ESPECIALLY in this world where almost all are in pursuit of material possessions, comfort, leisure, etc. Thomas a’ Kempis and his classic Imitation of Christ, with all the preachings eschewing worldliness and even embracing sufferings, have become -- as traditional Church would put it -- anathema.

But Christians cannot deny Jesus Christ’s Way of the Cross as the path leading to Him. It’s the way of sufferings which, in our lives, come in varieties and assorted degrees. And rather inevitably.

St. Peter himself had once admitted to Jesus how difficult it was for him to explain to a mother the death of her young daughter after a painful illness. This difficulty he admitted to Our Lord and an account of this episode was mystically witnessed and put on record by mystic Maria Valtorta (1897-1961) in her work Poem of the Man-God which was strongly endorsed by no less than St. Padre Pio.

This was Our Lord’s reply to St. Peter’s quandary:

"Listen. It seems an injustice, but it is a great justice that the best should suffer on behalf of everybody....

"The earth is an altar, Simon. A huge altar. It was to be the altar of everlasting praise to its Creator. But the Earth is full of sin. Therefore it must be the altar of endless expiation and sacrifice, on which the victims are consumed. The Earth, like the other worlds with which the other Creation is strewn, ought to sing psalms to God Who created it.....

"Look at those stars! They are singing the praises of God with their voices, that are light and motion, in the infinite spaces of the firmament. Their song, which rises from the blue fields of the sky to the Heaven of God, has lasted for thousands and thousands of years. We can imagine stars, planets and comets as sidereal creatures - like sidereal priests, levites, virgins and believers - that are to sing the praises of the Creator in an unlimited temple.

“Listen, Simon. Listen to the breeze rustling among the leaves, and to the noise of the stream in the night. Listen to the Earth, which like the sky, sings with the winds, with the water, with the voices of birds and animals. But if the luminous praise of the stars that people the sky is sufficient for the vault of heaven, the song of the winds, water and animals is not sufficient for the temple that is the Earth. Because on the Earth, there are not only winds, waters and animals unconsciously singing the praises of God, but there is also man, the perfect creature, superior to all beings living in time and in the world. He is gifted with matter -- like the animals, minerals and plants -- and with spirit.

“Like the angels of Heaven, he is destined - if faithful to the trial - to know and possess God, through grace at first, and in Paradise later. Man - the synthesis comprising all natures - has a mission that no other creature has. And it should be for him joy, besides being his duty: to love God; to give God a cult of love intelligently and voluntarily; to repay God for the love that He gave man by granting him life, and Heaven in addition to life. To give an intelligent cult.

“Consider this, Simon. What benefit does God get from Creation? What profit? None. Creation does not make God greater, it does not sanctify Him, it does not make Him rich. He is infinite. He would have been so, even if Creation had never existed. But God-Love wanted to have love.

“God can get only love from Creation, and that love - which is intelligent and free only in angels and in men - is the glory of God, the joy of angels, the religion for men. The day that the great altar of the Earth should cease to give praises and entreaties of love, the Earth would cease existing. Because once love is extinguished, expiation would cease also, and the wrath of God would destroy the Earth that had become an earthly hell. So the earth must love, in order to exist.

“Also the Earth must be the Temple that loves and prays with the intelligence of men. But which victims are always offered in the Temple? The pure, spotless, faultless victims. Those are the only victims agreeable to the Lord. They are the early fruits. Because the best things are to be given to the Father of the family, and the first fruits of everything, the choice things, are to be given to God, the Father of the human family.

“I say that the Earth has a double duty of sacrifice: that of praise, and that of expiation. Because Mankind that has spread over the Earth sinned in the First men, and continuously sins by adding - to the sin of estrangement from God - the other countless sins of his consent. These are to be the voices of the world, of the flesh and of Satan.

“A guilty, very guilty Mankind that, although he has the likeness to God - have his own intelligence and divine help - is more and more sinful. Stars obey, plant obey, elements obey, animals obey - and they praise the Lord as best as they can. Men do not obey the Lord, or praise the Lord, enough. Hence the necessity of victim-souls, that may love and expiate on behalf of everybody. They are the children, who, innocent and unaware, pay the bitter punishment of sorrow, for those who can do nothing but sin. They are the saints, who willingly sacrifice themselves for everybody..."

Then St. Peter asked why innocent children should also be sacrificed and to this, Our Lord said:

"You mean those who cannot yet offer themselves ... And do you know when God speaks in them? The language of God is spiritual. A soul understands it, and a soul has no age. Nay, I tell you that a child's soul - as it is without malice, with regard to its capacity of understanding God - is more adult than the soul of an old sinner. I tell you, Simon, that you will live so long as to see many children teach adults, and even yourself, the wisdom of heroic love. But in those little ones who die for natural reasons, God acts directly, for motives of so high a love that I cannot explain to you....

“Sorrow is not a punishment, when one knows how to accept it and use it rightly. Sorrow is like a priesthood, Simon. A priesthood open to everybody. A priesthood that confers great power on the heart of God. It is a great merit. Sorrow that was born at the same time as sin, can appease Justice. Because God can also use - for good purposes - what Hatred created to give sorrow. I did not choose any other means to cancel out Sin. Because there is no means greater than this one."