Elizabeth Leseur a twentieth century saint in a letter to a woman on the verge of losing her eyesight, wrote: "The Stoics say, 'suffering is nothing.' They were wrong. Illuminated by a clearer light we Christians say, 'suffering is everything.'"
She knew what she was talking about. She had married a man who was a dedicated medical doctor, but an unbeliever and well known leader of the French anti-clerical, atheistic movement, who tried to dissuade Elizabeth from her faith. When she tried to share her faith with her husband, he cut her off, sometimes with mockery. Elizabeth bore his insults quietly and even though she was weakened by hepatitis, she worked diligently. In her early forties, she was diagnosed with cancer and for three years, suffered horribly so to finally die in 1914.
When she was dying, she said to her husband,
"Felix, when I am dead, you will become a Catholic and a Dominican priest."
Her husband answered:
"Elizabeth, you know my sentiments. I've sworn hatred of God, I shall live in the hatred and I shall die in it."
After her death, her husband discovered the spiritual journal she kept. It moved him to his depths especially her profound and personal meditations on suffering and cross of Jesus Christ.
Reading through her papers, Felix found her will:
"In 1905, I asked almighty God to send me sufficient sufferings to purchase your soul.
On the day that I die, the price will have been paid.
Greater love than this no woman has than she who lay down her life for the salvation of her husband."
He experienced a profound conversion. He became a Dominican priest and travelled through Europe speaking about his wife's spiritual writings.
Elizabeth Leseur certainly found the ultimate truth about the value of suffering …
"The Stoics said, 'suffering is nothing.' They were wrong. Illuminated by Christ's light we Christians say, 'suffering is everything.'"
So, this Good Friday we learn that through the suffering of Jesus we receive the greatest blessings - forgiveness and true life.
Without Christ … our sufferings can only destroy and annihilate us. Without Christ our sufferings are absolutely senseless. Without Christ the cross -we are carrying on- is senseless and hopeless. Without Christ the suffering and death have no meaning and no significance. Without Christ whole our life is meaningless.
If we join our own sufferings to His, they become means of grace, means of our salvation. Illumined by faith, we can say, "suffering is everything."
As we read in today's second reading:
"Jesus Christ though he was the Son of God, He learned obedience from what he suffered; and when He was made perfect, He became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him. "