Blessed John Paul II on Suffering Raised in Christ

By Barry Schoedel

In 1984 as a reflection on the Redemption Bl. Pope John Paul II wrote a letter, titled Salvifici Doloris, or, On the Christian Meaning of Human Suffering. In this letter the soon to be canonized pope wrote about suffering, and what it means to suffer with faith in Christ, in the communion of the Church. It is a profound meditation, particularly as we approach our celebration of the resurrection of Christ, having as one people united ourselves more closely to His death through the penances of Lent.

The late Pope wrote, “if one becomes a sharer in the sufferings of Christ, this happens because Christ has opened His suffering to man, because He Himself in His redemptive suffering has become, in a certain sense, a sharer in all human sufferings. Man, discovering through faith the redemptive sufferings of Christ, also discovers in it his own sufferings, he rediscovers them, through faith, enriched in content and new meaning.” St. Paul beautifully articulates this truth that he discovered within himself through Christ, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” Each one of us is invited to discover Christ in this same way, within ourselves, in the deepest recesses of our experience of suffering. Through faith we find light there, God is there, with us.

When we recognize this truth what might have begun as the experience of suffering detached from meaning, detached from Christian hope and love, takes on the quality of the Redemption. This union between Christ and each baptized person is real, and the call to holiness is to respond to this union accepting fully the mystery of the Cross in our immediate experience of suffering. We deepen our participation in this union through meditating upon the truths of Christian faith, participating in and receiving the sacraments of Holy Communion and Reconciliation frequently, adoring God in Divine Worship, sacrificially uniting ourselves to Christ – the moral life, and steeping ourselves in the practice of Christian prayer. We can be assured that this life of devotion will assist us to grow in the vision of Christian faith in the context of our own experience of suffering – our faith will be nurtured precisely where we most need it. The great Pope explains, “In bringing about the Redemption through suffering, Christ has also raised human suffering to the level of redemption” – this is our faith, our suffering is raised in Christ.

He goes on, “the eloquence of the cross and death is… completed by the eloquence of the resurrection. Man finds in the resurrection a completely new light, which helps him go forward through the thick darkness of humiliations, doubts, hopelessness and persecution.” It is eloquent because it is God’s word, and the glory of divine beauty shines forth. This eloquence is communicated in and through the “thick darkness.” We ‘boast in the Cross’ because of the Resurrection and we see in Christ’s suffering on the Cross, and in our own personal suffering united to Him, ‘the glory of the future age.’ As we celebrate Easter, the feast of feasts, may we follow the footsteps of the great Pope, who allowed Christ so deeply into his own suffering that he became a window unto our future glory.

Barry Schoedel is the Assistant for Evangelization and Technology for the Diocese of Juneau. Email:

Marvelous! Terrific!

By Deacon Charles Rohrbacher

In the Rule of St. Benedict he directs his monks to engage in spiritual reading each day during the forty days of Lent. As a Benedictine oblate I endeavor to follow the rule insofar as is possible given my state of life as a husband, a father and a deacon. So before Lent begins it has been my practice to search out an appropriate book, divide it by 40 and start reading.

The Descent into Hell

The Descent into Hell

This Lent I decided that I needed to read in full the Ladder of Divine Ascent, a spiritual classic by St. John of the Ladder, as well as the Book of Exodus. Reading the Ladder was given more impetus when I discovered, just before Lent began that the icon of the Ladder that I had been working on for over a year had developed some small but fatal cracks in the gesso (the plaster coating that receives the paint and the gold leaf in a traditional icon).

This meant that I needed to start again from scratch. So on Ash Wednesday I borrowed a power-sander from my friend Pat and sanded the icon right down to the board. As Pat pointed out, a bare board and a sander would be compelling props for an Ash Wednesday homily; perhaps next year.

So for the first two and a half weeks of Lent I forged ahead, reading my daily portion of the Ladder of Divine Ascent until God decided that my Lent was going to have a different character entirely. I had just completed ‘Step 6: Death’ and was beginning ‘Step 7: Sorrow’ when I received the news that my beloved teacher and friend, Fr. Egon Sendler, had died after a short illness.

Pere Igor was 90 years old, so his death, while unexpected was no surprise. Yet during these mid-weeks of Lent I’m afraid that I haven’t progressed much farther than those two rungs.
Pere Igor was a Byzantine Catholic Jesuit priest and his vocation since the 1950’s had been as an icon painter and teacher of icon painting in Paris. I was fortunate to be able to study with him in France, first in 1992 and again in 1998 and to visit him one last time in 2002.

Shrine of St. Therese offers special time for homeless

By Deirdre Darr,
Executive Director, Shrine of St. Therese

In mid-February Bishop Burns asked that I arrange two outreach days at the Shrine of St. Therese for clients of The Glory Hole in Juneau. As a new resident of Juneau, I knew very little about the place so I did a little research. In 2013, The Glory Hole, a soup kitchen and emergency shelter in downtown Juneau, served over 50,000 meals and offered a warm, dry place to sleep 12,000 times. The Glory Hole has an amazing ministry and offers respite from the burden of homelessness, but it is still a heavy weight to carry and that was the point of Bishop Burns’ plan: to offer clients of The Glory Hole an afternoon of peace.

