The previously cited New Yorker article by Eliza Griswold quotes Richard Rohr: “My belief is that the two universal paths are great love and great suffering.” Thirty years ago I first saw a 7-minute film about a disfigured boy named Alfredo, the only survivor of his family’s house fire. We used it each year in our confirmation classes.
When I was in seminary, I was the pastor for a friend who lost his wife to an accidental drug overdose and who died a few months later with cancer. I visited him numerous times at St. Vincent’s Hospital, which had a crucifix above the door inside each room, a graphic reminder that suffering is part of our common journey.
I think of these things when I think about COVID; or when I read about a young dentist who died four miles from the Kabul Airport when he and another young man fell from a C-17, likely as the landing gear closed; or when I hear about the young Marine, an expectant dad, who was one of the 13 US service people among the scores of others killed or wounded Thursday in the suicide bomb explosion at the Abbey Gate; or when I hear about the 20 people who died and the 272 homes lost in the Tennessee flood; or when I think about a strong hurricane tracking toward Louisiana.
The crucifix helped Alfredo. It helps me, too. There’s nothing magical about it. A crucifix is simply an icon (window) of healing in which the path of great suffering and the path of great love converge.