American Chaplain Reflects on Meaning of Suffering

Father Vincent Nagle Shares His Pastoral Experience at Rimini

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RIMINI, Italy, AUG. 24, 2004 (Zenit.org).- Suffering isn’t always synonymous with being unhappy, an American hospital chaplain told the annual Meeting for Friendship Among Peoples.

“When suffering is offered to God it is not an obstacle to joy,” said Father Vincent Nagle on Monday, when addressing the participants in the annual meeting, organized this week by the ecclesial movement Communion and Liberation.

The priest, who carries out his ministry at Sturdy Memorial Hospital in Boston, shared his pastoral experience during the presentation of the book “On the Frontiers of the Human. A Priest Among the Sick” (“Sulle frontiere dell’umano. Un prete tra i malati”), published by Rubettino, in which writer and journalist Emilio Bonicelli interviews the chaplain.

Father Nagle explained that what is most difficult for man to understand is the problem of “innocent suffering,” such as when “a man is jailed unjustly because of the unfounded accusations of his brother.”

Commenting on his daily experience with suffering, sickness and death, Father Nagle said that “man does not want suffering, and, if he accepts it, it is only in the name of something new that comes from outside of himself.”

“That someone who is innocent should suffer for another is something that convinces me because it is Christ’s reason,” the priest said.

This is why “when suffering is offered to God it is not an obstacle to joy, what is more, it is rescued: The offering is, in fact, to discover the usefulness of accepting what is happening,” he continued.

Reflecting further on this point, Father Nagle said that “Jesus, who was able to do everything, did all that the Father asked him to do, scandalizing everyone by the apparent uselessness of that gesture. When offered, everything becomes useful.”

“Moreover, if one can find happiness in life even when one is sick, then the illness does not represent the last work on man,” the American priest explained.

The son of trade unionists from Los Angeles — his father did not practice much and his mother was a Jewish atheist — Vincent Nagle was unclear about what path he should follow in life. He had done university studies in San Francisco and Berkeley, California, and spent five years of travel and residence in Morocco, Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

At age 40 he went to Italy and met Monsignor Luigi Giussani, founder of Communion and Liberation. Having already contemplated the priesthood, his meeting with the Priestly Fraternity of the Missionaries of St. Charles Borromeo, established in 1985 within Communion and Liberation, revealed to him that one could be a priest and joyful.

After studying for six years at the University of St. Thomas in Rome and the Pontifical Institute of Arabic and Islamic Studies, he was ordained a priest in 1992.

When introducing Father Nagle’s book, author Bonicelli acknowledged the impact that the priest made on him by his closeness to the sick, and his awareness that “the man who suffers is Christ present.”

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