- Transforming Pain

Franciscan Richard Rohr teaches us, 'If you do not transform your pain, you will transmit it.'

As parents, our children sometimes cause us pain and suffering, such as when they fight with each other, have an emotional breakdown because a friend has hurt them, run away from going to school or university, avoid trying new things, or shirk from being challenged.

In marriage, our relationships can cause us pain and suffering when we hurt the other due to selfishness or shortsightedness, spend too much time working and forget what is really important, neglect self-care and the prioritization of independent time or activities as a critical part of being a couple, or use the other for selfish reasons and forget the importance of sacrifice and love.

Pain and suffering can also arise from injustice, such as when women and children experience domestic violence, when we become refugees, homeless, or imprisoned, or when we face racism, sexism, or ageism, especially when others fail to care despite being aware of the injustice.

According to Jungian psychology, pain and suffering can be part of our shadow, affecting us emotionally and deeply. Unseen traumas from childhood or adulthood can often be ignored, only to surface later in life, causing physical, emotional, or cognitive pain and suffering. Our shadows are the parts of ourselves we cannot see or choose not to see, yet they return again and again.

Pain can also come when we turn away from God, what Christians sometimes call 'Sin.' Sin can take many forms, such as environmental sin, when we blindly consume and harm the Earth, judge others, compare ourselves despite our blessings, exhibit greed, or become lazy, especially when our loved ones need us.

However, Richard Rohr goes further by saying, 'Pain is part of the deal' of being human. We are born in pain and will die in pain. Why would we think our lives could avoid pain and suffering? This is part of the human condition, yet we avoid it.

Do we recognize our pain or suffering? Do we accept its presence? Are we open to the possibility of transformation or change, not by running away from pain, but allowing it to transform us like a butterfly?

How can we transform pain?

The 18th-century artist Van Gogh used his art to transform his pain, with his vivid depictions and vibrant use of color revealing his mental struggles.

In Nazi Germany, theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer used writing as a tool to confront great evil.

In Australia, many parents encourage their children to play sports, recognizing its benefits for mental health and well-being.

Groups like Alcoholics Anonymous use conversation and sharing in a safe circle to address addiction and personal struggles.

The explosion in the self-help industry indicates a deep need for spiritual health and wholeness. Books like 'The Road Less Traveled' remind us of the eternal wisdom in facing pain and suffering through acceptance, not avoidance, learning discipline, and seeking a deeper love that transcends apparent possibilities.

In religion, prayer can profoundly affect our pain and suffering, reminding us that we are not alone and that everything will ultimately return to a source beyond human understanding.

What about Christians? What about Marists? What about Mary?

How did Mary transform her pain? When Simeon told her in the temple that 'your heart will be pierced,' it suggested that pain and suffering could become doorways to the divine, teaching us if we allow them.

After the annunciation, Mary was alone, but was she truly? When we experience pain and suffering, we often feel alone, but are we? Mary's visit to her cousin Elizabeth and Joseph's support show that we are never truly alone.

When Jesus was dying on the cross, Mary was there, fully present. But sometimes pain and suffering does not make sense. Whilst, when giving birth the birthing pains in childbirth, which are crucial for the baby's first breath, the pains we experience can teach us important lessons. This does not glorify pain and suffering. But we might open to exploring the question 'What does it teach?' But, sometimes there are no answers.

As Christians and Marists, we cannot run from the cup of suffering and pain but can recognize these as doorways to the divine. By being present, we open ourselves to these lessons.

In conclusion, our pain and suffering can teach us many paths to transformation—through art, writing, sports, meaningful conversations, and spiritual practices that open us to the divine. We are each a mystery to be lived, not a wound that needs medicine. Transforming our pains and turning them into doorways to the divine requires stepping outside ourselves, through presence, as Jesus teaches, 'when two or three are gathered in my name, there I am.'

Questions for further reflection and discussion
  1. Personal Transformation Through Pain: How can you identify and embrace your personal pain or suffering as a potential catalyst for growth and transformation? Reflect on a time when a challenging experience led to personal development or a change in perspective.
  2. The Role of Community and Support: In what ways do you seek out or provide support within your community to help transform pain and suffering? Consider the importance of shared experiences, like those in support groups or communal rituals, in the healing process.
  3. Spiritual Practices as a Means to Cope with Pain: How do spiritual or religious practices contribute to your understanding and management of pain and suffering? Reflect on the role of prayer, meditation, or other spiritual activities in offering comfort or insight during difficult times.
Listen to the following song and reflect on these questions

Song - Casting Crowns - Praise You In This Storm


Final Prayer

Loving Father,

In the midst of our pain and suffering, we turn to You, seeking comfort, strength, and understanding. We acknowledge our struggles and the deep hurts that life sometimes brings, knowing that You see all and are with us through every moment.

Lord, teach us to trust in Your divine plan, even when the path is obscured by tears and the weight of our burdens feels too heavy to bear. Help us to remember that, like clay in the potter's hands, we are being shaped and molded by our experiences, transformed through Your love and grace.

Grant us the courage to face our trials, to embrace the lessons they teach, and to find the silver linings hidden within our darkest clouds. May we learn, as Your Son Jesus did, to carry our crosses with grace, offering up our suffering as a testament to Your enduring love and mercy.

In moments of weakness, remind us that we are not alone. Strengthen our faith and renew our spirits, so we may rise above our challenges, buoyed by the hope and salvation You offer. Let us be a source of support and comfort to others who also journey through valleys of shadow, sharing the light of Your love and the promise of Your peace.

Bless us with the wisdom to see our pain not as an end, but as a doorway to deeper connection with You and with one another. May our hearts be pierced only to be filled with more of You, transforming our suffering into channels of Your grace and compassion.

We thank You, Lord, for Your presence in our lives, for the beauty that emerges from our trials, and for the joy that awaits us beyond our sorrows. With grateful hearts, we offer up our pain, our questions, and our journey to You, trusting that in Your hands, all things are made new.

In Jesus' name, we pray,


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Quote - The difficulty we have in accepting responsibility for our behavior lies in the desire to avoid the pain of the consequences of that behavior. - Scott Peck
(By A. D. - Marist Laity - from AUSTRALIA - 2024-2-19)

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