I am new to Catholicism, joining RCIA in a few weeks here, from a devout Protestant background, but I have read quite a lot in waiting for RCIA to begin, and I have a particular interest in the Catholic understanding of suffering. I am finishing John Paul II’s encyclical Salvifici Dolores, and have read a couple other books on this topic.
I still feel like I don’t quite get what is meant by the “Salvific meaning of suffering.” What I have understood, and please correct me if I’m wrong, is that a) suffering is universal, b) suffering can be a punishment, but also happens to innocents, c) when Christ suffered the Passion he redeemed suffering in the sense that he made it possible for us to attach meaning to suffering. I think it’s the meaning attached to suffering that I still don’t quite understand.
Is it just that we can more closely identify with Christ because he too suffered? Can someone please explain the meaning of phrases like “uniting our sufferings to Christ’s” , “take part through your suffering in this work of saving the world” or “offering up my suffering in union with Christ’s”? Also, how is this accomplished? Is it just that we rest in the knowledge that our suffering has meaning, or must we actually explicitly pray to unite our sufferings with Christ’s each time we suffer?
Thanks in advance!