Back when the Lord gave me the choice between life and death, and I chose life, I thought everything after that was going to be easy. I imagined that the struggle was behind me. That I would no longer suffer; that pain would go away; and that God would do everything. I was just going to rest. At first I was surprised, then annoyed, that this was not turning out to be the case. For, quickly thereafter, my health started to deteriorate. The abuse, punishment, and neglect of all those years had taken their toll. I felt like God had duped me. I didn’t understand the Cross. I woke up every morning wanting the day to be free of all physical and mental complications: no headaches, not feelings of anxiety, and no hurting. Inevitably, it didn’t happen and I got frustrated. I did this for a couple of years. Slowly, as I grew in the spiritual life, I came to understand that suffering was a part of the Christian life.
Not long afterward making that realization, I met a kindly priest who was a retired military chaplain. I infrequently went to his Mass, but found his no-nonsense and masculine approach to spirituality very refreshing. He was the opposite image of the ephebic and bookish cleric. One day, he walked into my little religious goods store: looking rather tired and wiped-out. I asked him if he was OK. He very plainly reiterated his rather hectic recent schedule of filling in for various vacationing and or sick priests all the while maintaining his own ministry to the ill and shut-ins. After leaving my place, he had to make a rather long drive to one church and afterwards drive back. I considered it a somewhat hefty load for an older man of indeterminate health. As he was walking out the door, I told Father that I was worried about him. He said: “Joe, we are on this Earth to suffer.” Then, the door shut after him. I thought: Wow.