Pope Francis met with members of the Apostolate of the Suffering and with the Silent Workers of the Cross on Saturday in the Paul VI Hall. Among the estimated 5,000 people in attendance, about 350 people were in wheelchairs.
The two apostolic associations were founded by Blessed Luigi Novarese for evangelization by and among people with illness and disability. According to its website, the purpose of the Apostolate of the Suffering is to bring about “a complete emancipation of suffering persons, through a work of evangelization and teaching of catechism directly carried out by the handicapped”. Its activity takes place in co-operation with the Silent Workers of the Cross, an association of priests and consecrated men and women.
In his message to the associations, marking the centenary of their founder’s birth, Pope Francis stressed that there are right and wrong ways to live with pain and suffering.
“A wrong attitude is to live pain in a passive manner, letting go with inertia and resignation. Even the reaction of rebellion and rejection is not a correct attitude,” he said. “Jesus teaches us to live the pain by accepting the reality of life with trust and hope, bringing the love of God and neighbour, even in suffering: and love transforms everything.”
The meeting came on the 67th anniversary of the founding of the Apostolate of the Suffering and a little over one year after Blessed Luigi’s beatification on 11 May, 2013.
Below is the Vatican Radio translation of the Pope’s message:
Dear brothers and sisters,
I welcome you and I thank you for coming! You are celebrating the centenary of the birth of the your founder, Blessed Luigi Novarese, a priest in love with Christ and with the Church and a zealous apostle of the sick.
His personal experience of suffering, lived in childhood, made him very sensitive to human suffering. For this reason, he founded the Silent Workers of the Cross and the Apostolate of the Suffering, who still today pursue his work.
I would like to recall with you one of the Beatitudes: “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Mt 5,4). With this prophetic word, Jesus refers to a condition of life on earth, from which no one is spared. There are those who mourn because they are not healthy, those who mourn because they are alone and misunderstood.
The reasons for suffering are many. Jesus experienced affliction and humiliation in this world. He gathered human suffering and assumed them in his flesh, he lived them profoundly, one by one. He knew every type of affliction, moral and physical: he experienced hunger and fatigue, the bitterness of misunderstanding, he was betrayed and abandoned, flagellated and crucified.
By saying “blessed are those who mourn”, Jesus does not intend to declare an unfortunate and burdensome condition in life to be happy. Suffering is not a value in itself, but a reality that Jesus teaches us to live with the correct attitude.
There are, in fact, right ways and wrong ways to live pain and suffering. A wrong attitude is to live pain in a passive manner, letting go with inertia and resignation. Even the reaction of rebellion and rejection is not a correct attitude. Jesus teaches us to live the pain by accepting the reality of life with trust and hope, bringing the love of God and neighbor, even in suffering: and love transforms everything.
This is exactly what Blessed Luigi Novarese taught you, educating the sick and the disabled to value their suffering through apostolic action, carried out with faith and love for others. He would always say: “The sick must feel that they are the authors of their own apostolate”. A sick person, a disabled person can become support and light for other people who suffer, in this way transforming the environment in which he lives.
With this charism, you are a gift to the Church. Your suffering, like the wounds of Jesus, on the one hand are scandal for the faith but on the other hand are the verification of the faith, a sign that God is Love, is faithful, is merciful, is consoler. United to the risen Christ, you are “active participant(s) in the work of evangelization and salvation” (Christifideles laici, 54).
I encourage you to be close to the suffering of your parishes as witnesses to the Resurrection. This way, you will enrich the Church and collaborate with the mission of pastors, praying and offering your suffering even for them. I thank you very much for this!
Dear friends, may Our Lady help you to be true “workers of the Cross” and true “volunteers of suffering”, living the crosses and suffering with faith and love, together with Christ. I bless you and I ask you, please, to pray for me