do Catholics focus more on suffering than non Catholics?

This is a question I’ve had for a while… having been Protestant and now Catholic, I do see a distinction there. Everything from the prayers to the writings of the Saints or statues or artwork… seems to emphasize suffering: either the suffering of Christ, Mary, or our own. Then in theology…the whole concept of redemptive suffering. When I was Protestant it wasn’t really mentioned, except that it’s something bad that’s not from God. Maybe it depends what denomination you are. I was non denominational, a lot like Baptist.

what do you think? what are the implications of this?

I’m looking for different views, both Catholic and non Catholic :slight_smile:

I hear “Take up your cross” quite often in Catholic circles. I’ve never heard it from a Protestant.

Yes, I think we do ‘embrace’ suffering more than most other denominations. We Catholics understand suffering as being redemptive whereas others see suffering as punishment. Jesus’ suffering and death redeemed us all - He was not being punished.

Also see Col 1:24 - Now I rejoice in my suffering for your sake, and fill up on my part that which is lacking of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body’s sake, which is the church."

IAW, we can join our suffering to Christ’s in order to help achieve the redemption of not only ourselves but others, as well. We need to participate in our redemption and suffering is one way to do that. I’m not saying that Christ’s suffering was not sufficient in itself. What I’m trying to say is that, as humans, it is important for us to feel as though we helped. Scott Hahn used a story to illustrate this: He was driving through a neighborhood and saw a son watching his father mow the lawn. When Scott drove by again later, the father was holding his son while he mowed. His son had his hands on the mower’s handle ‘pushing’ it. IAW, the father didn’t need his son’s help but by allowing him to ‘help,’ the son was greatly edified.


What’s the healthy balance? For instance, self inflicted suffering like hairshirts or cilice, or other types of suffering? I have heard it is done under spiritual direction but I am trying to imagine how far this can go. I also have seen cases where it is not endorsed by the church but horrendous self punishment goes on in a public setting by getting nailed to crosses and other bloody bloody stuff. So, if that is the non approved extremist way I guess I am looking for the boundry line and how far one can go.
How about fasting to the point of passing out? Would that be okay?

I was/am raised in a Non-Denominational Community Church. (I am in the midst of conversion) At this protestant church there is not as much emphasis on suffering as in the Catholic Church (stations of the cross during holy week, crucifixes, offering up one’s sufferings), however it is acknowledged such as in the communion (memorial not Eucharist) and occasionally in sermons. It is appreciated obviously, but not adored like in the litanies or other Catholic prayers. Members of this church, as well as myself have been to the Shrine of Christ’s Passion to see the Stations of The Cross.

That sort of question is unanswerable, because both religions are world-wide - it’s like asking, “how long is a piece of string ?”

I think the answer to this depends on the interpretation of “focus”. I personally think that our focus is on God’s love. Suffering, when done in love, is meaningful.

I guess it is like a well made dinner. In each moment you are focused on cooking and preparing a particular item, but the whole time you are planning it so each item can be an integral part of the whole. Love is like the cook in this case and suffering is one dish. There are many dishes needed to be created together to make a great meal.

lol, Monica, I think the answer is “yes” and “yes.” Back in my Protestant days, I was absolutely certain that Jesus bore all our sorrows and infirmities on the cross…and that therefore, it was a sin for me to try to yank them back, not to mention insulting to Him.

Curiously, I now find it is the Catholic Church that correctly claims to be “Full Gospel” in that it takes all the verses on the subject and tries to form an intelligible and cohesive doctrine around them. I still believe that my natural God-given blood-bought state is health, joy and peace, and that God has called me to be an instrument of healing.

But I also believe in joyfully sharing in His suffering. And I even find both viewpoints preached in Mass. I’m afraid this is one of those things that I have to take on faith, and pray for understanding on.

Recall that Saint Paul wrote: “we preach Christ crucified” (1 Cor. 1:23).

For a comprehensive work on the meaning of our suffering, I refer you to the Apostolic Letter of Pope John Paul II: On the Christian Meaning of Human Suffering

Far be it from me to expound on food analogies, but a bit of theological sense makes hunger the reason for the meal, as the reason behind why the meal is needed in the first place. “Hebrews 5:8 Although He was a son, he learned obedience from what He suffered”. Jesus’ Humanity hungered for God, to please Him, this is the reason we suffer for God.

The concept of “covering” in protestant theology came from Luther in his view of “Putting on Christ”, i. e., “the wedding garment” in Jesus’ parable of the wedding banquet. Faith is the “cover” to make you justified. This justified you as a covering of snow covers a dung heap. Mankind being a “dung heap” is related to the “total depravity” and the various distinctions used to justify the protestant theology of “faith alone”. A distinction by protestant R.C Sproul “Total depravity is not utter depravity. We are not as wicked as we possibly could be”. Good distinction R.C.! :rolleyes:

The concept of depravity is opposed to “free will”, wounded but still "made in the Image of God, it requires grace to justify man. This grace is a gift from God available in the sacraments. This is the Catholic teaching and “total depravity” is also opposed to the concept of “original sin”. All these various distinctions of depravity and differing protestant views on the essence of mans nature makes so clear the need for the Magisterial authority of the Catholic Church.

