Making the Break
How to Turn Our Sufferings Toward the Joy of Resurrection
By Marian Friedrichs (Apr 3, 2012)
It was Good Friday, 1928, when St. Faustina reached the end of her novitiate. She was ill at the time, and her Diary entry for that day, April 16, reads:
Physical weakness dispenses me from all [community] spiritual exercises; that is to say, they are replaced by brief ejaculatory prayers" (26).
Even if we are not ill this Good Friday like St. Faustina was, these last few days before Easter may involve some suffering. Many people struggle with the times of year when family comes together. Shadows such as addictions, resentments and plain old-fashioned character flaws can darken family gatherings, no matter how joyful the time of year is supposed to be.
Or perhaps, on the other extreme, we are facing another holiday alone, wishing there were just one person whose hand we could hold in prayer over the Easter meal.
Maybe we feel that quiet, vague pain of disconnection from God during this Holy Week, which is supposed to be a time when we are immersed more than ever in His presence. We might be overwhelmed by the responsibility of planning a large meal, or we might, as in my case, come from a broken home and want to figure out how to celebrate the holiday with both parents.
Or maybe the normal demands of life — career, parenthood, errands, and chores that never seem finished — are enough to turn Holy Week into just another seven-day blur that brings us to Easter Mass feeling bewildered by how this time, meant to be so special and prayer-filled, got away from us.
Saint Faustina can sympathize with the burdens we carry into this Easter weekend, whatever shape those burdens take. In prayer, we can ask for her friendship and her intercession, and we can also follow her example.
Unable to join in the regular exercises for Good Friday (and disappointed about that, I'm sure), St. Faustina embraced the cross of her illness and observed the day in the only way she could: with those brief ejaculatory prayers. And God let her know she had been heard, for later that day, as she describes it in her Diary, "during the evening adoration ... the Divine Presence invaded me, and I forgot everything else. Jesus gave me to know how much He had suffered for me" (26).
Like Jesus, we suffer, and like Jesus, our suffering can become acts of pure love. It does not matter whether our sufferings are big or small. Whether this weekend holds in store for us the irritation of a burned pie or the torment of having to face an abusive relative, if we offer these experiences to God, He will take them, as He took the death of His Son, to help the whole world reach salvation.
On my first visit to the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy in Stockbridge, Mass., the priest who heard my confession gave me wonderful advice. When I confessed to many distractions during prayer, he told me to make a morning offering every day and to include these distractions in my list of the things I was offering to God. This way, my distractions would become like the fragments of loaves and fishes that were left after Jesus fed the 5,000, and nothing would be wasted.
That isn't only true for distractions from prayer, of course, but for anything and everything that happens to us. By offering all to God, we can make every part of our lives a prayer, and this weekend is the perfect time to start.
When we pray the Chaplet of The Divine Mercy, we offer God the worthy gift of the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of His only Son. When we offer God everything we are and everything we do, we climb onto the altar with Jesus and unite our flawed gifts with His perfect one.
I have one version of the Morning Offering on a prayercard that I bought at the Shrine, and I use it to mark the place where I pick up my daily reading of St. Faustina's Diary. Today it opens the Diary to a page with this ejaculation, which appears suddenly after the catechism of vows St. Faustina had to copy: "O my Lord, inflame my heart with love for You, that my spirit may not grow weary amidst the storms, the sufferings and the trials. You see how weak I am. Love can do all" (94).
Love can even transform our sometimes bumpy lives into perpetual life-giving prayer. In the responsorial psalm for Good Friday, we echo Jesus' last words on the cross: "Father, into Your hands I commend My spirit" (Lk 23:46).
We know that Jesus calls us to take up our crosses and follow Him, and His final words before His death teach us how to do that. We do not have to be literally crucified or seek out suffering in order to answer His call. Taking up our crosses means embracing our God-given duties and trials, and following Jesus means doing it all out of love for God and the desire to make our wills conform with His.
During these last days of Lent, let us come to God exactly as we are, whether full of peace from a Holy Week retreat or full of racing thoughts and anxiety, and know that He accepts us that way. Let us follow Jesus by commending ourselves and everything we do to our Father. In this way, we can also follow Jesus in receiving — and sharing — the gift of new life from the One who takes the little deaths of our daily offerings and turns them into the joy of resurrection.
A Morning Offering
O God, in union with the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I offer Thee the Most Precious Blood of Jesus from all the altars throughout the world, joining with it the offering of my every thought, word, action, and experience of this day. O my Jesus, I desire today to gain every indulgence and merit I can, and I offer them, together with myself, to Mary Immaculate, that she may best apply them in the interests of Thy Most Sacred Heart. Precious Blood of Jesus, save us!