Dear Daughters of St. Philip Neri,
The language of the cross can be bewildering. We speak of "taking up our cross" and "offering up" our sufferings and inconveniences to God; we know that this is part of the Christian Way. But, often, both the language and the clarity of faith fail us when confronted with the reality of the cross that we actually receive - when all meaning and understanding elude us. When we are confined to our bed, checkmated by failure, isolated by a misfortune, annihilated by the feeling of our powerlessness, we must resign ourselves to listen to God's language, to admit a Presence in the pain, to acknowledge His will not in what is elevating but humiliating.
The cross finds entry where we are most defenseless. We come to see how feebly we carry what has been given to us. It can never be the right cross for us - for in some way we would seek to maintain the illusion of strength and self-sufficiently. It must make sense to us or seem to have a higher reason. Yet, it is only the cross the Lord chooses when all we can do is lean into the pain and even then as what, at the time, seems to be a foreign and dark will.
We all know that a Christian must bear the cross. We are all disposed, theoretically, to accept one. But have you noticed that it is never the right cross which comes to us? The cross we bear (our health, our face, our embarrassment, our wife, our husband, our mother, our child) always seems to us unbearable, petty, humiliating, harmful. It is always precisely what should not have become our lot, precisely what we can accept for all kinds of obvious reasons which we are always harping on. All the other crosses seem preferable to us, that of our neighbor, the previous one - that which we have imagined. Ours is hateful, it destroys us, it hurts us - imagine, it embitters us, and we have a grudge against ourselves and against everybody. We desperately call for another, for a cross which "fits in," a bearable, spiritual, elevating cross, beneficial to us and to others.
But alas, we must come to recognize that if the cross suited us, it would no longer be a cross; that if we refuse those which hurt, we refuse any cross; and that the cross which God parcels out to us must necessarily always be humiliating and painful, paralyzing and difficult, and must hurt us at the spot where we are the most defenseless.