Thoughts from CUSANS

Through our correspondence with one another, we try to support each other in our various illnesses and disabilities.  Sometimes that takes the form of sharing our ideas about various Scripture passages, especially from the Letters of St. Paul.  St. Paul, after all, was a letter writer. . .

Reflections on the Writings of St. Paul In Honor of the Jubilee Year (June 29, 2008-2009)

CUSA takes a part of its inspiration from the writings of St. Paul, in particular, from the Letter to the Colossians 1:24-27. 

Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body, which is the church, of which I am a minister in accordance with God's stewardship given to me to bring to completion for you the word of God, the mystery hidden from ages and from generations past. But now it has been manifested to his holy ones, to whom God chose to make known the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; it is Christ in you, the hope for glory.

  • Would that we could live up to this.  As Pope John Paul II said, we are to be the 8th Sacrament to everyone we meet.  “Suffering for your sake” says to me that our struggle not only enriches us but everyone whose lives we touch.  Life is the best teacher.  Somewhere along the way we become part of everyone we meet.  That tends to make us better human beings.  (Adele Gordon - Group 31)
  • For me, St. Paul is saying that my suffering is a great chance to add to the Church, or any body of people or any person, a chance to let my perspective as I deal with my challenges bring a different dimension to a healthy group or population.  I can show others by word and deed that I trust in God, that He is a good God, and that I can tell them that I live on what God brings to my life – the promise of eternal life with Him without suffering.  Hallelujah!  (Joy Paprskar - Group 13)
  • We will always have the cross in some form: either our own health, our work, our families, etc.  It is our duty to fill up what is wanting in the sufferings of Our Lord and to unite our sufferings with his.  (Nina Sanfilippo - Group 31)
  • My suffering was a mystery – still is.  I was stricken with polio as a teen.  Hope was the strongest virtue within me through which I now understand it is Christ in you, the hope of glory.  (Elena Ramos - Group 31)
  • Our Lord and Father in Heaven, I believe, works through us as His way of communicating  His desires for us.  I try to listen and be open to God’s word every day.  This is my way of evangelizing through Christ.  I have not reached the point of “rejoicing” in suffering. However, I accept my weaknesses and sufferings as God’s will for us, even though He does not wish for us to have problems.  (Phyllis McHenry - Group 34)
  • I have three good friends you are dying of cancer.  I have been talking with all three of them.  They are each dealing with their suffering in their own way.  But without the gift of faith, suffering makes little sense.  (Fr. Bob Sieg, O.F.M. - Group 95)
  • This reading is in my Little Office on Friday and I am always joyful that my sufferings can mean so much.  Christ in me.  The hope for glory.  (Marjorie Hammergren - Group 95)
  • This is one of my very favorite and meaningful passages.  First of all, it is a mystery - us filling up what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ!  God is willing or asking us to help Him with the sanctification of the world, of the souls present NOW.  There are so many souls (people) who do not know or understand why they are here.  We who do know and understand can help them by offering up our sufferings, which I like to picture as precious jewels (graces) going into a big Treasure Box.  God can dip into it and send graces down to these souls.  Some will accept them and be touched, and change for the better.  “We suffer for a purpose.”  (Rose Zieja - Group 23)
  • This tells me that it is OK and even noble to have some disability - nothing to be ashamed of.  I see disability as a badge of honor.  One can say, “Look at what God things I am big enough to endure.”  (Fred Hires - Group 23)
  • It’s a wonderment that anything can be “lacking” in Christ’s sufferings, but I feel this passage points out Our Lord’s generosity in allowing us to be part of Him in this way (even though at times we wish He wouldn’t be so generous.)  Another passage that helps/consoles me as a person with a speech impediment is where John says “He came unto His own, and His own understood Him not.”  Of course, that is in a spiritual sense, but it is a help to me when I am not audibly understood.  (Anna Marie Sopko - Group 24)
  • We, like St. Paul, are called to God’s will.  It may be hard at times, no doubt, but with the help of the Holy Family, we try to do God’s work. (Linda Saglimbeni - Group 126)
  • This is a wonderful passage from St. Paul.  There are several parts of it which are powerful for me.  First, Paul speaks of his suffering.  We all minister not from strength but from weakness.  Our weaknesses are in the end our greatest assets in ministry.  Secondly, he calls his ministry “stewardship.”  God is in charge, we are simply stewards who will pass on to others what has been given to us.  Finally, it is God and Jesus Christ whom we proclaim.  It is so hard sometimes to keep the ego out of the ministry.  (Fr. Joe Tizio - Group 126)
  • Paul strikes me as being a person with many trials and tribulations, and thus has every reason to feel sorry for himself and say, like Job, “Woe is me!”  Paul takes suffering up to the next level.  Instead of complaining “why me?” he sees suffering as an opportunity to identify with Christ’s suffering and an opportunity to unite his sufferings with Christ for the good of the church of which he is a minister.  