Suffering is the result of the loss of original justice, and only sanctifying grace can be regained (by a free gift from God) by way of Christ’s redemptive act on the Cross. Suffering in union with Christ is in line with God’s will and making yourself suffer to extremes for guilt or psychological reasons is “ones own effort” is not “God’s will”. One must study the faith and not make assumptions based on your own reasoning as this leads to mistakes like “suffering till you pass out” or not knowing the boundaries in Church teaching, given by spiritual direction, or in the examples of the saints.

I’m United Methodist - I guess I never thought of any one denomination focusing on suffering any more or less than another. “Take Up Thy Cross” is one of the most popular Protestant hymns still today, and my tradition practices the liturgical season of Lent and observes Holy Week.

So I can’t say I’ve observed this much, but I am not around other non-liturgical Protestants that often, either.


Just like ez3714 said, if Jesus bore all our sins and we can do nothing to cooperate as that would be “works Justification”, then it seems that singing about it is all one can do. It is the philosophy based on the theology of “protest” against works, like indulgences, personal holiness, etc., that is the basis for Bible alone and the tenet of those outside the Catholic Church.

Separating oneself from the rule of faith that is the Catholic Church leads to competing personal opinion that is clearly no authority at all and is lacking in the humility and obedience, in the institutional sense, that Jesus taught us to have. If our institutions don’t exhibit the virtues we are to have, how is it we are to be humble and obedient to them. Obedience to the pope, the rock, is the humility institutionalized into the Latin rite in its theology.

I suppose that would depend on which non-Catholics you’re referring to.

I think that Catholics put emphasis on Christ’s Passion, and this can be seen with the Stations of the Cross and the various mortifications and visions the saints have had through the years.

Perhaps there’s some connection upon emphasis. Catholics focus on such things, and they have stigmatics. Orthodox / Eastern Catholics, on the other hand, put emphasis on Transfiguration and Theosis, and they have Holy Fire.

This is the one of the most important distinctions that drew me to the Catholic church. The Catholic Church knows what to do with suffering; she knows how to teach people about suffering; she enters into the issue of suffering instead of avoiding it or beating around the bush.

Paul says in Rom. 8 : 15-17, “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the spirit of sonship. When we cry, “Abba! Father!” it is the Spirit himself bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him”.

Catholic kids were taught early on by the nuns (1950’s & 1960’s) to offer up the sting of our skinned knees and elbows for the souls in purgatory. The Catholic Church often takes a lot of heat for having Christ on His Cross in Churches, but I knew early on -as a kid- that Redemption was very very costly.

You seem to be saying that Jesus did not bear and suffer for all of our sins, “…,when He had BY HIMSELF purged our sins, (and) sat down on the right hand of the Magesty on high.” (Hebrews 1:3)

I’m guessing you believe that Christ maybe only did a partial redemption of your sin, which then enabled you (by grace, of course) to perform a “Do It Yourself” suffering-purging of your own sins that were “not taken care of by Christ” at the one Sacrifice at the Cross.

Maybe you could better define what (Hebrews 1:3) means, as regarding the purging of our sins. Thanks.

Not do it yourself, but work-out your salvation with fear and trembling, by grace alone, through faith, not of ourselves. Yet “let us lay aside the sin that so easily besets us and run the race seeing we are emcompassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses.” wow.

Faith without our working towards salvation is dead. It is by God grace alone that we are enabled to work out our salvation, but salvation is not by faith alone. Faith alone wont be found in the bible except in james: “see then how a man is not justified by faith alone”

"What about the words of Christ himself: ““If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me”” (Luke 9:23)?

While it is true that problems and difficulties stem from our human condition, they are permitted by God because they have the ability to conform us more perfectly to him. Taking up our cross is not in opposition to his cross, but our feeble attempt to be one with him in the love he has shown us in carrying his. We express love most sublimely through sacrifice, as Scripture abundantly shows us."

from CA

The verse you use here does not seem to be talking about any sin that we have already committed, but rather the sin that we might commit without God’s grace preventing it by His strengthening us against those sins “that so easily besets us”.

Are you implying that we can somehow lay aside (purge) a sin, that we have already committed, by any sort of our own “graced” work?

Work-out and grace-alone are opposites of each other. It has to be one or the other that accomplishes the purging of sin for salvation; not both at the same time.

I agree that Christ’s followers must suffer in this world as Christ explained, but I must disagree that our suffering will purge any of our sin. Christ did that purging of His follower’s sins “by Himself” as Hebrews points out in more than one verse.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit