Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Lenten Suffering and Mortification-Atomic Power

By Guest Columnist Marie Thibodeau

"Suffering if we are united with Christ and so offer it in his hands to God, is the most effective of all acts of love....In it the world's healing begins."  Caryll Houselander

I want to encourage all of you to believe that it doesn't matter how little the suffering or why you are suffering, if you say during it, "God I join this to your suffering,"  it will be efficacious.

Christ on the Cross, El Greco 1600-10
Many times as we struggle with our own lack of patience, we concentrate on our weakness and neglect to see that our lack of virtue is a suffering that we can join to Christ's.  The tantrums that derail our plans, the bad attitudes that we can't seem to correct, our feelings of inadequacy etc are true sufferings and God desires us to look at Him as we endure them, not ourselves.

One more thought:  often we pray for someone we love and we don't see any visible change.  For example, we may have a child who is nasty to his siblings no matter what we do or say.  I have been learning that habitual sin, whether in my own life or the life of my loved ones, needs fasting.  Talking, lecturing, punishing etc can often be ineffective.  What is effective is to realize that that person needs grace and we can actually, secretly, offer that grace to them through the practice of fasting.  

Now, my recommendation, one I use myself, is to chose something small and that you would have to give up daily. Do not be commit to give it up for the rest of your life but for a definite time period like Lent, or a month, or even a week.  That way it is doable and something you can offer on a regular basis.  

One of my good friends had a very difficult relationship with her mother-in-law, so she decided to give up sugar in her coffee. She would do it every time her mother in law would come for a visit and she is convinced that their relationship improved dramatically after years of trying everything else to make it better.

I had a friend who suffered terribly from depression.  One particular time, she called me and explained that she could barely get out of bed.  I felt the Lord ask me to give up something small for her and to not tell her about it.  I immediately doubted that this could really be God. After all wouldn't He ask me to do something more dramatic and difficult. The thought persisted however and so I decided to try it.  But when I tried to give up this little habitual thing, my eyes were opened.  This little reward I gave myself everyday, was not as easy as I thought to give up.  I had to pray hard for the grace to even do it at all.  Not only did I learn something about my own dependencies but my friend told me later that her depression had suddenly and miraculously lifted and that she was much better.

Marie Thibodeau is a native Californian, cradle Catholic who grew up with 5 brothers and 1 sister. She has been married to Frank, for 30 years. Frank was a career army man so they traveled all over the United States, and also did three tours in Germany. At present they reside in New Hampshire. Marie and Frank have 7 children, 5 sons and 2 daughters, ages 10 to 29.  The two oldest sons are married and one of our daughters is getting married in the fall. They have one adored grandchild.  Marie is one of the founders of a lay group  called Little Daughters of the Sacred Heart.  They have been running retreats  for women for the past 8 years at the Benedictine Monastery in Harvard, Massachusetts.  They just had their annual retreat this past weekend with Danielle Bean and Leila Lawler.  The focus or our ministry is to encourage women to love their vocation as wives and mothers.

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