On Saturday evening I was fixing dinner and had a free moment, so I picked up a little book we keep on display in the dining room, Saints: A Year in Faith and Art, to see whose feast was that day. There I read about Venerable Carlo Gnocchi and was intrigued by his story. I sent Andy to the computer to see if he had been beatified or canonized yet while I made the salad and pulled the pizza from the oven.
He did a little searching (what a good husband to jump at my commands!) and found photos and an endearing story of an Italian priest who had been beloved by so many.
It wasn’t his heroism in war or the loyalty he felt to the young men he served with, however, that caught my attention, but his efforts after World War II when so many Italian children had been left orphans, maimed by land mines and were so in need of medical care and love.
That, by itself, would have been an amazing story. What endeared Bl. Carlo Gnocchi to me, though, was the theology of suffering that he taught his children.
“Just as in the physical body there are organs destined for the protection and the purification of the whole organism, organs that often become sick for the defense and salvation of the body, such as the tonsils, the kidney, etc.; there also exists in the Mystical Body of the Church, souls destined to support suffering in virtue of their purifying capacity for the sake of the social body. Among these souls we certainly encounter children who are called more precociously to suffer the cleaner their souls are from personal sins and the more similar their sacrifice is to that of the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world… Each child that suffers is like a small precious relic of the Christian redemption which actualizes and renews the redemption in time for the expiation of daily sins.”
How beautiful! The children who suffer and have been taught this redemptive theology can have a particular dignity that ennobles them and helps them to see the value in their suffering.
And, oh, how we do need to emphasize this point of Catholic teaching in our society today where rejection of those disabled in body or mind is the norm, whether they are born or unborn!
Here I had enough to ponder and to pray about, but as God often does to illustrate a point further, I picked up another book that evening and read a passage which gave even more emphasis to the meditation.
The Stations of the Cross are not given to us only to remind us of the historical Passion of Christ, but to show us what is happening now, and happening to each one of us. Christ did not become man or to lead His own short life on earth—-unimag-inable mercy though that would have been—but to live each of our lives. He did not choose His Passion only to suffer it in His own human nature—tremendous though that would have been—but in order to suffer it in the suffering of each one of his members through all ages, until the end of time.
The Way of the Cross by Caryll Houslander
Christ, suffering in His Passion through each little one who suffers; each little one another Christ redeeming the Church through that suffering given over freely, as gift. O Blessed Mystical Body of Christ!