The Gospel of Suffering as Pillar of
Moral Formation in the Parish
Last Fall, I spoke to a local parish’s fifth graders about vocations. Many of the kids had to sit on the floor, so I encouraged them to offer that sacrifice up to the Lord. To my surprise, it was clear from their faces that they did not have the slightest idea what I was talking about, and I had to explain this concept to them. Afterwards, one of the mothers came up and told me what a fabulous idea that was, saying that she herself had never heard of it before. Is it possible that this ignorance of the Christian understanding of suffering is not limited to this particular group of fifth graders, but rather is a fair representation of many Catholics in the United States?
This paper will argue that the Christian doctrine of redemptive suffering is essential to moral formation in the parish. Pastors will be doing their parishioners a great disservice if they do not help them to live the “Gospel of Suffering” in their daily lives. This paper will be divided into three parts. First, I will outline the Christian understanding of suffering as it was presented by John Paul II in his 1984 apostolic letter, Salvifici Doloris (“On the Christian Meaning of Human Suffering.”) Second, I will examine the dynamics of personal moral conversion. Finally, I will attempt to show how the Gospel of Suffering is a crucial aid in moral growth and moral conversion.
I. The Gospel of Suffering
Before Christ, it was not easy for mankind to make sense of suffering. Pagan religions saw suffering as a result of the displeasure of one god or another. The ancient Israelites held that suffering is punishment given by God due to both corporate and individual sin, in order to rehabilitate sinners and call them to repentance and holiness. The book of Job showed that this principle cannot be applied directly to an individual—sometimes God allows the just to suffer and the wicked to prosper. The meaning of human suffering, Job finds, is ultimately beyond man’s grasp.
Yet with the coming of the Incarnate Christ, human suffering was forever changed. As John Paul declares in Salvifici Doloris, “With the Passion of Christ, all human suffering has found itself in a new situation.” (John Paul II, 19) In his sufferings, as a totally innocent victim freely sacrificing himself, Christ forever linked human suffering to love and to heavenly grace:
Human suffering has reached its culmination in the passion of Christ. And at the same time it has entered into a completely new dimension and a new order: it has linked to love, to that love which Christ spoke to Nicodemus, to that love which creates good, drawing it out by means of suffering, just as the supreme good of the Redemption of the world was drawn from the cross of Christ, and from that cross constantly takes its beginning. The cross of Christ has become a source from which flow rivers of living water. (John Paul II, 18)
Christ’s Passion reconfigures all human suffering. Out of his suffering, redemption came into the world. Thus, in and through Christ, human suffering becomes forever united with redemption.
In carrying all of our sins upon himself, Christ became intimately aware of the sufferings of every man throughout all time. In his Passion, Jesus mysteriously experienced all of our individual sufferings. Likewise, through our own sufferings, we also become connected to Christ’s suffering and to his redemptive work. John Paul talks of the “twofold dimension” of participating in Christ’s suffering:
One becomes a sharer in the sufferings of Christ, … because Christ has opened His suffering to man, because He Himself in His redemptive suffering has become, in a certain sense, a sharer in all human sufferings. Man, discovering through faith the redemptive suffering of Christ, also discovers in it his own sufferings; he rediscovers them, through faith, enriches with a new content and new meaning. (John Paul II, 20)
This is what John Paul II calls “The Gospel of Suffering”: the Lord has redeemed human suffering, and it is now holy and can be a source of grace! “In the Cross of Christ not only is the Redemption accomplished through suffering, but also suffering itself has been redeemed!” (John Paul II, 19)
Every person experiences suffering to some degree in his life. In their deepest suffering, men can be tempted to despair. Their sufferings can make them feel abandoned by God, and they, like Job, can be tempted to “curse God and die.” But in light of the Paschal Mystery, suffering presents the individual with an invitation : to come closer to Christ through one’s suffering. John Paul declares the great power of suffering to transform souls:
It is suffering, more than anything else, which clears the way for the grace which transforms human souls. Suffering, more than anything else, makes present in the history of humanity the powers of the Redemption. (John Paul II, 27, my emphasis)
In Salvifici Doloris John Paul explores many ways that human suffering brings grace into the world. First, suffering can transform the Christian who is suffering, when he accepts and unites his sufferings to the Passion of Christ. Secondly, Christians can bring grace into the souls of their fellow man by using their sufferings as intercessory prayer on the behalf of others. Living the Gospel of Suffering brings meaning to one’s everyday sufferings and brings spiritual maturity to a Christian. These aspects of the Gospel of Suffering will be explored in the following pages.
