An Approach to Suffering within the Pastoral Care of the Sick

An Approach to Suffering within the Pastoral Care of the Sick

Brother Schafer Knostman, O.Carm.

Most of us spend a while with a severe sickness, which regularly turns into what ends our life on earth. A significantly in poor health particular person experiences ache, lack of objective, and concern about their relationship with God. A mild dialogue about doable causes for ache, methods to find objective, and comfort from God’s goodness will be of nice assist to them.


Illness brings with it bodily ache, which will be overwhelming. For instance, somebody might be a burn sufferer, or have paralyzing ache from a spinal twine harm, or one other situation that’s tremendously painful. Pain is a sort of punishment, one thing to undergo on behalf of others, and even one thing that may unite us to God. Having some understanding of those causes for ache can do a lot to assist an individual endure the discomfort.

First, ache is a sort of normal punishment on humanity, since it’s a consequence of authentic sin. Suffering can simply really feel personally punitive as nicely, so it’s best to not use this level to start out a dialog with somebody who’s struggling. As a pastoral minister, I’m not able to judge whether or not somebody is struggling on account of their very own sins. In some conditions, although, similar to weight problems or liver illness attributable to lack of self-care, it may assist to clarify how ache can function a information to what’s virtuous[1]. Then, it might be good to start out by asking concerning the affected person’s backstory, and serving to them establish what they may do in another way. It additionally could occur {that a} affected person presses the difficulty of why we undergo, as I’ve skilled as soon as in hospital ministry. In that case I would come with punishment within the rationalization of struggling in a manner that’s not accusatory.

 We could undergo as a private correction, but in addition for the sake of others, which may occur in a number of methods. For one, it might be to be able to provide the ache on behalf of another person. Generally, it’s useful to supply our ache to God, bringing our expertise to Him by way of ideas and phrases of prayer, since He is permitting the expertise for some good purpose. Since that purpose is usually mysterious to us, we can also consider somebody or one thing else to supply our ache for, as an intercessory prayer. In any case, you will need to maintain an interior dialogue with God going, since He is the one success of our need for therapeutic and peace, and specializing in Him, we hope to succeed in that success in Heaven.

Suffering additionally works on behalf of others to ask them to behave lovingly[2]. The actual lack of a very good {that a} affected person experiences is utilized by God to attract others into love for that particular person, which in flip attracts them to Himself, the Source of Love. Additionally, if we undergo nicely, we give good witness to others of hope and the value of life, which may additionally lead them towards God. And, it’s typically comforting that our struggling on account of an sickness can be utilized to alleviate that of others, by serving to provide medical data by way of examine or licit experimental therapies.

Pain may work to redirect our souls towards God[3]. This can come about by way of compelled detachment from the products of this world, which embrace our well-being. Detachment is what’s painful, however it invitations us to look past ourselves to God, who’s of supreme worth, and ask if Heaven is price accepting the lack of well being. For somebody with a severe sickness, it’s possible useful to trace at this, by referencing the infinite goodness and fantastic thing about God, and the way He makes use of struggling to deliver us to Himself.

This brings us to how struggling can unite us to God in Jesus Christ. It’s vital {that a} affected person is aware of that Jesus took on our human struggling, even the entire abandonment, humiliation, and torture of His Passion and loss of life, to deliver us to the Father. Even extra, He identifies Himself with us as we undergo as we speak, and in each time as nicely. He intimates this exceptional reality in one of many key parables of the Last Judgment, as these excerpts present: “I used to be hungry… I used to be thirsty… a stranger… bare… in poor health… in jail… no matter you probably did for one in every of these least brothers of mine, you probably did for me.”[4] In the parable, Jesus is talking because the common king earlier than the individuals of all historical past. Thus, His reference to “brothers” is a reference to each one in every of us once we undergo. It could be a vital consolation to know that struggling identifies us with Christ, on this sure manner. And this identification is very deep for Catholics, since we’re graced to obtain Christ’s very physique within the Eucharist. Our our bodies develop into a part of His — in an actual, religious manner, in order that He is aware of our struggling firsthand.

