Monday, February 01, 2010

Saints and Suffering

Painted and gilded wooden statue of St Roch, La Rioja, Spain, 1540–50.
The Victoria and Albert Museum, London

One of the exhibits in the Medieval Galleries of the V and A in London is a statue of St Roch. (traditionally c.1295 – 16 August 1327)

His cult was very popular in medieval and later times.

Recently his cult has taken a bit of a knock as a result of the researches of the Belgian historian Pierre Bolle and the Bollandist scholar André Vauchez.

However, be that as it may, the statue prompts a meditation on the veneration of saints and on the benefit of prayer towards the relief of suffering. The talk is by Father James Hanvey SJ of London and the recording is on the V and A website.

"God doesn't protect us against the frailty of being human … but from a Christian point of view, there is a real legitimacy, first of all in praying for healing, that God would intervene, that God would be present, but only if it's for God's glory, and so in a sense, even in our illness, we're asking that it can be used for God's purpose. If it is God's will, we come to understand that the illness that we have or the illness that someone else carries is not going to be miraculously cured, then we're called I think to a very deep inner journey, and that's a profound journey of faith in which we find that God is not absent on that journey but draws us into a deeper mystery of suffering itself and how that suffering, even as its bleakest, through faith, can be used as part of God's whole redemptive purpose."


  1. I saw this in person recently, and was v. moved by the statue & commentary.

  2. It is a fascinating statue. The exhiibition by the V and A is very well done. Sally, I trust you had a good time in London