pray reflect listen

Msgr Philip Heng, SJ

How we live our lives and what happens to us does affect others. As parents in particular, the quality of our lives affects our children. If we are a close-knit family where there is much love and respect for one another, our children will likely grow up to be wholesome persons; more so if they experience the love of the family within the Catholic ambience of the home.

However, if there is much dissension, division and desolation between parents, children will absorb the pain and suffering their parents are going through. They are young, vulnerable and fragile emotionally. The hurts and woundedness of their parents’ painful relationship will permeate their hearts, and they will become insecure, angry and confused about life.

Recently, someone came up to me and asked for blessings. Crying her heart out she said, “Father, my nephew, David (not his real name) is going to commit suicide soon … and he is only 12 years old!”

“Why?” I asked.

“Because he cannot take it anymore – his parents are constantly quarrelling,” she responded.

There are so many innocent and helpless people. Sadly, there are also some of us who are like David; we too are crying out in so much pain; wishing that we too could commit suicide to end our suffering. Many of us in such a traumatic situation often ask, “Why is life so cruel? When will my pain end? What is the meaning of life when I do not see any hope of getting out of my pain and suffering?”

On a more practical level, even as we try to comfort David or people in similar situations, in all probability we would not make much sense because the pain would be too overwhelming. For sure, it would be totally unhelpful if we attributed blame to his parents, even when we mean well and wish to give David our support and make him feel that we are on “his side”, feeling his pain. If we did so, we would be creating an even deeper chasm of anxiety, fear, anger, insecurity and the like between David and his parents.

Neither can we tell David, “Don’t worry, everything will be okay.” Humanly, there are no pre-formulated magic words, and no lasting solutions. Psychologists, at most, can only point to the wound, or even help open the wound. But only God can bring healing …

Nevertheless, this does not mean that we cannot do anything for David. The “healing” that David needs is primarily restoration of confidence in himself; and affirmation of his dignity and identity as a child of God. We need to point him to the “bigger” reality that life is worth living and trust that with God, things can change for the better; God is there in your pain because He Loves you.

There may be times when we, like David, may be called to carry an unbearably heavy cross. St Ignatius of Loyola, in his Spiritual Exercises, counsels us to pray for the graces to experience what Jesus experienced in His Suffering in the Gospels. Through such graces, we come to know Jesus more personally and gain the spiritual strength and wisdom to walk in His footsteps.

During such times, we need to hear the voice of consolation that says to us, “Hold on, you are not alone. I have been through your pain and suffering … except that mine is a million times more painful than yours!” This “voice”, if it is assuring, and if it draws you closer to Jesus, and identifies your pain with His, would then be a spiritual consolation that could only have come from Jesus.

In short, as disciples of Jesus, we are called to be more fully conscious that the lives we lead daily have effects on others, especially our loved ones, our families, and especially the young. 

Msgr Heng is Rector of the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd.