Pope Francis says sick children and their parents are “heroes,” from his point of view.
Last Friday, Francis met with a group of 20 disabled children, along with their parents, and several volunteers in the chapel of his residence at Casa Santa Marta. The children are part of the program UNITALSI (National Italian Union for Transporting the Sick to Lourdes and International Shrines).
During his remarks, the Pope lamented that certain mysteries do not have clear answers, and among these is the mystery of why children can suffer. To this, he said, “there is no explanation.”
“Many times I think of Our Lady, when they gave her the dead body of Her Son, all wounded, spat upon, bloodied, dirty. And what did Our Lady do? [Did She say:] ‘Take Him away?’ No, She embraced Him, She caressed Him,” he said. “Even Our Lady did not understand. Because She, in that moment, remembered what the Angel told her: ‘He will be a King, He will be great, He will be a prophet…’; and within Herself, surely, with that wounded Body in Her arms, with so much suffering before dying, within Herself She certainly would’ve wanted to say to the Angel: ‘Liar! I have been deceived.’ Even She did not have an answer.”
The Pope encouraged the children and their parents to not be afraid to ask God why, as long as they have their hearts open.
He compared the question to those asked by a toddler, the incessant “why” of a two-year-old who is not satisfied with any answer, but who, in asking the question, succeeds in turning his parent’s gaze upon him.
“The only explanation that He will be able to give you will be: ‘My Son also suffered,'” the Pope reflected. “But that is the explanation. The most important thing is this gaze. And your strength is there: the loving gaze of the Father.”
Pope Francis continued to emphasize the point: “Do not be afraid to ask, even to challenge the Lord. ‘Why?’ Maybe an explanation won’t come, but his Fatherly gaze will give us the strength to go forward.”
Sometimes, he noted, this grace can be realized in the feeling of tenderness towards a sick child.
“You said that you were advised to abort,” the Holy Fathr continued. “You replied: ‘No, let him come, he has a right to live.’ A problem is never, never resolved by getting rid of person. Never. This is the rule of the Mafia: ‘There is a problem, get rid of this one…’ Never.”
The Pontiff thanked them for being so courageous and noted, “Many times, in my life, I have been a coward, and your example does me well.”
“Why do children suffer?” the Pontiff pondered. “It is a mystery. We must call upon God like a child calling upon his father and say: ‘Why? Why?’ to draw the gaze of God [upon us], who tells us one thing: ‘Look at my Son, even He [suffered].'”
“If you allow me to say – I do not want to flatter, no, I say with my heart – this is heroism. You are the little heroes of life. […] I thank you for your example. I do not know what else to tell you, because these things strike me so much. I too do not have an answer,” he said.
The Pope surmised that his listeners could think, “But you are the Pope, you should know everything!”
“No,” he said, “on these things there are no answers, only the gaze of the Father.”
The Holy Father reminded them that the Lord has a special way of consoling, and prayed, “May He give the just consolation to each of you, that which you need.”
Before concluding, the Pontiff shared an anecdote, telling the story of children who were trying to move a stone to play in a certain space. After the children continued struggling the father of one of them, who had been watching them from the window, came down and, with his strength and with an iron bar, moved away the stone.
And the son reproached his father: “But Dad, you saw that I couldn’t do it?”
“Yes,” the father replied.
“And why didn’t you come?” the child asked.
“Because you didn’t call me,” the father answered.
The Holy Father stressed that for us, calling upon God is the same. “Do not forget this: call upon the Lord. He knows how it will be, when it will come,” he said, “and this will be your consolation.”
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