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Blessed be Suffering

Tags: Cross, Suffering, sick
St Josemaria’s book The Way, at no. 208, gives a prayer that is offered today by many people who have discovered the Christian meaning of suffering: “Blessed be pain. Loved be pain. Sanctified be pain. Glorified be pain.” This prayer has a history behind it which was deeply engraved on the soul of St Josemaria, and which he spoke about quite often during the course of his life.

The King's Hospital
The King's Hospital
Here are a couple of texts where St Josemaria recalled that history. The first is from a 1972 get-together in Lisbon: “You have spoken to me about The Way. I don’t remember it exactly from memory, but there is a phrase which says: ‘Let us bless pain. Love pain. Sanctify pain... Glorify pain!’ Do you remember? I wrote that in a hospital, at the bedside of a dying patient to whom I had just administered Extreme Unction. I was madly envious! That woman had had a great social and economic position in life, and there she was, on a hard old hospital bed, dying and lonely, without any company except what I could offer her at that moment, until she died. And she repeated it, savouring it, happy! ‘Let us bless pain’ – she had a lot of moral pain and physical pain – ‘Love pain, sanctify pain, glorify pain!’ Suffering is a proof that one knows how to love, that one has a heart.”

On another occasion he recalled: “There was a poor woman, lost, who had belonged to one of the most aristocratic families in Spain. I found her already rotten; rotten in body, and finding healing for her soul, in a hospital for terminal cases. She had lived an evil life, poor thing. She had had a husband and children; she had abandoned everything, having gone mad through her passions, but later that poor creature came to know how to love. I remembered Mary Magdalene: she knew how to love.

One day I had to administer Extreme Unction to her. It was in 1931, already a bad time in Spain. And on seeing the joy in her soul, which I considered to be close to God, I made her say: ‘Let us bless pain’ – and she repeated it aloud – ‘Love pain, sanctify pain, glorify pain!’ She died a little later, and she is in Heaven, and she is helping us a lot.”
The King's Hospital
The King's Hospital

Through other sources, we know that St Josemaria made use of these words on more than one occasion to console dying patients whom he tended during those years in Madrid hospitals. It is not possible to determine who was the first person to hear these consoling words.

The Way: Critical-historical edition prepared by Pedro Rodriguez, Josemaria Escriva Historical Institute/Scepter, London and New York, 2009.