From Chiara’s Diary
We hear of pilgrimages entailing bodily sufferings which throngs of Christians make to Fatima and to Lourdes, and they are not usually fanatical people.
The fact is that, despite the survival of these events, for Christians today in general the word penance has rather fallen into disuse.
And perhaps this is right. Perhaps it is fortunate because it warns us that to add a penance to the Christian life as it is being lived (or rather as it is not being lived), is like cultivating a flower in a pot destined for the balcony of a house that is not yet built.
We can feel that the greater part, the essential, is missing, and that, therefore, the lesser part, the accessory, has no meaning.
Because the Christian life is to do God's will and the Christian often does his or her own or does God's, but unwillingly ...
Because to be Christians means to love our neighbour but we Christians only look after our relatives, if we actually do it…
Because to be Christians means to love even our enemies. But who thinks of that? It is already a lot if we avoid revenge....
Because to be Christians means to love each other, to be one heart and one soul with the other Christians, but that is too difficult.... Each person thinks of him or herself and that is already enough.
Because to be Christians means to obey the Church, and to obey those who represent it and their directives. But today it is old-fashioned to obey, and the Church is not too convincing.
Because... because... because....
How much is missing that should be normal in our Christian life before adding on something particular like a penance.
And yet, Pope John, who certainly was not out-of-touch with his age, but attracted the world with his goodness, says age-old things which, however, reacquire all their vitality, because expressed by those lips, suggested by that heart, and firstly lived by that truly fully Christian soul and then made public.
And because they are truths expressed by him, they become fashionable again.
He states: “In addition to the penances we necessarily have to meet with in the inevitable sufferings of this mortal life, Christians should be so generous as to offer to God voluntary mortification as well, following the example of our divine Redeemer....
In this the saints of the Church are also an example and an encouragement; the mortifications they inflicted on their often most innocent bodies fill us with wonder and almost perplexity. Faced with these champions of Christian holiness, how can we not refuse to the Lord some deprivation or voluntary pain even on behalf of the faithful, who perhaps have so many faults to atone for?