The Heart of Christ is poured out for the Church in His offering of Himself as He embraced the pain of the Cross. Our hearts also must be poured out in order to participate with Him in all. So, too, I must pour myself out. I must pour out my heart. I must give.
Love cannot dwell in a selfish heart. Love springs forth from the act of giving. In the act of giving, love abounds. Further, true love brings perfect delight. And so, by offering my sufferings for the intentions of the Passionist Nuns, I have found Delight in the Cross of pain and sorrow. I have found Peace in knowing that the question ‘why me’ is answered in fullness and that God’s purposes for this cross are in the hands of his faithful stewards.
In suffering, I now rejoice.
If you suffer from chronic illness and would like to become a Passionist Oblate Associate, offering up your sufferings for the intentions of the Passionist Nuns, click here to read more about it and to fill out their contact form.