The Pope on why the Pope must suffer

94_05_29 JP2 sufferingOn 29 May 29 1994 – during the Year of the Family – a month after painfully breaking his hip, St. Pope John Paul II delivered a spectacular Angelus address during which he set aside his notes and spoke off the cuff about suffering, his own suffering (my emphases):

Finally, it is precisely to Mary that we turn our gaze with particular affection, since we’ve come the end of this Marian month, during which we raised up to her motherly heart the desires, petitions and tears of all humanity. Mother of Mercy, may Mary hear the prayers of the Christian community.

And I would wish that, through Mary, my gratitude be expressed today for the gift of suffering I recently gained with this Marian month of May. I want to give thanks for this gift. I understood that it is a necessary gift. The Pope had to wind up in the Gemelli Clinic, he had to be absent from this window for four weeks, four Sundays, he had to suffer: as he had to suffer thirteen years ago, so too again also this year.

I meditated, I thought about all this over again during my hospital stay. And once again I found at my side the great figure of Cardinal Wyszynski, Primate of Poland (whose 13th anniversary of death was yesterday). At the beginning of my Pontificate he said to me: “If the Lord has called you, you must lead the Church into the third millennium.” He himself had led the Church in Poland into its second Christian millennium

This is what Cardinal Wyszynski said to me. And I understood that I have to lead the Church of Christ in this Third Millenium with prayer, with various initiatives, but I saw that that is not enough: it was necessary to lead her with suffering, with the assassination attempt thirteen years ago and with this new sacrifice. Why now, why in this year, why in this Year of the Family? Precisely because the family is threatened, the family is under attack. The Pope has to be attacked, the Pope has to suffer, so that every family and the world may see that there is a Gospel that is, I would say, higher: the Gospel of suffering, by which the future is prepared , the third millennium of families, of every family and of all families.

I wanted to bring these reflections out in my first meeting with you, dear Romans and pilgrims, at the end of this Marian month, because this gift of suffering I owe, and for which I give thanks, to the Most Holy Virgin. I understand that it was important to have this discussion in the sight of the powerful of this world. Again I have to meet with these powerful people of this world and I must speak. With what topics? I am left with this topic of suffering. And I would like to tell them: understand it, understand why the Pope was in hospital again, again in suffering. Understand it, think about it!

I note with interest that this was during the Year of the Family.  This was a huge concern for St. John Paul.

You should watch it, even if you don’t understand Italian. John Paul didn’t go off text very often, thanks be to God, but when he did, it was astounding.

Moreover, in the part immediately before what I described, John Paul spoke about the family and its nature.

What a great mystery! It pleases me to point this out especially to families, in this year specially dedicated to them. In the Trinity, in fact, you find the original model of the family. As I wrote in the letter to families, the divine “We” constitutes the eternal model of this specific human “we” constituted by one man and one woman who reciprocally give each other in a communion that is indissoluble [it can’t be broken] and open to life [it can’t be purposely sterile and, thus, it can’t be between persons of the same sex] (cf Letter to Families 6).

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. HyacinthClare says:

    Ouch. What a contrast.

  2. Geoffrey says:

    He is missed. Sancte Ioannes Paule Magne, ora pro Ecclesia! Ora pro nobis!

  3. Supertradmum says:

    Benedict suffered, and Francis will suffer. God knows how to make saints out of Popes.

    I trust in the Lord, always, and we have been so blessed for over 150 with excellence in the papacy in various ways.

    I am so glad for St. John Paul II, but for all the popes in my lifetime.

  4. Peter Rother says:

    Stunning. Profoundly beautiful. Humble, yet with great depth. Thank you, Pope Francis, for proclaiming Him a saint.

  5. e.davison49 says:

    Not a wimp, even jokingly.

  6. Rachel K says:

    I like to hear you calling him St John Paul, Fr Z!
    I am praying to him for my collapsed marriage, I know he is advocating in heaven for spouses and children.