Leading up to the first outing, new and gently used items were collected at St. Paul’s and the Cathedral. Once delivered to The Glory Hole, the donated items found new, thankful owners. I watched as a man donned a new pair of white athletic shoes replacing his dirty, worn pair.

Five gentlemen from The Glory Hole joined us for the first outing to the Shrine on March 6th. While the weather was cold, it was a beautiful, sunny day and we had stunning views of the Chilkat Mountains. One man told Bishop Burns that the day was “a miracle.”

Holy Name principal Wingren announces retirement

Holy Name School has announced the retirement of Connie Wingren, who has served as principal for the past five years and served as kindergarten teacher for many more years before that.
Connie moved to Ketchikan in 1967 as a kindergarten teacher for “Old Main” school. She became a member of Holy Name Parish, then located downtown, where she also taught Sunday school for the preschool and kindergarten children.

Connie Wingren

Connie Wingren

Her teaching career went on hiatus after she met Jim Wingren and married in January of 1969, in order to raise a family. From 1973 to 1980 Connie tutored students from Holy Name. For many of those years the children would walk to her home and spend about an hour working on reading or math. These children have always played a special part in Connie’s life as they have all become successful adults.

In 1979, Connie began to think about having a kindergarten program at Holy Name. Her two oldest children were attending Holy Name and her youngest would begin in the fall. With much prayer preceding, she said that she would volunteer for a couple of years to financially assist the school. These “couple” of years turned to seven years, and, she says, they were some of the most rewarding years of her career as a teacher. The special part is that the children she taught now have children of their own attending Holy Name.

Too see only Jesus

By Bishop Edward Burns

Ty Perdon presents Bishop Burns with the ciborium of altarbread to be consecrated at the Chrism Mass March 28, 2014.

Ty Perdon presents Bishop Burns with the ciborium of altarbread to be consecrated at the Chrism Mass March 28, 2014.

At a recent dinner party on a Saturday evening a parishioner asked me what the title of my homily for the following day would be. It was the first time anyone ever asked me for a title of my sermon, and so, not to miss a beat in the conversation, I simply looked at him and said, “Oh, the title of my homily for tomorrow is: ‘Lent – Part V.’” While he got a good chuckle out of my quip, it was actually quite close to being accurate. I truly believe that we should see the Sunday Gospels in Lent as spiritual steppingstones on our journey toward Calvary.

We began this season of Lent in the desert, with Christ, tempted by Satan. It was on the first Sunday of Lent that we read the Gospel of Matthew (Mt 4:1-11) as Satan was trying to plant in Jesus’ mind the thoughts of straying from the divine goal of humbly serving God’s people — by commanding a miracle with the rocks, by throwing himself down from the parapet of the temple or even bowing down and offering homage to Satan. With Christ, we recognize that our temptations come from within, from our very thoughts – and at times we even seek to rationalize them. This Lent has been for us a time to enter into the desert to face our own temptations.

Acts of compassion uphold human dignity

A BISHOP’S PERSPECTIVE in the Juneau Empire,  March 31, 2014

This past week I was in Anchorage attending the fourth annual multi-day convocation of Catholic priests from around the state of Alaska. Our presenter was Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York City. Over 60 priests attended. The presentations were enlightening, the prayer time was wonderful and the camaraderie was a blessing. The convocation concluded on Thursday, which happened to be the 50th anniversary of the 1964 earthquake. The host of our gathering, Archbishop Schwietz, took me to Earthquake Park in Anchorage and we were there just before the moment when church bells throughout the state of Alaska were to toll in commemoration of the exact moment the earthquake occurred 50 years earlier. As I stood there on that beautiful day looking out at the uneven terrain and the glorious vista, I couldn’t help but to think of the lives lost in the earthquake and the destruction that took place.

Seeing the urgent needs of those who have suffered from natural disaster or those confronted with personal loss, our hearts are moved to compassion. This movement of love toward others seeks to address the threats to human dignity and human suffering, and contribute to the conditions for human flourishing. Those who do the direct work of relief and development in moments of great need act with compassion for the sake of humanity. Compassion, which comes from the Latin “cum passio” — to suffer with — moves us to act for justice and love. We identify with the one who is suffering, identify so much with them that we “feel” the hardship that they are undergoing and we want to do what we can to help.

Bibi Guhl received a lamb from CRS so she can earn income selling wool, milk and new lambs. Photo by Jennifer Hardy/CRS

Bibi Guhl received a lamb from CRS so she can earn income selling wool, milk and new lambs. Photo by Jennifer Hardy/CRS

In another instance, I was moved when I recently read about an initiative by Catholic Relief Services on behalf of widows in Afghanistan. In this impoverished and war-torn nation, women with husbands are able to support their families through work in the home while their husbands labor in the fields to generate a cash income. But widows must rely on whatever food their families can give them and do not have the means to buy other necessities like household goods or medicine that require cash.