Suffering is Essential to Discipleship

BRIDGEPORT—“Suffering is essential to discipleship,” Bishop Frank J. Caggiano said in his homily during Mass for the 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time.

“All discipleship is the emptying of ourselves so we can be filled with God’s love” rather than the prison of our own desires, he said.

In his weekly online Mass celebrated in the Catholic Center chapel, the bishop said suffering is not a good thing in itself, but it is an inevitable part of life and of the human condition.

“It comes through the frailty of time, the sins we commit, and the damage caused by others who sin against us and those around us.”

Suffering reminds us that “our rightful place is not at the center of our own life,” he said.

Rather, we must learn “to be His servant, to be cleaned from sin and to suffer well for the sake of love, for the sake of serving God in every moment of our life.”

The bishop said he often meditates on Matthew 16:21-27, “24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.”

“My friends perhaps the easiest way to describe the philosophy (of the parable) is to put it this way, it’s either my way or no way.”

“My father believed that very much,” said the Bishop, recalling that as a teenager he often clashed with his father and resisted his wisdom because he did not want to follow his orders.

“When I was a teen and thought I was invincible and immortal and knew all things, and it was a recipe for fighting constantly.”

The bishop said looking back now he realizes that he missed his father’s deeper motivation to protect him and prepare him for suffering in his own life.

The bishop said his father was formed by the hardships of the life he lived in Italy as a young man, and “the suffering and challenges he lived in this country as an immigrant.”

Attempting to mold gospel values in others and in ourselves is not easily done, but it is the essential challenge of faith, the bishop said.

“It requires dying to one’s self, dying to what we may want to do– a lesson it took me a long time to learn, and some days I’m still learning it,” the bishop said, adding that only by putting obedience to God at the center of our lives are we set free.

“We can do it our way or God’s way. We must trust his love and that he will never abandon us. Even if sometimes he won’t give us answers to the questions we ask, he is walking quietly by our side. He only asks that we put our hand in his and allow him to take the lead.”

“Suffering is never easy, but it is essential to discipleship because in the end, it is not my will, but His will, not my way, but His way. How grateful I am to my father for helping me to understand that many years ago when I began the journey of my own life.”

The bishop said that the journey for Christ’s disciples is a process of learning that “doing things God’s way is not chaining us, it’s setting us free,” and that in addition to being re-created in Christ by our baptism, we are also freed by his death and resurrection.

Before giving the final blessing and leading the Prayer to St. Michael the Archangel, the bishop invited all to join in the “Conversation on Race,” and the online weekly recitation of the Rosary. He noted that more than 100 people form the core of the online Rosary family, which he hopes will continue to grow because “we need prayer to guide us in this time of uncertainty and challenge.”

Conversations about Race: The webinar series, features talks by teachers and pastoral ministers, began on July 30 will run through September 3. The talks are live-streamed at 1 pm each Thursday and then rebroadcast at 7 pm each evening, with a question and answer sessions moderated by a member of the diocesan ad hoc committee against racism. (To view a recording of previous webinars, visit this page and click “previous webinars:

Bishop’s Online Mass: The Bishop’s Sunday Mass is released online every Sunday morning at 8 a.m. and available for replay throughout the day. To view the Bishop’s Sunday Mass, recorded and published weekly, click this link or visit the YouTube Mass Playlist.