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Question

Dear father Angelo,

I follow your column with great interest and I have previously  written to you receiving help and comfort, for this I thank you very much. The question I intend to ask you today has a more generic character than the previous one and which arouses particular curiosity in me.

We know that God desires a life of joy for us, he wants us to be positive in any circumstance and in this regard there is also a famous saying that is “Heaven helps the happy hearts”.This clearly indicates that we must remove the sadness from our life and then, I wonder, why – entering churches and cemeteries – the heavy affliction and anguish painted on the faces of angels, saints and martyrs (including those of Jesus and Our Lady) .

As a child, when I went to church, I was very struck and impressed by those figures and when I happened to spend the night at my grandmother’s house I could  not sleep because, after turning off the light, I would still see  the portraits hanging on the walls that depicted Jesus with his heart pierced by a sword and the Virgin Mary crying and I was very afraid of it. Why, then, if we have to celebrate life with joy and joy by entering these sacred places, we find sad and gloomy faces that look at us and at times point to us as if almost to make us feel guilty for their pains? The same thing happens in cemeteries when we go to visit our loved ones, it should be a joyful place because we think of them in peace and in the light of God but even in this place we find only sad and afflicted statues. What do you think about it, Father?

Thank you for taking the time to dedicate to me and I cordially greet you

 Luciana


A priest answer

Dear Luciana,

1. Typically, the images of the Madonna, unless they represent the Our Lady of Sorrows or the Pity, are not marked by pain, but rather by a serene face that generates confidence and trust. So, at least on our side. I think of the Blessed Bartolo Longo and what he writes in the beautiful Supplication to Our Lady of the Rosary which is recited on the first Sunday of October and May 8: “The Child whom we see on your knees, and the mystical crown that we look upon in your hand, ‘inspire confidence that we will be heard. And we fully trust in you, we throw ourselves at your feet, we abandon ourselves as weak children in the arms of the most tender of mothers, and today, yes, today we await your long-awaited graces ”. Not only Our Lady of Pompeii, but also that of Lourdes, of Fatima, Our Lady of Grace (miraculous medal) – although they are not smiling – they inspire confidence. Certainly, the Madonna of the tears of Syracuse or Civitavecchia expresses pain. There are tears, but these are exceptional cases that refer to events of suffering, especially moral, due to sin. Likewise, there are representations of the Lord’s passion (the Via crucis) or images dedicated to Our Lady of Sorrows. But, we must not forget that the Lord’s love for us passed through the cross and that with Baptism we were made conformed to the death of Christ in order to die to various selfishness (sin) and to live our life as a gift.

2. For the cemeteries is a different matter . Often, we  can see a grieving Christ crying. This takes us back  to the tears of Jesus on the tomb of Lazarus and is a reminder that the Lord is close to us in pain, not only that, but that same Jesus who wept raised Lazarus. With  this he gives us a sign that what he did with him he will also do with us and with our dead for a resurrection that will never end.

3. The pain of the Madonna depicted in many tombs also expresses the same closeness. We are not alone in crying and being sad. Our heavenly Mother is with us, to whose intercession we entrust the souls of our loved ones. They are not abandoned. Our Lady watches over them with maternal love, too.

4.     Finally, it is true that Christianity is a bringer of joy. But the joy that Christ communicates to us is not the carefree joy of the world, linked simply to the pleasures of the earth. Instead, it is the joy of those who live in communion with the Lord, of those in grace, of those who feel the personal presence of the Lord who occupies the heart and satisfies it. It is a joy that in some way is also made up of pain, because faith helps to transfigure even tribulations when they are endured for the love of the Lord.

Wishing you to be always happy in the Lord, I entrust you in the prayer and I Bless you.

Father Angelo