and yet at the same time it is also something which is meant to remind us that we should be willing to take up our crosses to follow Him Who died for us.
The problem with doing that, of course, is that it implies suffering; and none of us wishes to suffer . . . but what did S. John Marie-Vianney say ? ‘The cross is the ladder to heaven . . . How consoling it is to suffer under the eyes of God, and to be able to say in the evening, at our examination of conscience : “Come, my soul ! thou hast had today two or three hours of resemblance to Jesus Christ. Thou hast been scourged, crowned with thorns, crucified with Him !” Oh what a treasure for the hour of death ! How sweet it is to die, when we have lived on the cross ! We ought to run after crosses as the miser runs after money . . . Nothing but crosses will reassure us at the Day of Judgment. When that day shall come, we shall be happy in our misfortunes, proud of our humiliations, and rich in our sacrifices.’ *
So, distasteful as we may find it, we should recognize that the sufferings which God sends us are at least partly His way of giving us a way into Heaven : of showing us the ladder which will allow us to climb there . . . and if climbing is a painful process, perhaps the more painful it is here, the less time we shall have to spend in Purgatory before we are allowed through the final gates, to enter into our Heavenly inheritance.
Do you remember those verses of ‘Abide with me’ that speak of the moments of death ?
I fear no foe, with Thee at hand to bless;
Ills have no weight, and tears no bitterness.
Where is death’s sting? Where, grave, thy victory?
I triumph still, if Thou abide with me.
It sounds trite; but for those of us who have been privileged to be with someone as they die, we know that it is true . . . for if they know that God is with them, then they can feel secure; and the sight of Jesus’ Holy Cross is a powerful token of His love, and His presence.
How does it go on ?
‘Hold Thou Thy cross before my closing eyes’ . . . well, for so many of us Catholics, that is one of the graces we are given : to die with the cross (or better still the crucifix) before our eyes . . . something which helps us to remember that not only all the sufferings we have already endured, but this little one which we are enduring now, are so small in God’s grand scheme of things and offer us so much . . . because they offer us the way to Salvation : they
Shine through the gloom and point me to the skies.
Heaven’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee;
In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.
Today is Holy Cross day; and amongst other things the Feast of Title of the Dominican Priory Church in Leicester, to whom I extend my prayerful Good Wishes . . . but above all, it is a reminder for us all that it is in the Holy Cross that we are shown that ‘ladder to heaven’; that path by which, through suffering and death, we are led to Heaven : a destiny which I earnestly pray God to grant you all.
* from the ‘Catechism on Suffering’