  • I see myself, like Paul, given an opportunity to rise above the complaints and the pain and unite my suffering with Christ for the intentions of my CUSA groups.  Actually, I don’t rejoice in my sufferings.  I would like to get rid of them.  Then Paul invites me to come up to his level of spirituality.  Even though I do not understand the mystery of suffering, I’m invited to become a part of the mystery.  Paul says the glory of this mystery is Christ in you.  I think I need to remember the song, “I never promised you a rose garden,” without the thorns.  But God promises, “I’ll be with you.” 
  • Over the years, I have learned that there is always a hidden gift in the suffering or the difficult.  Our job is to search for it.  Perhaps, the gift is Christ hidden in you and me.  Anyway, instead of complaining, why me, I accept the challenge to “try” to live in joy in spite of the problems.  It is always a choice.  It takes practice to see joy in everything, but Paul gives us tools when he says to practice the three virtues: “rejoice always, pray ceaselessly and give thanks.”  It isn’t easy to thank God for the suffering we don’t want, but Paul encourages us and hopes we will rise to the challenge.  Also he invites us to try to forget our troubles long enough to help someone else, something CUSA has taught.  Like Simon of Cyrene, I have learned that carrying someone else’s cross for a little while makes my own cross lighter when I come back to it.
  • In summary, I see myself as Paul’s student.  Will I master all of this teachings in my life – probably not, but I do not have a “give up” spirit.  Like Paul, I’m striving towards the finish line.  If I fall, I get up and continue the race.  (Carol Velten - Group 8)
  • I have to use a walker, and I have the limitations of my 90 years.  Living here now gives me quiet time for prayer.  All the persons here have much in common.  It is a religious atmosphere as this complex was established by the Methodist Church (or so I am told).  We have all denominations.  The staff are caring people.  We have loving care and we, ourselves, are to treat all in the same way.  We support one another in our common ailments of age.  We thank God for each day to enjoy one another.  We have a chance to be examples of “the elderly” to the young persons who serve us.  They sometimes share their problems with us – for advice and prayer.  They also provide the joys of their youth.  It is a way of peace and strength as we prepare for our ending days.  So, I rejoice in my sufferings and thank Our Lord for the gift of “old age.” (Margaret Rickman, Group 125)
  • Suffering takes our eyes off earthly comforts.  It weeds out superficial believers and strengthens the faith of those who endure.  It serves as an example to others who may follow us.  When we suffer for our faith, it doesn’t mean we have done something wrong.  The opposite is true.  It verifies that we have been faithful.  We can use suffering to build faith and character.  (Cathy Student, Group 125)
  • I find having a physical disability frees me to pray more, and to have time for my CUSA friends, and other friends I keep in contact with.  My sufferings, as St. Paul put it so well, is a continuation of Jesus’ suffering.  I can identify with Jesus in my suffering, uniting myself to His will, He lets me experience the power of His love.  Even though I can’t do some physical things, I can always pray.  I can ask God to have mercy on me and also upon those who are most in need of His mercy.  I keep the names of many who have asked for my prayers in a “prayer jar.”  I hold these petitions up to Jesus each morning.  I offer my sufferings and joys each day for the good of others.  I am never alone when my sufferings are joined to the millions of others who suffer.  The Apostleship of Prayer is another way of staying united worldwide with so many others who are suffering.  Let us unite ourselves to Jesus and continue to pray for each other.  (Sr. Mary Marc, Group 125)
  • This passage from St. Paul always makes me wonder (i.e. “filling up what is lacking in Christ’s suffering).  But Christ has joined us to Himself, so He still suffers.  Our suffering can have meaning – in Him.  In a way we have been honored to share in some small way in the Cross.  And it is part of the Paschal Mystery – which includes the Resurrection.  So our hope is something of substance not just a comforting set of beliefs.  (Fr. James Dwyer, Group 11)

CUSANS Reflect on Other Passages from St. Paul

I give thanks to my God at every remembrance of you, praying always with joy in my every prayer for all of you, because of your partnership for the gospel from the first day until now.  I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work in you will continue to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus.  It is right that I should think this way about all of you, because I hold you in my heart, you who are all partners with me in grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel.  For God is my witness, how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.  And this is my prayer: that your love may increase ever more and more in knowledge and every kind of perception to discern what is of value, so that you may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God.  (Philippians 1:3-11)