  7. Fr Francis says:

    We were blessed to have had St John Paul the Great as Vicar of Christ. He was tested in the furnace of suffering from an early age – and was found to be pure gold.

    Out of all his many natural and supernatural gifts I think that his greatest gift was courage – not just physical courage (which he possessed in abundance) but also moral courage – the courage to swim against the tide of public opinion.

    And like all Poles, he knew from bitter experience since 1939 that our political leaders are not always sound moral guides!

  8. Back pew sitter says:

    Thank you, God, for the great St John Paul II. May his influence be felt at the Synod for the Family this year.

  9. benedetta says:

    He perceived that the family would suffer greatly and be attacked, and that it was only right that he as our Holy Father should suffer as well, and he saw these as linked in the great mystery of our communion. It seems prophetic, looking back to that time, but he was one who understood what was happening even before events hit the wave of public consciousness.

    The intensity with which he speaks these words is palpable in this old video, even now.

  10. gramma10 says:

    I am so grateful to have been alive while he was Pope. What an amazing human being! He blessed the world and showed us how a saint can be so down to earth, extremely well rounded, and at the same time so very holy. I am sure he is interceding for us all.

  11. Nicolas Bellord says:

    Quite stunning – a latter day prophet and like most of the prophets ignored?

  12. catholictrad says:

    We are left unarmed during the bitter parts of this life if we don’t understand the value of redemptive suffering. “Pick up your cross and follow Me.” The record of the multitude of saints who were tortured and mercilessly killed show us the way we must go.

    It was a poor joke to plead against suffering for Christ when He suffered so much for us. We must pray for Pope Francis that he convert from such thinking, or stop off-the-cuff speaking altogether.

    St. Pope John Paul II suffered much publicly for the edification of the Church, and for his own moments of poor judgement. Looking back on the pain he endured, it makes me both fearful and hopeful regarding what I must “suffer for the Kingdom of God”.

  13. LarryW2LJ says:

    Every Thankgiving, I make sure to add into the “Grace Prayer” something to the effect that – “We also thank you, Lord, for the bad times. (I usually get a raised eyebrow or two here) For without them, it is harder for us to realize how richly You have blessed us in the good times.”

    Suffering is hard, no doubt about it. But it is nevertheless a gift from God. It tests us, purifies us, makes us “stonger metal”. I often think that those who never have to suffer, who never feel pain, never quite realize how good they have it.

    The Lord is intimately aware with the fact that I don’t like suffering myself – and I try to avoid it at all costs. But when it does come (it always does, in one form or another) I try to bear it as well as I can, hoping that it takes a little off “for good behavior”, the time I will undoubtedly have to spend in Purgatory.

  14. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Oh, come on, people. The saints very often prayed not to suffer, and were often very open about admitting they’d rather not.

    Jesus Christ Himself prayed that the cup of suffering might be taken away.

    So yes, it’s good to try to accept suffering, or to pray courageously to be given some in order to share Christ’s suffering. But it isn’t wrong to ask for a fish or an egg, or to ask to be delivered from temptation and trials and suffering. Listen to the prayers of the Church at Mass, for goodness’ sake!

  15. Imrahil says:

    What the dear Banshee said.

    We’re Catholics, not Prussians (who paraded the “learn to suffer without mourning” maxim).

  16. Mariana2 says:

    I just realised I haven’t watched a single Angelus by our present Holy Father, I’ve felt so deflated since our beloved Pope Benedict abdicated. I’ll have to start watching again!

  17. jameeka says:

    Yes, but not translated into English on the Vatican website, thank you Father Z!

  18. Eugene says:

    I thank God I could listen to this in my native Italian. Thank you Father Z for posting.
    What a great great man! Every day I invoke his intercession for our present Pope that he may defend the church’s doctrine and liturgical tradition and may correct those wolves dressed in Shepherd’s clothing.

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