Many things run through your mind in Haiti. The crippling poverty, the lack of infrastructure, and the general plight of most people are simply overwhelming. Yet, what did I think about during Mass at an orphanage in Haiti? The Chicago Cubs. That's right. Amidst the challenges and struggles of Haitian orphans, I was thinking about the Cubs.
As a Cardinals fan, I have long enjoyed watching the feckless Cubs collapse by September, if not mid-May like this year. Year after year, they trot out the team that is finally going to win it all and year after year they finish empty-handed.
However, after nearly a week of witnessing unspeakable poverty and its deleterious effects on a country and a people, I thought of the Cubs and I thought about the spirituality of suffering. The truth and reality of sin and the Fall is that life contains suffering.
In Genesis, after Adam and Eve eat of the forbidden fruit, God says to Adam:
Cursed is the ground because of you! In toil you shall eat its yield all the days of your life. Thorns and thistles it shall bear for you, and you shall eat the grass of the field. By the sweat of your brow you shall eat bread until you return to the ground, from which you were taken; For you are dust, and to dust you shall return. (Genesis 3:17-19)
In the Gospels, Jesus repeatedly tells his disciples about the suffering that He must endure and said to his disciples in the Gospel of Luke, “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me." (Luke 9:23) Thus the Christian life is a life of discipleship mixed with sacrifice and suffering.
Suffering, however, is not an end in itself, but serves as a means of purgation from our concupiscence and prepares us for the glory of the Kingdom of God.
St. Thomas Aquinas, in the Summa Contra Gentiles, explains how one is freed from sin and notes, "The things that we gain as a result of labor and suffering we love more and preserve more carefully." (SCG, 3, 158) Therefore, when we suffer as the result of our own sin and suffer more in order to overcome our sin, we are willing to persevere in a state of grace more freely.
That is the beauty -- suffering, for all of its difficulty, makes the good, when attained, all the sweeter. Sitting in that orphanage chapel, I thought about how amazing it will be for a Cubs fan when they eventually win a World Series; I thought about how amazing it will be for those children, most of whom lost their parents as mere infants and toddlers in the 2010 earthquake, when the education, love, and support they are receiving begins to pay dividends.
Clearly, long suffering baseball fans and orphans are dramatically different realities. I mean in no way to diminish or treat glibly the challenges of orphans. Yet, when lived with a Christian perspective, they are, at least philosophically similar: the current struggles lead not to despair but to hope.
When I went to Haiti and saw the poverty, falling into despair was a great temptation. Here, however, lies the great lesson of my time in Haiti (and my advice to long suffering Cubs' fans): Even though I am not a missionary nor can I provide much in terms of material resources because of my state in life, I can, however, choose the virtuous path and cooperate with grace. I can choose hope, hope for Haiti, hope for the orphans, and take that message with me wherever I go. I choose the hope that is the Resurrected Lord. I choose to believe that Haiti, in spite of all the obstacles, can and will be a better place. I thank God that those orphans have a place to call home and to be loved.
If there is hope in Haiti, there must be hope in Wrigley.