I love this passage from the book of joy, Philippians.  I like the thanksgiving, the joy, the confidence that God will mold and develop me into the good person He wants me to be.  We are united in our writing ministry.  We are partners in spreading good will through the grace of God within our hearts.  What good news!  Alleluia!  (Shirley Bowling, Section Leader 61-70)

I have the strength for everything through him who empowers me.  (Philippians 4:13)

I have long since found that Christ is my strength and sees me through the many trials and tribulations I have faced throughout my life.  This proved to be so true during these last few months when the people I had always thought I could count on were not there for me.  It was a hard lesson to learn. My nephew has been a God-send.  He has been by my side throughout it all.  He even changed the den around so that I could get to the computer in my power chair.  When I prayed for God to send someone to find me behind the bed, it was Carl He sent.  Not when I wanted but in His own time.  (Mary Porter, Groups 98, EGL 1 & 6)

Do you not know that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?  If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy that person; for the temple of God, which you are, is holy. (1 Corinthians 3:16-17)

There are so many connotations here to make one think.  When I think on these few words, I know that I should be respectful to one and all and also for myself.  If ware God’s temple, we must revere Him in each other.  (Sr. Joan Marie Fernandes, Groups 63, 65, & 98)

I consider that the sufferings of this present time are as nothing compared with the glory to be revealed for us.

I have to confess that I never fully understood the part about “what is lacking” in the afflictions of Christ.  On the other hand, I have always liked this quotation from Romans.  (Ruth E. Burke, Group 13)

Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, (love) is not pompous, it is not inflated  (1 Corinthians 13:4)

For me this portion of St. Paul’s epistle is an examination of conscience.  It helps me to stay centered.  It helps me to remember what I am about, how I am supposed to be conducting myself.  (Nina Sanfilippo (Groups 1-C, 25, 31, 33, & 38)

Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you know how you should respond to each one. (Colossians 4:6)

As I meet younger people daily, this verse helps me relate to those in need of my years of living. (Catherine Brown - Group 38)

If I speak in human and angelic tongues but do not have love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal.  And if I have the gift of prophecy and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge; if I have all faith so as to move mountains but do not have love, I am nothing.  If I give away everything I own, and if I hand my body over so that I may boast but do not have love, I gain nothing.  Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, (love) is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  Love never fails. If there are prophecies, they will be brought to nothing; if tongues, they will cease; if knowledge, it will be brought to nothing.  For we know partially and we prophesy partially, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away.  When I was a child, I used to talk as a child, think as a child, reason as a child; when I became a man, I put aside childish things.  At present we see indistinctly, as in a mirror, but then face to face. At present I know partially; then I shall know fully, as I am fully known.  So faith, hope, love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians 13)

God lets us all know when He wants us to spread the word to others.  We are all His stewards when we open our minds, hearts, and souls to His wisdom.  (Beverly Hughs - Group 38)

What then shall we say to this? If God is for us, who can be against us?  He who did not spare his own Son but handed him over for us all, how will he not also give us everything else along with him?  Who will bring a charge against God's chosen ones? It is God who acquits us.  (Romans 8:31-33)

This comforts me as I know others here on earth may not agree with me on things or trust me; however, no matter how other’s feel, I know I will always have God there to support me and comfort me and trust me.  (Mary Jane Willms - Group 38)

But the Lord said to me,  "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness." I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses, in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me. (2 Corinthians 12:9)

This quotation is printed on the back of my ordination memorial holy card.  It has always been meaningful in my life.  God can and does work directly through my weakness.  It is humbling but also empowering.  (Fr. Jeffrey J. Rimelspach - Group 34)

If then you were raised with Christ, seek what is above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.  Think of what is above, not of what is on earth. (Colossians 3:1-2)

This part of Paul’s letter reminds me that we should lead our life always with God in mind and what He would have us do in every situation.  (Phyllis McHenry - Group 34)

For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.  "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the cleverness of the clever I will set aside." Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age?  Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?  For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.  Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.  (1 Cor. 1:18-25)

This passage is a personal favorite.  It is also part of my vocation as a member of the Congregation of the Passion.  (Fr. Roger Elliott, C.P. - Group 93)

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and God of all encouragement, who encourages us in our every affliction, so that we may be able to encourage those who are in any affliction with the encouragement with which we ourselves are encouraged by God.  For as Christ's sufferings overflow to us, so through Christ does our encouragement also overflow.  If we are afflicted, it is for your encouragement and salvation; if we are encouraged, it is for your encouragement, which enables you to endure the same sufferings that we suffer.  Our hope for you is firm, for we know that as you share in the sufferings, you also share in the encouragement.