Loss of Purpose

A severe sickness can also trigger an individual to lose their sense of objective. We typically take a lot of our sense of objective from what we do or what we’re in a position to accomplish, which skills are sometimes taken away in illness. For instance, an individual who bases their life on exercising, working within the workplace, and even serving others experiences a selected problem after they develop into in poor health. But, our actual objective in life is to share within the nature of God, which is feasible for anybody at any time. We do that largely by way of love of God and neighbor[5]. When sick, an individual can discover renewed objective by way of love of God by working to simply accept their situation for His sake. This comes from belief in His plan each to make use of this evil for good, and to maneuver them towards Himself in Heaven. Love of God additionally consists of persevering with to worship Him and put Him first in life, so far as the particular person is ready. Serious sickness typically prevents an individual from attending Mass in a parish, however taking part in Mass in a hospital chapel may be doable. In any case, Sunday ought to at all times be a day specifically reserved for the worship of God by way of prayer. Technology makes this easier — for instance, by way of entry to live-streamed Masses on a hospital room TV or smart-phone. Most importantly, an in poor health particular person ought to request the Sacraments, when wanted. Frequent reception of the Eucharist is extraordinarily useful, particularly on Sunday, as one type of worship alongside prayer. The Sacrament of Reconciliation is especially wanted to organize one for loss of life, in addition to Anointing to strengthen the particular person to undergo with Christ.

As nicely as love of God, love of neighbor tremendously contributes to a significantly in poor health particular person’s sense of objective. It can’t be uncared for, as it’s implied by love for God. Now, a hospital affected person, for instance, could not be capable to do a lot for others bodily. However, they’ll love by complying patiently with the nursing employees and docs, though their work could trigger some humiliation or ache in the middle of remedy. Accordingly, social connection is vital, particularly with family members. It is typically the case, in my expertise, that an individual has to beat a sure concern or pleasure that deters them from telling family members that they’re struggling. It could also be disturbing information to share at first. But, it’s for the larger good, enabling these we care about to like us, in addition to for the sake of honesty, and receiving wanted much-needed assist from them. In reality, willfully refusing to let individuals near you understand that you’re struggling is a sort of rejection of their love. Through family members, and even maybe reference to the employees, socializing contributes to an individual’s sense of objective by offering a approach to love and be liked.

Concern about Relationship with God

Lastly, we could really feel concern about our relationship to God once we undergo a severe sickness. An individual could really feel deserted by God, Whom they felt would shield them. Understanding God’s goodness, that He at all times works for our final profit, and that He is at all times prepared to forgive, is of nice comfort.

It would possibly assist to start out by recalling that God is the Lord of the Universe, Who made the whole lot good. Scripture describes Him as omnipotent and as love itself. God is aware of all that occurs, and by no means abandons His creatures, which might betray His very character. These info assist clarify that each one issues work for good for individuals who love God[6]. It could be useful to current this to somebody who’s struggling in a mild manner. For instance, a pastoral minister may merely say that God is completely good, and permits sure evils so that good could come from them.

In the worst case, there could also be somebody who’s in excessive struggling, close to loss of life, and deeply afraid of God. This could also be as a result of they know that they’ve dedicated a mortal sin, similar to neglecting to go to Mass for years. The Sacrament of Reconciliation must be provided to them very promptly. Further consolation will be given by starting an evidence as follows: Ultimately, it’s separation from God that causes us to undergo. Our closing sickness and loss of life are painful, however they’re a part of the way in which that God heals that painful separation from Himself, in order that we will know the peace and pleasure of Heaven perpetually. Or, from a special perspective, one can say that to go to Heaven is to develop into like God. The lifetime of Christ makes the experiences each of struggling and loss of life a part of the way in which of turning into like God. This is barely doable by way of God’s free reward, His grace, which invitations us into the lifetime of infinite goodness and sweetness in Heaven. 


Pain, lack of objective, and concern about one’s relationship with God are vital challenges posed by severe sickness. We have seen how working to simply accept the explanations for ache — our personal correction, providing it for others, and union with God — offers vital energy to us once we undergo. Similarly, a affected person’s lack of objective could also be healed by way of refocus on the true objective of life — love of God and neighbor. This is finest achieved by way of worship and the Sacraments, in addition to loving caregivers and receiving visits from family members. There can also be nervousness about one’s relationship with God, which is finest assuaged within the Sacrament of Reconciliation, in addition to with the truths of God’s windfall working by way of ache, to deliver us to Heaven. Knowing these truths may also help an individual endure struggling with braveness and acceptance, which may even give sense of pleasure[7] within the face of ache and loss of life. Having begun to stay by these truths oneself, it’s the purpose of a pastoral minister to assist those that undergo to do the identical, in order that we may go with the Lord in our closing diseases, and be dropped at union with Him in Heaven.

[1] Dr. Paul Chaloux, “Why All People Suffer”, (Manchester, New Hampshire: Sophia Institute, 2021), pgs. 21-27.

[2] Chaloux, “Why All People Suffer”, pgs. 39-49

[3] Ibid., pgs. 29-37

[4] Matthew 25:35-36, 40

[5] The Didache, Chapter 1

[6] Romans 8:28

[7] Chaloux, “Why All People Suffer”, pg. 209.



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