Suffering has great power to transform the hearts of an individual who is suffering. It seems paradoxical to imagine that suffering has the potential to bring one closer to God, yet throughout the centuries, Christians have found that it is precisely in their deepest suffering that they become most intimately united to Christ. Writes John Paul:
Down through the centuries and generations it has been seen that in suffering there is concealed a particular power that draws a person interiorly close to Christ, a special grace. To this grace many saints, such as St. Francis of Assisi, St. Ignatius of Loyola and others, owe their profound conversion. A result of such a conversion is not only that the individual discovers the Salvifici meaning of suffering, but above all the he becomes a completely new person. He discovers a new dimension, as it were, of his entire life and vocation. (John Paul II, 26)
Suffering has the ability to effect profound conversions from sin. Such is the great grace found in suffering. In the pain and weakness of being bedridden for a year, for example, Ignatius of Loyola was converted from the wild life of a soldier and set afire for Christ. When those who are suffering accept their pain and offer it to the Lord, they find that they become mysteriously one with Christ in his passion at Calvary. In their weakness, their emptying of self, their hearts become particularly open to the movement of God’s redemptive grace. Once its salvific meaning is grasped, suffering can bring a sinner’s conversion into an entire new person. It brings what John Paul describes as “interior maturity and spiritual greatness.” (John Paul II, 26)
While transforming their own souls, a Christian can also bring grace and transformation to the lives of others through their sufferings. John Paul quotes Paul’s words to the Colossians: “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the Church.” (Col 1:24) John Paul writes that Jesus is united in a special way in all who suffer, to the point that the suffering person even joins Christ in accomplishing the Redemption of the world:
The words quoted above from the letter to the Colossians bear witness to the exceptional nature of this union. For, whoever suffers in union with Christ — just as the Apostle Paul bears his “tribulations” in union with Christ — not only receives from Christ that strength already referred to but also “completes” by his suffering “what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions.” This evangelical outlook especially highlights the truth concerning the creative character of suffering. The sufferings of Christ created the good of the world’s Redemption. This good in itself is inexhaustible and infinite. No man can add anything to it. But at the same time, in the mystery of the Church as His Body, Christ has in a sense opened His own redemptive suffering to all human suffering. Insofar as man becomes a sharer in Christ’s sufferings — in any part of the world and at any time in history — to that extent he in his own way complete the suffering through which Christ accomplished the Redemption of the world. (John Paul II, 24)
Christ redeemed the world definitively once-and-for-all, yet somehow Christ has so redeemed human suffering that the fruits of the Redemption are brought into history through the love expressed by a Christian uniting his sufferings to Christ. Whenever Christians unite their sufferings to Jesus, he redeems those sufferings and brings the grace of Calvary into the world through those gift of love! We are able to participate in Christ’s once-and-for-all redemption, allowing the fruits of that saving act to enter into the world.
This good news brings great meaning to human suffering. The pains and sufferings of life, both great and small, are not useless. The suffering person finds meaning in uniting his sufferings to Christ’s passion, because in so doing, he knows that he is allowing grace to flow into the world through him! This brings great joy and a feeling of purpose to a Christian’s life:
St. Paul speaks of such joy in the letter to the Colossians: “I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake.” A source of joy is found in the overcoming of the sense of the uselessness of suffering, a feeling that is sometimes very strongly rooted in human suffering … The discovery of the Salvifici meaning of suffering in union with Christ transforms this depressing feeling. Faith in sharing in the suffering of Christ brings with it the interior certainty that the suffering person “completes what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions”; the certainty that in the spiritual dimension of the work of Redemption he is serving, like Christ, the salvation of his brothers and sisters. Therefore, he is carrying out an irreplaceable service. (John Paul II, 27, my emphasis)
The suffering person, in offering up his afflictions to Christ, is carrying out an “irreplaceable service” to both himself and his fellow men! What a great joy this truth would give a Christian suffering from a terminal illness—his pain is not meaningless, but rather he is helping the Lord to convert the world! And one does not even need to be suffering enormously to participate in the salvation on one’s brothers and sisters, as even the smallest pains, inconveniences, worries, and sorrows can be used by God to bring great grace into the world!
