Today I want to express my gratitude for the gift of suffering; I have understood that it is a necessary gift. I meditated, I thought about all this again and I understood that yes, it is true, I have to introduce the Church into the third millennium with prayer, different initiatives, but I have seen that this is not enough: I have to introduce it with suffering. (Pope John Paul II)
In May 1994 the now Saint John Paul II, with these words, was offering to all of us a prophetic vision on the meaning of his own suffering…. The Pope had to be attacked, the Pope had to be hospitalized, the Pope has to suffer today – continues the Holy Father – so that the world can see that there is a Gospel, I would say, superior: The Gospel of Suffering. He says, I have to meet with the powerful leaders of the world and I have to speak to them. With what arguments? I am left with this subject of suffering. The Holy Father then concludes saying, I would like to say to them: understand it, understand why the Pope was in the hospital again, again in suffering, understand it, rethink about it!
These words were addressed to the powerful leaders of the world, but I took them as being addressed to me and I allowed them to penetrate me and push me to reflect seriously on the mystery of suffering. Why suffering? Why a child sick with cancer? Why the death of a dear one? What is the answer to all of this? I thought about it and then, as the Pope said, I rethought about it and the words of the Gospel dawned on me:
You are the light of the world. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. (Matthew 5:14-15)
Here is something we have to understand profoundly: the call to be a Christian is not a privilege, it is not something for you and you alone. It is a service; it is a mission, just as a light in a room is at the service of the people around it so that they may see.
Suffering, for a Christian, is a “lampstand.” It is a place that makes you visible. For Christ, the wooden cross was His “lampstand” where He was lifted up and made like a spectacle to everyone. Everyone saw His suffering, His torture, His blood, His death; but everyone, at the same time, also saw the action of His Father raising Him up. Even that Roman Centurion who nailed Him to the cross said, “Truly this man was God’s Son.” Suffering, then for a Christian, is the opportunity that God gives us to become totally dependent on Him and so His action, His Providence, His victory over death may shine through us.
I understand that these words can sound just as “religious” words or “priestly” words.
In fact, these words are a “mystery,” according to the true meaning of the word “mystery.” “Mystery” is a Greek word, mustḗrion, which refers to something that cannot be understood unless it is experienced. “The mystery of faith!” we proclaim in the Eucharistic Prayer, as to say ‘what we proclaim is not an ideal, it is an experience!” This is just as true in the case of suffering: the mystery of suffering as a place of light, a place where the love of God appears, becomes visible, and can only be grasped with a concrete experience.
Saint John Paul II never despised or hid his sickness because he had an experience in his own personal life whereby God – through suffering – had shown His face to him. By the age of 20 years old, the would-be pope, Karol Wojtyla, had already lost both his mother and father and also his older siblings. In addition, he was facing one of the greatest tragedies in the world’s history: the Second World War. Like him, thousands of Christians in history have saved the lives of innumerable people by reflecting the light of the Resurrection of Christ through the suffering they underwent.
Even right now, if you are reading this article it is because the cancer of Christina has shown a particular light to you and you felt attracted. Christina’s cancer was her lampstand, St. John Paul II’s sickness was his lampstand, and Christ’s cross was his lampstand…. What is yours?
My name is Andrea Povero. I was born in a town called Ivrea, close to Turin, Italy.
I am almost 35 years old and I am the last one of 4 children.
When I decided to enter the seminary, I chose to enter into a “missionary seminary.” I went to a retreat close to Rome and there, together with 300 young men, I put my name into a basket. In another basket were the names of the all the missionary seminaries around the world. When my name was pulled from one basket, it was matched with the name “Boston” from the other basket.
I was sent to Boston in November 2007. I became a priest by the grace of God on May 19, 2018.
For the past three years I have been the Parochial Vicar of three parishes: St. Thomas Aquinas and Our Lady of Lourdes in Jamaica Plain and Saint Mary of the Angels in Roxbury.