By Father Vincent Euk
In the Oct. 20 edition of The Monitor, the reader’s letter entitled “Our Faith Requires that We Kill the Pain, not the Patient,” seems to neglect some of our articles of faith. Yes, we should never kill the patient, but are we really required to kill the pain?
No one likes to suffer and generally when we suffer, we have what seems to be the most difficult time trying to pray. At the same time our faith is tested by maintaining Jesus’ command to us: “If you love me, keep my commandments” (Jn 14:15). How hard it is to not be cranky and crabby when we are suffering! Job’s wife urged him to curse God (Job 2:9), but as a man of faith, he did not despite all the terrible things Satin did to him.
When Jesus died for us, He atoned for all the sins of people who accept His Mercy. However, St. Paul speaks of “making up for what is lacking in the death of Christ” (Col 1:24). This article of faith on temporal punishment due to sin (CCC 1471) is often forgotten.
Few people realize that we can play an important role in making up for the injustices we or others have caused which brought Jesus to the Cross. When we go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation, do we really think a few Hail Mary’s will suffice for our sins? In justice how much do we need to make up for saying a bad word? How much do we need to do to make up for missing Mass on Sunday for no good reason (CCC 2181)? Yes, sacramental confession will enable us to be forgiven of sins by Jesus, but can a penance for the sin ever make up for the injustice of the nails driven through Jesus’ hands and feet? What did St. Paul mean by making up what is lacking in the death of Christ? It has to do with our role in the Redemptive process. There is a treasury in the Church which the Church applies from the satisfactions of Christ and the saints (CCC 1471).
No one uses bad words in Heaven, but what if we die with the habit of “cursing like a trooper?” Does not something have to be done before we can get through those pearly gates? Yes, this is what Purgatory (CCC 1030) does, but would it not be better to settle that account in this life? True, most of us cannot. However, there is one way to rid ourselves of this debt we owe Christ – a plenary indulgence.
Plenary indulgences are easy to get during this Holy Year. Just walk through a designated Holy Door before November 20th and fulfill the necessary conditions. Have you any relatives who may be in Purgatory? Make a second visit for them because indulgences can be applied to the dead too. (You can only obtain one plenary indulgence per day.)
Acts of mercy and charity, as well as joining our sufferings to the Cross, give us the opportunity to build up this treasury of graces that can be applied to remit temporal punishment due to sin. The sufferings we experience as we make our transition from this world to Eternal Life can be that stepping stone to get us directly into Heaven. One of the prayers for the dying in rite of the Sacrament of the Sick ends with: “since you have given him/her a share in your own passion, help him/her to find hope in suffering.”
Yes, we can make our last agony a great opportunity not only for ourselves, but even for trying to get our fallen away children back into the Church!
When I heard Mother Teresa call herself the worst sinner in the world, it made me pause and think about myself. But her sufferings were excessive, yet coupled with great joy. Many martyrs seemed also to be filled with a sense of joy as they approached a tortuous death. Was their joy because they knew that their sufferings were remitting temporal punishment due to sin even for their killers?
Some of the Church Fathers taught that the death of St. Stephen had a great influence in the conversion of St. Paul. When a priest is called to a dying person, he has a special privilege to administer the Apostolic Pardon, a plenary indulgence for that dying person. Along with the Sacraments of Reconciliation, the Sick and Viaticum if possible, the properly disposed person gets a “ticket into Heaven.” All suffering, but especially the suffering of the dying offers great potential for filling that treasury of satisfactions for the Church to distribute.
So I would not be so sure that we should “kill pain” outright. Moral law does permit us to take pain killers to alleviate our suffering. But let us make sure that the dying have a priest to visit them before they are put into a medical stupor. Let us also keep in our prayers all those Christians who are being tortured and killed in the name of God so they can have the joy of filling that treasury of satisfactions.
Father Vincent Euk is pastor of St. Veronica Parish, Howell.