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Center for Action and Contemplation
It Can’t Be Carried Alone
It Can’t Be Carried Alone

Stay with the Suffering

Monday, April 4, 2022

Father Richard turns to Saints Francis (1182–1226) and Clare of Assisi (1194–1253) as models of how we can embrace and bear collective suffering:

Because of their deep faith, Francis and Clare had total trust that Jesus’ seemingly negative way of the cross could not, and would not, be wrong. They voluntarily leapt into the very fire from which most of us try to escape. They trusted that Jesus’ way was the way of solidarity and communion with the larger world, which is indeed passing and dying. By God’s grace, they could trust the eventual passing of all things, and where they were passing to. They didn’t wait for liberation later—after death—but grasped it as already present.

When we try to live in solidarity with the world’s pain—and do not spend our lives running from necessary suffering—we will encounter various forms of “crucifixion.” (I do not use that word lightly.) Many say pain is physical discomfort, but suffering comes from our resistance, denial, and sense of injustice or wrongness about that pain. I know that is very true for me. This is the core meaning of suffering on one level or another, and we all learn it the hard way. The cross was Jesus’ voluntary acceptance of undeserved suffering as an act of total solidarity with the pain of the world. Reflecting on this mystery of love can change our lives.

It seems there is an inherent negative energy or resistance from all of us when we are suffering, and it is in those moments that we are invited to a more generous response. It is actually the necessary dying that the soul must walk through to go higher, farther, deeper, or longer. The saints called these dyings “nights,” darkness, or seasons of unknowing and doubt. Our society has almost no spiritual skills to deal with our personal and collective pain, so we resort to pills, addictions, and other distractions to get us through. This does not bode well for the future of humanity.

Only truly inspired souls like Francis and Clare willingly choose to fully jump on board this ship of life and death. They fully rode the resistance to which the rest of us surrender. Our lives can take this same ride—whenever we try to hold any negativity or self-doubt with integrity, and when we “suffer” the full truth of any situation instead of just taking what we think is the one righteous side. Integrity is often a willingness to hold the hard side of things instead of reacting against them, denying them, or projecting our anxiety elsewhere. Frankly, it is just another name for faith. Without the inner discipline of faith, most lives end in negativity, blaming, or deep cynicism—without even knowing it.

Jesus hung in the crucified middle and paid the price for all such reconciliation with reality in its wounded state (Ephesians 2:13–18); then he invited us to do the same. And Francis did so wholeheartedly!

Adapted from Richard Rohr, Eager to Love: The Alternative Way of St. Francis of Assisi (Cincinnati, OH: Franciscan Media, 2014), 20–22.

Explore Further. . .

Image credit: Jenna Keiper, Wire (detail), 2021, photograph, New Mexico, used with permission. Paul Thompson, Untitled Icons (detail), 2021,video still, New Mexico. Jenna Keiper, Wire II (detail), 2021, photograph, New Mexico, used with permission. Jenna Keiper & Leslye Colvin, 2022, triptych art, United States.

This week’s images appear in a form inspired by early Christian/Catholic triptych art: a threefold form that tells a unified story. 

Image inspiration: When the weight of the suffering of the world closes around us, we can easily feel suffocated from the grief and pain. What would happen if in these moments we reached out to connect with others? In grief and pain, together. Not alone. Together.

Story from Our Community:

I’ve been reading these scripture insights for over a decade. Though I surge and wane, I realize that the connection has kept me sane through the loss of my husband & two daughters. These daily readings have kept me hopeful and striving to reach that spiritual comfort spot. Thank you for sustaining me on the journey.
—Earline B.

Share your own story with us.

Prayer for our community:

God, Lord of all creation, lover of life and of everything, please help us to love in our very small way what You love infinitely and everywhere. We thank You that we can offer just this one prayer and that will be more than enough,  because in reality every thing and every one is connected, and nothing stands alone. To pray for one part is really to pray for the whole, and so we do. Help us each day to stand for love, for healing, for the good, for the diverse unity of the Body of Christ and all creation, because we know this is what You desire: as Jesus prayed, that all may be one. We offer our prayer together with all the holy names of God, we offer our prayer together with Christ, our Lord, Amen.

Listen to the prayer.


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