As a Catholic (my friend is also Catholic), I approach pain and suffering as an opportunity to be united with Christ. Through His Passion, He gave meaning to suffering, and we can unite our suffering to His, so that our suffering takes on meaning and becomes redemptive. It strikes me as bad form, however, to try to point this out to someone as they are experiencing the pain. The connection should be established before the suffering is entered into. The admonition to “offer it up” is not well received unless the soul has been properly prepared.
What then could I say to my friend in pain? To my delight, the liturgy came to my rescue in the form of the Collect prayer for Wednesday of the First Week of Ordinary Time. While I couldn’t come up with the words to tactfully say, “Hey dummy! Offer it up!” I could say, “I thought of you when I read this prayer from today’s mass.” He gave it a thumbs up, so I assume that it was well received.
O God, who willed that our infirmities
be borne by your Only Begotten Son
to show the value of human suffering,
listen in kindness to our prayers
for our brothers and sisters who are sick;
grant that all who are oppressed by pain, distress or other afflictions
may know that they are chosen
among those proclaimed blessed
and are united to Christ
in his suffering for the salvation of the world.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, you Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.