Friday, March 28, 2003

Man is "Dust"

"Our existence has the frailty of the grass that sprouts at dawn; suddenly it hears the whistle of the sickle that reduces it to a pile of hay," the Pope said.

To this radical weakness -- man is "dust" -- the Bible also associates sin, leading the Pope to say: "In us there is finiteness but also culpability."

The Holy Father explained how the human being can only overcome himself by taking recourse to his Creator, the reason why the Psalm asks that the grace of God "sustain and gladden our days, yet so fragile and marked by affliction."

After the death and resurrection of Christ, this frailty of man finds "the source of life beyond death," allowing us "to rejoice and be 'glad all our days,'" the Pope said. Zenit

Thursday, March 20, 2003

Gauging the Humanitarian Cost of War

U.S. Hopes to Limit Civilian Casualties, But Others Aren't So Optimistic

WASHINGTON, D.C., MARCH 8, 2003 (Zenit.org).- Concerns over civilian casualties in an Iraq war are fueling opposition to any such conflict. Estimates of deaths or the number of refugees caused by a war vary widely, but all agree that large numbers of innocent people would suffer. More...

Wednesday, March 19, 2003

Papal Nuncio Aims to Stay Close to the Suffering in Iraq

BAGHDAD, Iraq, MARCH 18, 2003 (ZENIT.org-Avvenire).- The papal nuncio in Baghdad reiterated his intention to stay in Iraq even if the bombing begins, in order to express his closeness to those who suffer.

Archbishop Fernando Filoni, who has been nuncio for less than a year, said: "We are here, and here we will stay, even if there is a war. We have no alternatives and, so long as we are permitted, we will remain."

The archbishop explained that he wishes to be "close to those who suffer to make them feel that they have not been abandoned" and to ensure "service to the local Church."

Regarding the Catholics who constitute 2.8% of a population of 24 million, the nuncio said their activities "continue with regularity."

"There is a certain concern on the part of the families of our seminarians, but the seminaries are still open, as well as the parishes, which are preparing for any eventuality, while carrying out the scheduled work," he said.

More on Suffering and the War: Catholic News and Iraqi Chidren Most Vulnerable

Letter from Dominicans in Iraq at Disputations

Friday, March 14, 2003

Why Suffering? --- Why Evil?

It is obvious that pain, especially physical pain, is widespread in the animal world. But only the suffering human being knows that he is suffering and wonders why; and he suffers in a humanly speaking still deeper way if he does not find a satisfactory answer. This is a difficult question, just as is a question closely akin to it, the question of evil. Why does evil exist? Why is there evil in the world? When we put the question in this way, we always, at least to a certain extent, asking a question about suffering too.

Both questions are difficult, when an individual puts them to another individual, when people put them to other people, also when man puts them to God. For man does not put this question to the world, even though it is from the world that suffering often comes to him, but he puts it to God as the Creator and Lord of the world. And it is well known that concerning this question there not only arise many frustrations and conflicts in the relations of man with God, but it also happens that people reach the point of actually denying God. For, whereas the existence of the world opens as it were the eyes of the human soul to the existence of God, to His wisdom, power and greatness, evil and suffering seem to obscure this image, sometimes in a radical way, especially in the daily drama of so many cases of undeserved suffering and of so many faults without proper punishment. So this circumstance shows -- perhaps more than any other -- the importance of the question of the meaning of suffering; it also shows how much care must be taken both in dealing with the question itself and with all possible answers to it. Salvifici Doloris (9)

Thursday, March 13, 2003

The Meaning of Suffering

Within each form of suffering endured by man, and at the same time at the basis of the whole world of suffering, there inevitably arises the question: WHY? It is a question about the cause, the reason, and equally, about the purpose of suffering, and, in brief, a question about its meaning. Not only does it accompany human suffering, but it seems even to determine its human content, what makes suffering precisely human suffering. Salvifici Doloris (9)

We will now begin to explore the haunting questions about suffering: "Why?" "What does it mean?" and "How can I live with it?"

Wednesday, March 12, 2003

Pope's Message to Youth

In the Year of the Rosary, John Paul II invites young people to pray it, because it is a way of "learning to contemplate Jesus with the eyes of his Mother, to love Jesus with the heart of his Mother."

