Overwhelming sorrow and loss are what the saints mean by the 'mystery of the Cross'

I am delighted that CTS has just published, in booklet form, an abridged version of the late Fr Benedict J. Groeschel’s book Arise from Darkness. The new version – titled A Test of Faith: When Life Doesn’t Go According to Plan – is addressed to everyone who has ever encountered times of “incredible darkness”: when they are overwhelmed by sorrow, loss and the fear that life has no meaning.

Groeschel believes we all experience this at some stage in our lives. Even those people who we consider to lead a charmed existence of good health and good fortune experience it at the end. Like the good physician of the soul that he is, the author tells us the truth: life on earth will have its share of woes that cannot be solved by pills, diets or distractions. However, we are not meant to merely endure or survive them; inexplicably to the secular mindset, they can be a means of spiritual growth – but only if we embrace the Cross.

I have known people who have given up on God because of the tragedy of Aberfan. Indeed, the suffering of the innocent, especially children, can never be explained in normal terms; it is a grotesque existential affront. As Groeschel writes, this is “what the saints mean by the mystery of the Cross, a mystery essentially linked to the resurrection.”

The thrust of the booklet, indicated by its chapters headings, such as “When the Church lets us down”, “When we are our own worst enemies” and “What do we do when everything falls apart?”, is to remember that this world passes and that real and lasting happiness is only to be found in heaven. We have to trust God in the darkness, as Our Lady did at the foot of the Cross.

As Groeschel writes, the Mother of God can be a model of suffering, especially when depicted in the Pietà – “an image of pain for one who is loved.” He also has words of advice for those who cling to material possessions: “Do not be so comfortable with anything in this world that you will be unprepared to leave it.” St Louis de Montfort, whom I mentioned in a blog earlier this week, calls this attitude “non-attachment”; it is something we often find hard to practise.

Fr Groeschel manages to be straight-talking and compassionate at the same time. He is also honest about his own failings, admitting that he had “not spoken up enough against evil” and that he had at times “gone along with evil in a passive sort of way.”

We can all relate to that. Earlier this week, I was relieved to hear that the new Supreme Court judge is Judge Neil Gorsuch, whose conservative and pro-life views will counterbalance those of the progressive group already there. I instantly recalled a cosy supper party I attended some weeks ago, when one of the other guests lamented at the frightening thought of Trump appointing a judge who wouldn’t “stand up for women’s rights.” She didn’t add the word “abortion” but I knew what she meant. And I stayed silent. Instead of responding that I sincerely hoped the President-elect would challenge the ideology of the Left in his choice of judge, I let the moment pass, too uncomfortable at the thought of spoiling the party atmosphere to speak up as I should have done.

I was going “along with evil in a passive sort of way”.