Bro Duncan PBGV’s Thoughts on Suffering and Redemption

Bro Duncan PBGV on his pallet of pain
Bro Duncan PBGV on his pallet of pain

With Holy Week just around the corner, I have been thinking about suffering and redemption, especially in the light of my recent experience of acute pancreatitis. In case you don’t know about that, I was suddenly struck down and spent days vomiting and voiding uncontrollably — very hard for a clean boy like me — and even had to endure exile in the Vettery, where I was prodded and poked and had needles stuck into me and all kinds of horrors inflicted on me. I was a limp bundle of misery from nose to tail. But it set me thinking. I’m not sure if my thoughts are orthodox or not, but I offer them all the same.

One of the problems with religious people is that they get all misty-eyed about suffering. ‘It is redemptive,’ they say, as they put on a nice smile and edge away from the afflicted one. ‘It is just our Cross,’ they add, if one dares to demur, ‘a heaven-sent opportunity to exercise patience and show our love for God.’ I don’t know about that. I think nine times out of ten that kind of talk is just pious rot. People probably mean it, but it’s easier to mean it when one is not in agony as I was. There was nothing redemptive about my pancreatitis. It didn’t change the world. It didn’t make me a better dog, just a grumpier one. And I don’t believe God made me ill in order to test my love for him; he already knows I think he is the most wonderful being there is, much more wonderful than They are (but don’t let on I said that). No, I was sick, and I suffered; and I found it very difficult to do anything other than concentrate on my suffering. I think it’s probably the same for most humans most of the time. A few saints have probably managed to offer their sufferings up with a beatific smile, but I don’t know anyone like that. I ‘spect they wouldn’t be good with the messy bits, anyway.

Why do humans always link suffering and redemption and make the mistake of putting themselves at the centre of everything? If only they could think more like dogs! Jesus has to be centre stage; we have to be at his side. It is Jesus’ sufferings that are redemptive, and it is our job to try to keep close to him — go walkies with God, if you’ll allow me to put it like that. That doesn’t mean pretending. In fact, it means the reverse, being as honest as possible. Our little Lenten sacrifices, all the sufferings that come our way in the normal course of things, can unite us with him, but they don’t automatically do so. For a dog, that is all pretty plain. It’s humans who seem to enjoy looking at themselves being ‘good’ — and very often, being good according to their own notions rather than God’s. I give glory to God by being a dog and being the best dog I can. That means that at times I have to exercise self-restraint (not every McDonald’s in the hedgerow is good for doggy tummies, alas), and I have to be prepared to fail. What matters is my intention to follow the Master through thick and thin. He sees my heart and knows what is in it. He can turn everything to my good — and usually does, without my making any fuss about it.

Holy Week can be very demanding. We will all fail often. But if we keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, we can’t go wrong. He suffered and died for us on the Cross. He has redeemed us. All we have to do is to trust him.

 

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16 thoughts on “Bro Duncan PBGV’s Thoughts on Suffering and Redemption”

  1. “It is Jesus’ sufferings that are redemptive, and it is our job to try to keep close to him — go walkies with God, if you’ll allow me to put it like that. That doesn’t mean pretending. In fact, it means the reverse, being as honest as possible. Our little Lenten sacrifices, all the sufferings that come our way in the normal course of things, can unite us with him, but they don’t automatically do so. ”

    Amen to that, o wise Brother Duncan!

  2. Lots of food for thought in your Thoughts Bro Duncan. I am so glad you are beginning to feel better now. Prayers for you and Them.

  3. Thank you for those wise and challenging words. Food for thought ️indeed.
    Also I’m so glad that you’re feeling a little better Brother Duncan – I’m sure your recovery has brought great joy to your community.

  4. I’d like you to come and talk to my 100 year old friend who sometimes gets angry with herself for not accepting her weakened state. She loves God so much and God understands completely how frustrated and helpless she feels.

  5. Excellent. I have “suffered” for many years with illness and pain. This wasn’t given to me by God as a test, but the blessing I have found over these years is that it keeps me focused and dependent upon God, even when I can’t pray. Keeps me from being self reliant and self centred.

  6. Out of the canine mouth comes truth! Dogs are so honest, they never bear a grudge, forgive instantly and are faithful forever. Thank you, brother! And what a fine writing style you have! More from you, please. You can say things that They can,t!

  7. What a wise wise dog you are Br Duncan and how blessed They are to have you as a friend. Glad you are feeling better, pancreatitis is soooo painful I’ve heard. Walkies with God…I like that! Thank you and please write more often if you are able and have time.x

  8. I’ll say “amen” to that brother Duncan and Cuddy agrees too. He says that walking with Jesus is just obvious, and that even if he goes off and sniffs a bit, he always knows how to get back to God with that wonderful nose you all have. He seems to think humans find it harder …..

  9. Bro Duncan PBGV asks me to thank you for all your comments, which he appreciates. He says he likes to make us all think, which could be arrogant of him were he not so low to the ground and really sweet-natured. He says he will keep you all in his prayers during Holy Week.

  10. Oh Bro, I was so glad to hear you are making a good recovery. You are a very brave boy who has brought the world a bundle of joy and wisdom. We humans have a lot to answer for, eating the apple like that when we shouldn’t have and putting paradise in jeopardy so that problems were set to run and run and have to be fielded by the most innocent.

    Well, it’s true that Jesus has taken on our pain and made a way back for us, and that suffering is the pits and not what God intended for us at all, and it’s not redemptive in the penance way, but I do think when we suffer we are helping to bear the Cross of Jesus in the world. We are actually helping to alleviate suffering as a whole and reduce all the wobblers caused by Sin.

    Well, you had Grace in abundance, little chap, and you got through. As God’s mini reflection, you showed us the way. You showed that when we pray, and are prayed for, we are given Grace sufficient for all our needs. It’s a tough, harsh world and we had no right to risk the happiness of God’s lovely creatures by being so self-willed.

    God bless you, little fellow. You are doing a sterling job looking after Big Sis and Quietnun.

    Cuddles x

  11. Bro Duncan, you have made my heart lighter by reading your wise words…..I do hope that you are feeling much better now….I send a gentle kiss to the top of your head (if you will allow that…) xx

  12. Bro Duncan we have been in retreat in our little community and the news of your sorrows has only just reached our ears.We have unintentionally, been fasting on hypo-allergenic granules, we have offered it up but our Master says it’s not fasting!
    We too feel full of sadness about the absence of our Prior, imagine the loss of Jesus on His friends?

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