Pope Francis met with nearly 5,000 members of apostolates dedicated to the sick and suffering on Saturday, encouraging them to live lives transformed by love and to support others who suffer.
“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,” the pontiff told the members of the Apostolate of the Suffering and the Silent Workers of the Cross on May 17.
Pope Francis met with the members of the associations in the Paul VI audience hall. An estimated 350 attendees were in wheelchairs.
The Silent Workers of the Cross is an association of priests and consecrated persons who work with the suffering members of the Apostolate.
The two associations were founded by Blessed Luigi Novarese, a priest, in the second half of the 20th century to offer persons suffering with illness or disability an opportunity to participate in the work of evangelization. Fr. Luigi was beatified May 11, 2013.
Pope Francis described him as “a priest in love with Christ and with the Church and a zealous apostle of the sick.”
The Holy Father then reflected on one of the beatitudes of Jesus, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”
“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.”
Although “the reasons for suffering are many,” Christ understands them all, the Pope stressed.
“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.”
Pope Francis emphasized that Jesus did not teach that suffering itself was good, but rather demonstrated how to live suffering in a positive way.
“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.”
The Pope encouraged those present to take up this transformative attitude in their own lives.
“Your sufferings, 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 (the) consoler.”
Pope Francis said this positive attitude towards suffering was lived and taught by Blessed Luigi Novarese, who believed in “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,’” recounted the pontiff. “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.”
Pope Francis urged the sick and disabled to give witness to the example of Christ in their own lives. “With this charism, you are a gift to the Church,” he said.
“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!”