Everyone suffers, no matter what their age or station in life. The question for a Christian thus becomes, “Will I simply endure these sufferings without reference to Christ, or will I offer my sufferings to the Lord in order to bring grace into my soul and into the world?” John Paul declares that suffering is above all a call, a vocation:
“Suffering is above all a call. It is a vocation. Christ does not explain in the abstract the reasons for suffering, but before all else he says: “Follow me! Come! Take part through your suffering in this work of saving the world, a salvation achieved through my suffering! Through my Cross!’” (John Paul II 26)
Since everyone suffers, all are called to the vocation of uniting their sufferings to Christ. Everyone is called to deny themselves, pick up their cross daily, and follow Jesus! (Luke 9:23) It is to every Christian that Jesus speaks, through John Paul’s letter, “Follow me! Come! Take part through your suffering in this work of saving the world, a salvation achieved through my suffering! Through my Cross!”
II. The Gospel of Conversion
Every human being has a greater calling, of which the vocation to live the Gospel of Suffering is a part. This calling is rooted in our identity as creatures made in the image of God, created for eternal life with God in heaven. The first paragraph of the Catechism states:
God, infinitely perfect and blessed in himself, in a plan of sheer goodness freely created man to make him share in his own blessed life. For this reason, at every time and in every place, God draws close to man. He calls man to seek him, to know him, to love him with all his strength. He calls together all men, scattered and divided by sin, into the unity of his family, the Church. To accomplish this, when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son as Redeemer and Savior. In his Son and through him, he invites men to become, in the Holy Spirit, his adopted children and thus heirs of his blessed life. (CCC # 1)
Since man is created in the divine image, it is only through knowing and loving God that man’s restless heart can be fulfilled. God alone satisfies man, because “the human person is set between God as both Origin and Goal.” (Cessario 5) The human vocation flows from this fundamental human identity. Man is called to seek God, to know him, to love him with all his strength, so as to become his adopted children and heirs of eternal life. This is every man’s fundamental vocation.
God so loved man, in fact, that man was created with the power to love God or to reject Him. These, ultimately, are the only two choices in the moral actions of one’s daily life. As Romanus Cessario writes, “in the real world of salvation history, there are no neutral choices. One either moves towards God or away from him.” (Cessario 49) To choose that which leads to God is to choose in accord with one’s human nature, and therefore to fulfillment and happiness. To sin, on the other hand, is to choose that which leads away from God and that which is contrary to one’s human identity. Sin will therefore inevitably leave one more unfulfilled and unhappy, since sin willfully separates him from the only one who can satisfy the longings of the human heart. The notion of liberty, thus, is greater than the narrow Western understanding of freedom as the ability to choose between different possibilities. Free will is a gift that is not truly exercised simply by choosing, but rather in choosing rightly. This means that it is only in choosing those actions that bring us closer to God that we exercise true freedom. “True freedom,” writes Cessario, “remains ordered to God; and the saints illustrate that only godly choices can authentically perfect our liberty and make us truly free!” (Cessario 123) A parishioner is not free, for example, simply because he has the freedom to either go to Sunday Mass or to go worship at the golf course with his nine-iron. The ability to choose either option is not true freedom; while actually choosing rightly is true freedom.
