A Little Redemptive Suffering Never Hurt Anyone (besides you, of course)

By TJ Burdick


I have a confession to make: the majority of my friends aren’t Catholic. Many are, indeed, Protestant and for some reason, they all look at me strangely when I ask them if they have heard of redemptive suffering.

I should back up a bit. You see, when I throw the big RS out onto the table, it is usually after they have shared with me some sort of difficulty they are going through. Like I said, they are my friends and, like all of us, they have problems. Some are emotional, others are physical but the fact of the matter is that they have not been introduced to this lovely facet of the Catholic faith.

The Catechism tells us this about said facet:

The man of the Old Testament lives his sickness in the presence of God. It is before God that he laments his illness, and it is of God, Master of life and death, that he implores healing.Illness becomes a way to conversion; God’s forgiveness initiates the healing. It is the experience of Israel that illness is mysteriously linked to sin and evil, and that faithfulness to God according to his law restores life: “For I am the Lord, your healer.” The prophet intuits that suffering can also have a redemptive meaning for the sins of others… CCC 1502

…Suffering…becomes a participation in the saving work of Jesus. CCC 1521

Mother Theresa concurs:

I wonder what the world would be like if there were not innocent people making reparation for us all…?” (From her book, The Best Gift of Love)

Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen seconds that:

What a blood transfusion is to the body, reparation for the sins of another is to the spirit.” 

Sin runs a muck throughout the world and good people like St. Monica, cloistered nuns and monks and countless other religious and laymen and women keep humanity in check through their sacrificial union with Christ upon the cross. Finding meaning in suffering is the secret to a Christian’s joy.

St. Paul knew that when he wrote:

“Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church.”~Colossians 1:24

Psh, as if Christ’s sacrifice wasn’t enough? Of course it was. It was MORE than enough. So abundant was His sacrifice that we too get to share in His struggle and redeem others through our mystical union with Him. We are all one body and when one member suffers, we all do. However, when one member of the body becomes well, the entire system rejoices.

St. Paul knew that. In fact, all of the Saints knew that because Jesus taught it so clearly as he hung on that Roman tree.

So, now it is your turn.

  • Does your fingernail hurt because you bit a little too deep? Offer it up for those suffering in Israel.
  • Have a headache because your kids won’t stop screaming? Unite it with the expecting mother who is contemplating abortion.
  • Hate waking up to go to Mass? Iraq.

Now go suffer.