I understand it to a point. Like my grandfather who has Alzhimers…I pray that his suffering be meritorious and for God to have mercy on him, but I also pray that he regain use of his mental facilities.
That is a perfectly good approach to take.
Likewise, if I have cancer, I am going to pray for healing, and not say ‘Thank you Lord for this pain. Can I have some more, please? I want to atone for someone else’, which is the gist of what I understand some Saints did.
That’s OK. Perhaps you are not called to do what some of the saints did (at least not now). But that does not diminish the importance of what they did. Keep in mind that the saints did what they did because, through a deep prayer life, they discerned that God was calling them to do so. And they usually did it under the guidance of a wise spiritual director who would help them keep what they did within the bounds of prudence.
The wisest thing for most of us to do is not to ask God for more suffering, but rather to entrust ourselves entirely to God, giving Him permission to act according to His will in us, and trusting that He will give us the strength to bear whatever suffering He either causes or permits to come our way.
Jesus did just that for us so we wouldn’t have to, right?
That seems to take away from what Jesus accomplished.
Absolutely not. We are part of the mystical Body of Christ. As part of His Body, we share in His sufferings. Some of what He accomplishes, He chooses to accomplish through us. He doesn’t have to do it that way; He could have done it without our help. But in His infinite wisdom (which is sometimes beyond our understanding), He chose to let us participate in His redemptive suffering.
On the other hand, I would take the place of suffering for someone, as in fighting off the bad guy to save others, even if it means I would be paralyzed or killed. That is heroic sacrifice and suffering. That I can see and understand would be redemptive.
What you would be willing to bravely suffer for others to save them physically for a limited time (and I admire you for that), the saints we are talking about are willing to do to help save others spiritually for all eternity.
Asking God to ‘turn up the pain’ on a physical ailment that affects no one physically but myself so I can be punished…and to suffer for someone else ‘by proxy’ just seems so out of whack!
But don’t you see, the saints were trying to benefit others spiritually, not physically. That’s so much more important.
It’s not the same as dying for your faith as our early forefathers did.
And why is it so different? We are all members of the Body of Christ, and as such are called to share in His suffering. We just do it in different ways.
It just seems like an extreme mental issue.
When you get to heaven and discover that you got there partly due to the voluntary prayers and sufferings of some courageous soul who offered their sufferings for you, you will thank them for their “extreme mental issue.”