Is the Cross Really that Sweet?

This week, as we celebrate the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, let us meditate on the cross and how it is truly a source of consolation. 

By: Thérèse Bermpohl, Director of the Office for Family Life

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Enrico Petrillo lost his young wife Chiara at the age of 28 in 2012 after her battle with cancer. She put off treatment to save their unborn child and died shortly after his birth. In an interview after Chiara’s death, Enrico said:

“The truth is that this cross – if you embrace it with Christ – ceases to be as ugly as it looks. If you trust in him, you discover that this fire, this cross, does not burn, and that peace can be found in suffering and joy in death,” Enrico explained. “I spent a lot of time this year reflecting on this phrase from the Gospel that says the Lord gives a cross that is sweet and a burden that is light. When I would look at Chiara when she was about to die…I asked her… ‘But Chiara, my love, is this cross really sweet, like the Lord says? She looked at me and she smiled, and in a soft voice she said, ‘Yes, Enrico, it is very sweet.’ In this sense, the entire family didn’t see Chiara die peacefully, but happily, which is totally different,” Enrico said…. When his son grows up, he added, he will tell him “how beautiful it is to let oneself be loved by God, because if you feel loved you can do anything,” and this is “the most important thing in life: to let yourself be loved in order to love and die happy.”[1]

The sweetness in the cross is discovered when we are privileged to stand in the loving presence of Jesus crucified. This encounter with Him is available to us in our daily challenges and personal sufferings.

Oftentimes when people suffer, they wrongly believe that God is far away and that He doesn’t love them, but in reality, this is the most intimate place of encounter with the Lord. St. Pio of Pietrelcina notes:

“…At these moments, more than ever, when the whole world troubles and weighs on me, I desire nothing other than to love and to suffer. Yes, my father, even in the midst of so much suffering, I am happy because it seems as if my heart is beating with Jesus’ heart.”

Yet not only is our “heart beating” with our suffering Christ a sweetness for us, but we also find another consolation, that of participating with Him in His lifesaving mission. If we think of all those people we know who are so desperately in need of faith and conversion, we can find sweetness in the task of joining our sufferings to Jesus’ for each of them.

“The cross is the unique sacrifice of Christ, the ‘one mediator between God and men.’ But because in his incarnate divine person he has in some way united himself to every man, “the possibility of being made partners, in a way known to God, in the paschal mystery” is offered to all men” (Catechism of the Catholic Church 618).

As we celebrate the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, may we emulate the Virgin Mary, “who was associated more intimately than any other person in the mystery of his redemptive suffering” (CCC 618) and say along with St. Paul, “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body, which is the church” (Col. 1:24).

[1] Catholic News Agency (2012). Emotional goodbye for young Italian mother who died for unborn child. Retrieved from http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/emotional-goodbye-for-young-italian-mother-who-died-for-unborn-child/.


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