The bond between Catholics and suffering can seem awfully strange to an outsider — even to an insider. Many saints, even those among the gentlest and holiest, sought suffering as a way to get closer to Christ on the cross.
Despite all the sentimental associations as a lover of animals, St. Francis of Assisi was brutally hard on himself. Why would anyone strip naked in the town square, wander the countryside with no shoes in the winter in the barest amount of clothing and rejoice while being beaten by bandits? Why would he welcome the chance to kiss a leper?