It is essential to the moral life, therefore, that a Christian uses his free will to choose those acts which are in accord with his vocation to know, love, and serve God. This is what Cessario calls the “fundamental truth of Christian moral theology”: namely, that the human act depends not on its consequences but “on itsobject and on whether that object is capable or not of being ordered to God.” (Cessario 190) Correct moral choices are essential because they determine a person’s very character:
When a person performs an action of a certain kind or nature, the action itself contributes to the shaping of his or her character. Good or virtuous actions build good character; bad or vicious actions leave the human person in a state of moral inertia and deformity. The results or accompaniments of a particular action figure only secondarily, if at all, in a moral evaluation; the action itself already contains the form of moral goodness or badness which will affect, diversely, the doer of the deed. (Cessario 116, my emphasis)
By choosing a good action, a person strengthens not only his relationship with God, but also his moral character. Someone who constantly chooses to tell the truth will develop the habit of telling the truth. This is the virtue of honesty. The next time he is presented with an opportunity to either tell the truth or to lie, he will much more naturally tell the truth. It will come easily to him. But the opposite is also true. When a person chooses actions that are sinful, he weakens his relationship with God and his moral character. He will develop the vice of dishonesty, and he will naturally be more inclined to choose to lie rather than to tell the truth. Man’s happiness and fulfillment depends upon whether he is strengthening his relationship with God and his moral character through right moral choices. Virtuous choices bring happiness, while it is impossible for vicious choices to ever bring true happiness; as Cessario so colorfully writes, “No more than a diet of rocks nourishes a healthy individual does a vicious action upbuild a happy person.” (Cessario 189)
In a very real sense, then, we become our moral choices. If we choose virtuous actions that are strengthen our Christian vocation and human identity, we will become more like Christ. But if we choose to vicious actions, sin will transform us into its own image. James Keating illustrates this point with a man who made such a habit of lying that eventually it was nearly impossible for him to tell the truth. The vice had became part of his very identity:
It took many years of lying to make that man a liar, and it will take some time to remake himself into one who loves the truth and is not afraid to live it. This is so because of how deeply sin takes root in us. When we cooperate with sin it comes out of us only to “return” to us and create us. Since we freely cooperate with sin, it fills our mind, will, and heart. Disentangling it form the very depths of who we are takes time, and, of course, divine and ecclesial assistance. (Keating 57-58)
Sin, repeatedly and freely chosen, can easily become part of a man’s character and his very identity. One often does not even realize how much a particular vice has become a part of his life, yet if he were to try to change, he would feel that he could not live without that vice, any more than he could live without air. It takes time for sinful habits to take root in a man, and when they do take root, it will usually take a good bit of time to turn away from that habit. This “turning away” is at the heart of the Christian moral life—Christians are constantly called to turn away from an inferior identity and attachments, and turn instead toward Christ and his vocation as a creature destined for eternal life. This is the Christian’s constant call to moral conversion.
In his article “Conversion and Christian Ethics,” James Hanigan writes about the basic two-fold structure of the experience of Christian moral conversion. Examining the biblical conversion experiences of Isaiah, Peter, and Paul, Hanigan observes that all three conversions begin first with an invitation from God that provokes a new awareness of their sinful condition. In all three, he writes,
There is [an] unlooked for awakening to the presence of transcendent reality in his life, which provokes in him a new awareness of the divine and the human and their relationship. There is the reorientation of the self which involves the initially painful acknowledgement of his own sinful condition but which terminates in comfort and hope. Neither moment of the experience is self-provided or self-initiated, but elicited by the encounter with the divine presence. (Hanigan 27)
Peter is an interesting study case. In his encounter with Jesus on the Sea of Galilee, Peter is suddenly struck by the miracle of the great catch of fish. Peter suddenly became aware that there is more to Jesus than meets the eye. In his great “awe, reverence, and holy fear,” Peter falls on his knees and cries out, “Leave me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.” The awareness of the presence of the divine awakens in man an acknowledgement of his sinfulness and unworthiness, the first step of moral conversion.
However, Hanigan notes, it is not enough for Peter to simply make this recognition of his own sinfulness. The Lord holds out “a new life, a new direction” to Peter: “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be a fisher of men.” Peter’s conversion, like that of Isaiah and Paul, also entails “the acceptance of the call to holiness”: (Hanigan 31)
The other normative aspect of the conversion experience, beyond the confession of our sinful condition, is the call to holiness, the discipleship to which we are summoned which encompasses the more particular but inescapable ethical demands of Christian existence. There is something God wants us to be, calls us to be, and repentance and faith are both meaningless and impossible without the call to discipleship and holiness of life. (Hanigan 31)
God does not call man, in other words, simply to recognize his sinfulness. This is the starting point of all moral conversion, but he is called to something far greater: to become holy, a child of God and heirs of eternal life. Thus, Christian conversion is begun by God’s initiative and we are asked to respond in a “two-sided, inseparable way” that “involves the acknowledgement and confession of one’s lostness and sinfulness, as well as the acceptance of a call to holiness.” (Hanigan 32)
James Keating, in his book Crossing the Desert, makes a similar observation about this two-fold nature of conversion. Conversion involves both recognition of sin, and the turning toward the good :
Individual conversion and repentance are necessary, because actual sin only appears through the free and knowing acts of persons. Since sin begins in us, we need to recognize it as ours, name it, and repent of its destructive effects. To repent of sin implies not simply a turning away from evil but also a turning toward something good. (Keating, 71-72)
It is not enough to simply recognize one’s sinfulness; God calls every person to Himself through a life of virtue. In order to undergo a true moral conversion, for example, a thief cannot simply realize the gravity of his sin and stop stealing. This is only the first step. His stealing has made an impression on his heart, on his identity, everything in his life. A true conversion entails cooperation with God’s grace so that he may slowly replace his vice with the virtue of honesty and of honest hard work.
