instruere...inlustrare...delectare Disputations

Saturday, September 19, 2020

The Mystery of Suffering

 In one of her letters, St. Catherine of Siena said -- well, she said basically the same thing in more than one letter, but I'm quoting Letter T5/G225 to Francesco da Montalcino:

And whatever [God] gives or permits us, whether pain or illness, in whatever way, he gives and permits it with great mystery, to make us holy and to give us what we need to be saved.

The translator, Suzanne Noffke, OP, adds this note after the word "mystery":

This is the concept of "mystery" (mistero) which is so dear to Catherine, always carrying a sense of the sacramental, of the intimate interaction of God with humanity.

Of course "mystery" and "sacrament" are two different terms for the same thing:

The Greek word mysterion was translated into Latin by two terms: mysterium and sacramentum. In later usage the term sacramentum emphasizes the visible sign of the hidden reality of salvation which was indicated by the term mysterium. In this sense, Christ himself is the mystery of salvation: "For there is no other mystery of God, except Christ." The saving work of his holy and sanctifying humanity is the sacrament of salvation, which is revealed and active in the Church's sacraments (which the Eastern Churches also call "the holy mysteries"). The seven sacraments are the signs and instruments by which the Holy Spirit spreads the grace of Christ the head throughout the Church which is his Body. The Church, then, both contains and communicates the invisible grace she signifies. It is in this analogical sense, that the Church is called a "sacrament." - CCC 774

 I don't think there's a sense analogical enough for me call pain or illness a "sacrament." But if pain or illness is something physical in which I find God present, and in that experience He gives me what I need to be saved....