Sign Up for our Free Daily Email Updates / Catholic Spiritual Direction

Journal of a Soul Wk 8 of 12

October 31, 2012 by  
Filed under Book Club, Vicki Burbach

On Suffering

Book Club INTERNAL IMAGE (internal to post) 600x214

Journal of a Soul

I think the Lord Jesus has in store for me, before I die, for my complete mortification and purification and in order to admit me to his everlasting joy, some great suffering and affliction of body and spirit. Well, I accept everything and with all my heart, if it is for his glory and the good of my soul and for the souls of my dear spiritual children. I fear my weakness in bearing pain; I implore him to help me, for I have little faith in myself, but complete faith in the Lord Jesus. The white-robed army of martyrs praise you. 

There are two gates to paradise: innocence and penance. Which of us, poor frail creatures, can expect to find the first of these wide open? But we may be sure of the other: Jesus passed through it, bearing his Cross in atonement for our sins, and he invites us to follow him. But following him means doing penance, letting oneself be scourged, and scourging oneself a little too.

My Jesus, amidst the many joys of my episcopal ministry there are also continual opportunities for mortification. I welcome them. Sometimes they hurt my pride a little, but I rejoice at this suffering and repeat before God: ‘It is good for me to be humiliated.’ St. Augustine’s great saying is always in my mind and comforts me. – Journal of a Soul, pg. 292

I’ve spent much time on earth trying to avoid suffering. In fact, I’m one of those people who spends more time trying to avoid pain than pursuing pleasure. Attempting to cover all my bases, so to speak. But the truth is, in order to be a disciple of Christ, I must suffer. I can't avoid it.  And I shouldn't try so hard to steer clear.  The Lord says “He who does not take up his cross and follow me is not worthy of me” (Matthew 10:38).  The fact is, mortifications – great and small – take place on a daily basis.  And I should see each of them as an opportunity to grow in sanctity.  Christ has shared a difficult truth – unless I actually embrace these mortifications, I cannot share in the glory of the resurrection.

Saint Paul spells it out for me in his letter to the Romans: “When we cry ‘Abba! Father!’ it is the Spirit himself bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him (Romans 8:15-17). When I read my bible, I often gloss over that “provided we suffer with him” part. But this is actually an “If-Then” statement. IF I suffer with Him, as a fellow heir with Christ, THEN I can be glorified with Him. In that case, shouldn’t I be thrilled when I suffer even those annoying daily mortifications, such as interrupted sleep or an unexpected bill? I should, but I’m not. Why?

I think my aversion to pain and suffering boils down to my attachment to physical comfort, and to my very life. If I were to cling to Christ, and not to my material existence, I wouldn’t be so concerned for my safety or comfort; rather, I'd be focused on His glory.  In his book, The Strangest Way, Fr. Robert Barron posits that a willingness to suffer, and even to die, is a form of detachment. Detachment from life itself:

According to legend, St. Laurence, in the midst of his torture on a red-hot gridiron, said to his tormentors, “Turn me over; I think I’m done on this side.” On his way to Rome and a martyr’s death, St. Ignatius of Antioch wrote to his followers urging them to let him be devoured quickly by the animals in the arena: “May the beasts become my tomb and may their teeth grind me like wheat.”  As he walked up the scaffold just before his beheading, St. Thomas More stumbled. Turning to the man who was accompanying him, More said, “Please give me a hand now; as for my coming back down, let me shift for myself!”  When Br. Bill Tomes of Chicago hears that a gang war has broken out, he puts on his colorful and distinctive habit, hurries to the site of the battle, and stands in the midst of the gunfire until it stops. What gives these people the courage to do what they do? How can they face the greatest dangers calmly, even with a sense of humor? Grounded in the center who is Jesus Christ, they are detached from even those things that strike most of us indispensable, even from physical life itself. Centered, they are free. – The Strangest Way, p. 49

Freedom has been a common topic in Catholic circles lately – religious freedom in particular.  And yet while religious freedom is critical, it doesn't compare with the freedom I will have when I submit myself to God’s will in all things – including pain, suffering and death.  This very thought amplifies the heavy burden I insist on carrying on a daily basis.  Nothing unusual.  Just the stress that life offers to those of us who “hang on,” refusing to take that last step in giving ourselves completely to Christ.  But submission is such a difficult concept to grasp – the irony of having to “lose my life to gain it” is a tough one. While intellectually, I accept it, emotionally, it's so hard to let go.  The “joy” of suffering is a mystery to me; but, it is one that has been illustrated beautifully through the lives of thousands of saints and martyrs who have gone before me.

Discussion Questions:

1.  Has suffering been a stumbling block for you?  If so , what do you do about it?  Do you agree that resignation and even joy in suffering is related to detachment?

2. Open forum – comment on any of the reading for this past week.


Reading Assignment:

Week 9: 1959 – End of Spiritual Testament to Roncalli Family (p. 298-337)

Happy Reading!


Read more: Previous Book Club Posts
For More Information on the Book Club:

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

About Vicki Burbach

Vicki Burbach is a wife and homeschooling mother of six children ages four to sixteen years who relishes the calm inspiration of spiritual reading amidst the roller coaster of life. A passionate convert to the Faith, Vicki is an avid reader who started the book club so she could embark with like-minded bibliophiles on a spiritual journey through some of the greatest Catholic books ever written. She is author of the new book How to Read Your Way to Heaven - A Spiritual Reading Program for the Worst of Sinners, the Greatest of Saints, and Everyone in Between. You can also find her at

please consider supporting our mission with a donation!