The “reorientation of the self” required by conversion, writes Hanigan, is “initially painful and unwelcome” because “it is not pleasant to recognize that one is lost, wretched, and unclean.” (Hanigan 26) Once a person makes this painful recognition, his suffering is not finished, but rather one begins to walk the painful path from vice to virtue, from sinfulness to holiness:
Usually, moving from sin to virtue is a conversion appropriated over time. … Any moral conversion, if it is to be real, must work its way into our minds and hearts. The conversion we undergo is one that transforms our entire person, and so our thought processes, habits, perceptions, and affections all become realigned to a new way of seeing good and evil. (Keating 48)
This dramatic reorientation causes much suffering! Man is called to turn away from sin and then to turntoward God, and both of these turnings involve a lot of pain and suffering! Man is called to die to his old self, his old loves, his old attachments—and dying is painful!
Thus, moral conversion simultaneously involves suffering, death, and new life. The sufferings, deaths, and new life of a Christian’s moral conversion is particularly linked with the suffering, death, and new life of Jesus Christ. Keating writes of this intimate link between moral conversion and the Paschal Mystery:
What is happening theologically in our moral conversions is that we are coming to enter and participate in the Paschal Mystery of Jesus Christ. We are, in other words, coming to share in the mystery of salvation as offered to us through Jesus’ life, death, and Resurrection … The more we yield to the invitation to go deeper into the Paschal Mystery, the more our perception about reality changes; the more we put on ‘the mind of Christ’ (1 Cor 2:16). We begin to think like saints. This change of thinking and loving usually flowers gently over the course of time, like springtime slowly overtaking the winter chill. (Keating 49)
Moral conversion is essential for man to fulfilling his vocation to become a child of God destined for eternal life. And moral conversion, thus, is somehow intricately linked to the Paschal Mystery. The final section of this paper will demonstrate that living the Gospel of Suffering is a key means of moral conversion through uniting oneself to Christ and the Paschal Mystery.
Moral conversion and virtuous living is not easy, particularly in modern society. The Christian understanding of suffering is an essential tool to help Christians along their moral journey. If a Christian embraces the Gospel of Suffering, his moral formation and life will be benefited in several ways. First, he will grow in appreciation of his true identity as imago dei, as opposed to the false human identity proposed by the world. Second, he would grow in his prayer life and relationship with God by daily entering into the Paschal Mystery. Third, he would grow in his love and appreciation of his neighbors. Fourth, he would be equipped with the great spiritual maturity and strength needed to live a Christian life and to turn away from sin.
First, living the Gospel of Suffering helps a Christian maintain communion with his self-identity as a being created by God and destined for eternal life with Him. Modern secular society seeks to replace one’s true Christian identity with another lesser identity. It tells man that he was not created for eternal life, but thislife; he is not to live for God, but for himself and his own pleasure. When a man swallows this lie, losing contact with his true identity, the inevitable result is sin and attachment to unworthy, lesser objects of love. But the Gospel of Suffering leads a Christian to live in direct contradiction to the lies of consumer culture. Society teaches that personal pleasure is the gold standard by which all decisions should be made; suffering and inconvenience have no meaning, except for the purpose of obtaining pleasure. A Christian, rather, accepts both pleasure and suffering as gifts from the Lord. His everyday sufferings are not meaningless, but rather are invitations and opportunities to grow closer to the Lord. Society teaches that finite pleasures can satisfy; through renunciation a Christian shows his belief that God alone will truly satisfy his soul. In all of these many ways, living the “vocation of suffering” helps the Christian maintain his true self-identity among the many lies of consumeristic culture.