This is one of my favorite readings because it deals with our suffering.  “If we are afflicted, it is for your encouragement and salvation.”  It is through the cross that we will be saved.  We must each day offer our sufferings to Him.  Not only physical pain but also our mental anguish, etc.  (Madelyn Kerek - Group 23)

So then you are no longer strangers and sojourners, but you are fellow citizens with the holy ones and members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the capstone.  Through him the whole structure is held together and grows into a temple sacred in the Lord; in him you also are being built together into a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.  (Ephesians 2:19-22)

This is my favorite passage from St. Paul’s writings.  (Adela Conejo - Group 100) 

Tto live in a manner worthy of the Lord, so as to be fully pleasing, in every good work bearing fruit and growing in the knowledge of God, strengthened with every power, in accord with his glorious might, for all endurance and patience, with joy (Colossians 1:10-11)

I see myself in this as I try to pray for wisdom to help others as best I can and to accept whatever comes in life as God’s will, be it illness, pain or joys of family, friends and CUSA.  (Mary Manocchio - Group 24)

For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, nor future things, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.  (Romans 8:38-39)

I have this verse on my nightstand and try to read it every morning.  If St. Paul is certain that nothing can separate us from the love of God, then we can be confident of the love of God.  This is a great verse to remember and to lean on when illness overtakes me or pain is distracting me from everything.  (Barbara Kollsmith - Group 24)

I am grateful to him who has strengthened me, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he considered me trustworthy in appointing me to the ministry. (1 Timothy 1:12)

These words of St. Paul I used for the announcement/invitation card that I sent out for my priestly ordination back in 1978 (wow, 30 years ago).  These words still hold true because I indeed constantly/daily thank Christ Jesus for not only giving me strength but for being my strength in fulfilling my gift of faith given to me at baptism. . . that each us have also received as without the grace of Jesus, I’d never have been able to do all that he has invited me to do “For Him.”  Left to my own ways, I know that I would have fallen short of how he wishes to use me.  Over the years, I’ve read about how all of you have been strengthened by this same Lord, Jesus Christ.  Each of you needed his strength to endure the physical crosses that you have been called to bear. . . and none of you have ever hinted that sense of feeling abandoned by him but rather have expressed this same sense of thankfulness that I began my priesthood with.  (Fr. Mike Dalton - Group 24)

Pray always, trusting God alone.  (1 Thessalonians 5:18)

In my journey, I meet many different situations, and it took some praying not to expect perfection from my fellow men or myself.  I have truly experienced only what I believe St. Alphonsus called, “detachio.”  I wish I could explain it better.  The painting of Dali’s “Crucifixion” comes to mind.  Jesus is looking down on the suffering world from his cross.  Instead of fear and worry and discouragement, it is like I am part of him, seeing my hurting brothers, sisters, children and feeling their pain.  Somehow I know I hurt because I love.  This is probably not theologically sound but it is honestly if poorly expressed.  (Mary Claire Marchini - Group 126)

I can do all things in him who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:13)

In 1980 I made a retreat called my Personal Vocation.  I sat quietly with these words many days.  Now I use the rosary beads and pray this quote daily.  On each decade, I stress a different part of the phrase.   I find this very helpful.  When things are going wrong during the day or something comes up, I depend on these words.  I know that I can do those things that face me because He is strengthening me.  (Sr. Mary Marc, S.N.D. - Section Leader 31-40)

In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.  (1 Thessalonians 5:18)

This verse reminds me that I want to be a thankful person and be like the one leper that was cured who came back and thanked Jesus.  It means trying to cultivate an attitude of gratitude – not to take the little things that friends or family members do for granted.  It also means for me to take up the challenge of being thankful in difficult circumstances or circumstances we don’t look forward to being in.  It is a challenge to give up complaining, “Why me, Lord?”  It is easier to complain and gripe than be thankful for the circumstances we don’t like, as the saying goes “Misery loves misery.”  (Carol Velten - Group 11)

Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. (Philippians 4:6)

Another favorite quote reminds me that sometimes I have to stop myself from praying and ask, “Am I praying or complaining to God?”  Sometimes I have to admit that it’s complaining.  Am I complaining to God about high gas prices or high food prices at the store?  It is easy to get addicted to complaining, especially when everyone else is doing it.  How can I change complaining to a prayer of thankfulness. 

“Lord, gas went up to $3.59 today.  I thank you for the $15.00 check I received in the mail as an overpayment to put towards gas.  Yes, Lord, food is sky high, but I thank you for showing me ways to stretch a meal.  I also thank you for our church’s food bank to help others who are worse off than me.  Help me to break the cycle of complaining and help me to see the many blessings you still offer me each day.”

When we complain about our current situation we remain in it.  When we praise God in the midst of the difficulty, He raises us out of it.  (Carol Velten - Group 11)


St. Paul, Apostle to the Gentiles and Letter Writer Extraordinaire