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Dear Father Angelo Bellon,

Is it right to say that a person who is bedridden because of a disease or hooked to the respirator pays for their suffering because of the possible evil they’ve done, or is this statement of mine wrong? Can you kindly give me information about this, please?

For me, life always has value, but I care a lot about the condition of a bedridden man who can do nothing neither for God nor for his neighbor.

Answer from the priest

My dear, 

1. It is unfair to say that a bedridden or a person who is hooked on a respirator is atoning for their sins. There may also be small children in these conditions and older children who have no sins. Likewise there can be holy people whose life is a continuous ordeal and it can not really be said that they suffer to atone for their sins. 

2. As John Paul II said holyly, suffering serves to release love; it releases love in those who suffer because they can make an offering of it and it releases love in those who dedicate themselves. Keeping in mind that the meaning of this life is to greatly prepare our eternity and that the degree of participation in the life of God will be proportionate to our degree of charity, then we understand well that those who in the present life can be considered last, over there they will be the first. The present life is a moment that escapes and it is very little compared to the life of Heaven that lasts eternally.

 3. It is in the light of eternity that the authentic meaning of present life is understood. By proclaiming, ‘Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted’ (Mt 5: 4), Jesus overturns our parameters of judgment. The greatness in future life will be proportional to the degree of love achieved down here.

4. So if suffering serves to release love, we immediately realize that the sick are in a privileged position to make a great gain for themselves and for the whole Church. They can make their suffering a continuous gift offered to the Lord. At this point I like to recall a beautiful prayer of the Holy Curé d’ Ars, “I love you, O my God, and my only desire is to love you until the last breath of my life. I love you, O my infinitely lovable God, and I would rather die loving you, than live without loving you… My God, if my tongue can not say in every moment that I love you, I want my heart to repeat it to you as often as I draw breath. I love you,O my divine Savior, because you have been crucified for me, and you keep me here below crucified with you. My God, give me the grace to die loving you and knowing that I love you. And as I approach the end of my life, please increase my love and perfect it.”

5. The Lord not only gives us the possibility of loving and making an offering of it, but also of allocating this offering to some particular cause.

So, you can offer your suffering for the most varied cause. A mother, for example, can offer her sufferings for her children, for their physical and especially spiritual health, for success in their studies or in the exercise of their profession, etc. Likewise, a student can transform the fidelity and fatigue of studying into an act of love offered to God for his/her own temporal and eternal future or for the conversion of his/her friends.

6. Well, among the various intentions that one can put into one’s sufferings, there is also that of the conversion of sinners. It is intimately connected to that of cooperation with Christ to atone for one’s sins and also to atone for the sins of others according to the beautiful indication of St. Paul, “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” (Col 1:24).

7. If so, a person who is bedridden or hooked to the respirator can do great good to offer to God and to be destined for others. He can do great good because he does not cease to love and to give. And in God’s eyes his life can be more precious for society than that of many who, although very active, live without God’s grace and whose works are not meritorious for eternity.

I wish you all the best, I will make you present to the Lord and I bless you.

Father Angelo