"Don't be ashamed to recite the rosary," the Pope says, encouraging young people to pray it "on the way to school, university or work, on the street or on public transportation; recite it among yourselves, in groups, movements and associations, and don't hesitate to suggest praying it at home" with the family, because it "revives and consolidates the ties" among its members.

"This prayer will help you to be strong in faith, constant in charity, joyful and persevering in hope," he says.

John Paul II also exhorts young people to flee from egoism and sloth. "Now more than ever, it is urgent that you be the morning watchmen."

"Mankind has a decisive need for the witness of courageous and free young people who dare to go countercurrent and proclaim strongly and enthusiastically their faith in God, Lord and Savior," he says. Zenit

One Thinks, Finally, of War

Considering the world of suffering in its personal and at the same time collective meaning, one cannot fail to notice the fact that this world, at some periods of time and in some eras of human existence, becomes as it were particularly concentrated. This happens, for example, in cases of natural disasters, epidemics, catastrophes, upheavals and various social scourges: one thinks, for example of a bad harvest and connected with it -- or with various other causes -- the scourge of famine.

One thinks, finally, of war. I speak of this in a particular way. I speak of the last two World Wars, the second of which brought with it a much greater harvest of death and a much heavier burden of human sufferings. The second half of our century, in its turn, brings with it -- as though in proportion to the mistakes and transgressions of our contemporary civilization -- such a horrible threat of nuclear war that we cannot think of this period except in terms of an incomparable accumulation of sufferings, even to the possible self- destruction of humanity. In this way, that world of suffering which in brief has its subject in each human being, seems in our age to be transformed -- perhaps more than at any other moment -- into a special "world": the world which as never before has been transformed by progress through man's work and, at the same time, it as never before in danger because of man's mistakes and offenses. Salvifici Doloris (8)

From Guernica
Sculpture (detail) after Picasso's Guernica

U.N. officials hung a blue curtain over a tapestry reproduction of Picasso's Guernica at the entrance of the Security Council.

Tuesday, March 11, 2003

Suffering and Evil

It can be said that man suffers whenever he experiences any kind of evil. In the vocabulary of the Old Testament, suffering and evil are identified with each other.

Thus the reality of suffering prompts the question about the essence of evil: What is evil?

This question seems, in a certain sense, inseparable from the theme of suffering. The Christian response to it is different, for example, from the one given by certain cultural and religious traditions which hold that existence is an evil from which one needs to be liberated. Christianity proclaims the essential good of existence and the good of that which exists, acknowledges the goodness of the Creator and proclaims the good of creatures. Man suffers on account of evil, which is a certain lack, limitation or distortion of good. We could say that man suffers because of a good in which he does not share, from which in a certain sense he is cut off, or of which he has deprived himself. He particularly suffers when he "ought" -- in the normal order of things -- to have a share in this good, and does not have it.

Thus, in the Christian view, the reality of suffering is explained through evil, which always, in some way, refers to a good. Salvifici Doloris (7)

Body of Abel
The Body of Abel Found by Adam and Eve,
William Blake, c.1825
Jeremiah's Lament

The words of a man in agony...


1 I am the man who has seen affliction
by the rod of his wrath.
2 He has driven me away and made me walk
in darkness rather than light;
3 indeed, he has turned his hand against me
again and again, all day long.

4 He has made my skin and my flesh grow old
and has broken my bones.
5 He has besieged me and surrounded me
with bitterness and hardship.
6 He has made me dwell in darkness
like those long dead.

7 He has walled me in so I cannot escape;
he has weighed me down with chains.
8 Even when I call out or cry for help,
he shuts out my prayer.
9 He has barred my way with blocks of stone;
he has made my paths crooked.

10 Like a bear lying in wait,
like a lion in hiding,
11 he dragged me from the path and mangled me
and left me without help.
12 He drew his bow
and made me the target for his arrows.

13 He pierced my heart
with arrows from his quiver.
14 I became the laughingstock of all my people;
they mock me in song all day long.
15 He has filled me with bitter herbs
and sated me with gall.

16 He has broken my teeth with gravel;
he has trampled me in the dust.
17 I have been deprived of peace;
I have forgotten what prosperity is.
18 So I say, "My splendor is gone
and all that I had hoped from the LORD ."

Lamentations 3