Second, in addition to building the Christian’s communion with himself, the Gospel of Suffering also builds a believer’s communion with God. When one’s eyes are opened to the redemptive meaning of one’s sufferings, the day becomes filled with constant opportunities for prayer. Everyone suffers inconveniences and pains of some sort throughout the day, whether they be physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual in nature. A Christian is constantly invited to offer these sufferings to the Lord and to grow in union with Christ’s sufferings and the Paschal Mystery through them. In this way, he allows Christ’s grace to enter into his heart so that he may increasingly die to self and be resurrected by the Holy Spirit to greater holiness. A long line at the grocery store check-out, an annoying co-worker, a headache—all these become small invitations to prayer and to intimacy with the Lord! If one has trained themselves to always offer these up to the Lord, he will constantly be reminded of the presence of God, and will have at least a minimum of a prayer life throughout the day!
Third, living the Gospel of Suffering also builds a Christian’s communion with others. Society teaches everyone to look out for themselves, but the Gospel of Suffering teaches a Christian to look beyond himself by constantly offering his sufferings to the Lord for the needs of others. The Gospel of Suffering moves him to move beyond his own sufferings and problems, and to consider the needs and problems of others. In constantly praying for others, one slowly trains himself to ignore self-love and to turn instead toward greater love of others. A rumbling stomach from a missed meal or from fasting, for example, can enable a Christian to have some small solidarity and understanding of the plight of the starving in the world—and he can in faith help the situation of a starving man that he does not even know, by offering his own small hunger up to the Lord for that intention! Every suffering, united to Christ, becomes an opportunity to bring powerful graces into the world and to grow in charity and love of neighbor.
Living the Gospel of Suffering, thus, increases a Christian’s communion with self, God, and others. All three are essential pillars in the moral growth of every Christian. From these pillars flow perhaps the greatest gift of the Gospel of Suffering, a toughness of soul that John Paul calls “interior maturity and spiritual greatness.” (John Paul II, 26) Many people in modern society are spiritual weaklings—they are spiritually out of shape, unable to bear the slightest pain or inconvenience. One sees people get completely bent out of shape due to a wait in line at a grocery store, for example, or people jump up and go to great lengths to change the air conditioning when they feel the slightest bit too warm or cold. Because of society’s constant focus on instant personal gratification and freedom from suffering or inconvenience, most people have learned to give in automatically at the slightest pain in their lives. This translates directly into one’s moral life. Living a moral life and dying to self is painful. When temptation arises, if one has not developed the spiritual strength to bear pain and discomfort, that person is much more likely to give in to the temptation rather than to “fight the good fight.” By constantly accepting the sufferings in his everyday life and uniting it to the Lord, a Christian can become spiritually strong. He can become a spiritual Schwarzenegger instead of a spiritual Pee-Wee Herman. He prepares himself for spiritual warfare, making himself more willing to make sacrifices and endure suffering for the sake of holiness and union with God.
This spiritual toughness helps a Christian both to turn away from vice and to persevere in virtue. Imagine a young Christian man who lives the Gospel of Suffering, uniting his daily sufferings to the Lord for others. Since this lifestyle immerses him in the supernatural realm and constantly reminds him of his true identity as a child of God, he is more likely to have proper self-knowledge and to recognize areas in his life where he is in need of moral conversion. Say for example that he has begun to develop the vicious habit of gossip. In order to begin to replace this vice with the virtue of charity, he is going to have to sacrifice the pleasure of learning the latest news about others. He will likely have to discipline himself to not even say things about others that are morally neutral, but only that which builds others up. Since this man has lived the Gospel of Suffering, he is no stranger to pain and sacrifice, and he is more prepared for the suffering and sacrifice that this dying to self will entail.
“The witnesses of the cross and resurrection of Christ,” writes John Paul, “have handed on to the Church and to mankind a specific Gospel of suffering. The Redeemer Himself wrote this Gospel, above all by His own suffering accepted in love, so that man ‘should not perish but have eternal life.’” (John Paul II, 25) The Gospel of Suffering is an indispensable part of the Christian Gospel, just as the vocation to redemptive suffering is an indispensable part of the overall Christian vocation to holiness. The Church cannot afford to allow her children to go unnourished by the beautiful truths of the Gospel of Suffering. Priests and pastors must share these treasures with their flock, for the Gospel of Suffering is essential to their moral formation and their journey to everlasting life with God.
Catholic Church. Catechism. Paragraph 1.
Cessario, Romanus. Introduction to Moral Theology. (Washington: Catholic University of America Press, 2001).
Hanigan, James. “Conversion and Christian Ethics”, in Theology Today, 40, 1983, pp. 25-35.
John Paul II. Salvifici Doloris. 1984