Offer it up: humility in an era of uncertainty

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Photo by Anthony Mazur

If you grew up in a Catholic home, you may have occasionally heard the phrase “offer it up” uttered, either earnestly or sarcastically, throughout your childhood. In the New Testament, Jesus exhorts his followers to take up their crosses. In the “Little Way” of Doctor of the Church St. Therese of Lisieux, offering up one’s sufferings is especially emphasized. 

At its core, redemptive suffering centers around the ultimate meaningfulness of one’s struggles in light of the death and resurrection of Jesus. Catholics are called to embrace their sufferings, though not in a masochistic or self-degrading way. Further, Catholics are challenged to perceive them not as a punishment for sins, but as a privilege to mystically suffer with Christ in his Passion. This is a great paradox of our faith.

By recognizing the profound opportunity to “offer it up,” the suffering soul is dignified. Rather than being victimized by one’s own circumstances and reduced to despair, the soul is empowered to offer consolation to Christ and empathy to other suffering souls. 

For the average American, there are no doubt inconveniences, interpersonal traumas and personal struggles aplenty. Although we live in a first-world country, as a nation and as individuals we are–literally–not immune to issues. 

Only the most isolated, self-sustaining people in the world have not been affected by COVID-19. Everyone has lost something–whether tangible or intangible–as a result of the ongoing pandemic. 

As a community, we have lost many things that we “should have” had: jobs, weddings, graduations, money, housing, social opportunities and, most importantly, lives. We must grieve the death of our past life. Grief requires time and manifests itself in several stages; we must be patient with ourselves and one another as we come to terms with these losses.

While we should grieve, we must not become embittered. Perhaps due to the seeming endlessness of this situation, I’ve noticed a growing flippancy towards the coronavirus in our academic community. What began as denial has morphed into defeatism. 

Is the collective ego of our society really so fragile that even the slightest capitulation to authority is abhorrent to it? I hope not. We already comply with countless spoken and unspoken rules: what clothing we wear, what lane we drive in, what kind and amount of affection we publically show to loved ones.

We cannot cease vigilance now when we are closer to solutions than ever before. Yes, masks are uncomfortable. Yes, campus life “isn’t the same.” Yes, school is harder to navigate. However, as Catholics, we are called to “offer it up.” 

The radical individualism of many Americans regarding the coronavirus is incompatible with Catholic values. Most Americans understand “freedom” as the right to choose their words and actions as they please. Christians are called to exercise their freedom to be servants to others and to humbly accept God’s will. 

Complying with the CDC’s guidelines will not kill us. In fact, those “oppressive” rules are intended to preserve our lives.

When we choose to let our pride about being “independent thinkers” fog our calling to Christian humility and servanthood, we show the world outside our bubble that we are only conveniently Catholic. The entire point of redemptive suffering is that we cannot pick and choose when and how we handle hardships. Rather, we must humbly accept them as they come to us. 

So, dear UD community, please join me in “offering up” the losses we’ve sustained, the thorns in our sides, and the pains we’ve endured as a result of this unfortunate turn of global events. Pax et Bonum. 

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