St Francis Q&A

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

'Why did God allow this to happen?"

Lenten Holy Hour: You are invited to the chapel in the SFA rectory at 7 pm on Thursdays during Lent. We will have Exposition and Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, music, spiritual reflections, and Benediction. Please join us!
Last week, a beautiful, twelve year old, Catholic girl was in the hospital because her appendix burst. When she returned home after her painful ordeal, she asked me, "why did God allow this to happen?" Whenever I hear people ask this question, I point them to a crucifix, and say, "why did God allow that to happen?" The Father has infinite and unending love for His own son, and yet, He let him suffer tremendously while on Earth.

When I was in Calcutta years ago, the sister who succeeded Mother Teresa as the head of the Missionaries of Charity said to me, "the greatest way to imitate Christ is to suffer. Those who are closest to Jesus on earth are those who suffer the most". The 12 year old girl is a great friend of Jesus Christ! Already in her young life she has had the opportunity to carry a part of Jesus' cross. The Father trusts this little girl in a big way. He'll never give any of us a cross that's too big for us to carry.

Normally, our suffering involves crosses that we don't choose. We accept them as Christ freely accepted his. He was an innocent victim who suffered for our sake: "No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends" (Jn 15). Any of us who lay down our lives in any way and suffer for the sake of love are in intimate friendship with Christ. We do choose to make small sacrifices in Lent in order to become closer to Him, body and soul.

Who, then, are the greatest friends of Jesus Christ? Who see concrete signs in their lives of being loved and trusted by their heavenly Father? Those who are in physical, psychological, personal, or spiritual pain...those who hunger and thirst... those who are rejected and lonely... persecuted...outcasts... are laughed at... homeless... victims of violence...victims of disasters... etc. Those who carry their daily crosses are Jesus' closest friends.

Christian suffering, then, has great meaning. Our whole faith is centered on the suffering of our Savior. Suffering leads to love, and as I will write in an upcoming post, and it leads to glory. This seems like foolishness to the world, but as St Paul writes, "it is the power of God and the wisdom of God" (1 Cor 1). Ultimately, then, suffering is a sign of God's love. Anyone who imitates the Son in suffering for the sake of love receives the infinite and unending love of the Father.
Any other friends of Christ that I missed? Any stories of people who have taken up serious crosses? Anyone for whom we can pray?


  • I've been asking myself this question for some years now, as in the past some people I trusted caused me great suffering and even damage. The last few weeks, the Lord has been telling me to just finally let it go, to repent of the resentments I have formed over it and stop thinking about it!! It's always a new day with the Lord - I won't find out until Heaven why this all happened to me, but why does it even matter. God is good here and now.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:42 AM  

  • "It's always a new day with the Lord" --what a beautiful thought, thank you!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:55 PM  

  • I dp not believe for a minute that God either allows or causes these things to happen..they just happen. Our daughter died of cancer in August of 2004 and suffered so much. God DID NOT make this happen to her.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:33 AM  

  • I dp not believe for a minute that God either allows or causes these things to happen..they just happen. Our daughter died of cancer in August of 2004 and suffered so much. God DID NOT make this happen to her.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:33 AM  

  • My daughter is the beautiful 12 year old girl. Deacon Greg provided her with such peace about her recent ordeal with his wise spiritual counseling. The best advice that he gave her was to remind her to offer God her suffering and that her suffering can be a very powerful form of prayer. Marian really understood the advice. I noticed on her desk in her room that she made a list of items that she was offering up her suffering for (okay....maybe I shouldn't have peeked). Anyway, one person at the top of her list was, Deacon Greg and his upcoming priesthood! Thank you, Deacon Greg for being such a great friend over the years and most especially for all the prayers for Marian and the great spiritual advice you gave her. To all reading this blog site - let us all unite in prayer for Deacon Greg and thank God for calling him to serve!

    By Blogger SJ Grenchik, at 11:01 AM  

  • Thank you Deacon Greg.

    I have thought often about the Catholic view of suffering because my sister, who has been a very devoted Catholic all her life, has also been a victim of domestic violence for over thirty years. Furthermore, she raised four children with this man, after she knew he was abusive and she and her husband raised them in an atmosphere of degradation, violence and intimidation. Now as adults, three of the four children have had psychiatric ailments, two of whom have been hospitalized. My sister and those two have been taking psychiatrc drugs for years just to get through the day.

    She could have left this man at any time and saved herself and her children, one of whom is an emotional cripple, all that suffering. God did not send her that suffering, she brought it upon herself and her children because she believes her husband is her cross to bear on Earth.

    The Church says divorce is bad, but is divorce worse than inflicting a lifetime of suffering on innocent children?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:58 PM  

  • Thank you all for your comments about suffering. Wide range! Some beautiful and inspiring stuff...from the people who know about suffering. Please keep 'em coming!

    I am very sorry for you, Anon, who lost your daughter to cancer. Naturally, I don't know and will never know the awful pain of losing a child, but it might be the greatest pain there is.

    I agree with you that God did not make that happen to her. But, we have to be very careful when we say that God didn't allow it...that it just happened. That kind of thinking suggests that God isn't God, that He doesn't have power over all things.

    Your daughter's illness and all suffering was not part of God's active will; rather, it is part of His permissive will. In other words, He didn't will it, but he allowed it. Why? Please check out the post I just wrote last night along these lines.

    God was intimately involved with your daughter in her illness, just as He was intimately involved with His own Son in his suffering. God allowed your daughter to imitate Jesus, and just as Christ's suffering led him to glory, so your daughter has been led to glory through what she suffered.

    By Blogger Fr Greg, at 11:02 AM  

  • This note is for the person who lost her daughter. I can't even begin to imagine what you have gone through. I am so sorry for your loss.

    Your post was an inspiration to me. Despite the fact that you lost a child, your faith in God never wavered. I find that admirable!
    We all go through some sort of tragedy at some point in our lives but we should never let go of God's hand. Unfortunately that was not the case for me. I left the church as soon as I was able to. I am now back with a lot of support from my church.

    I am glad we are all able share our stories and insights on this blog as I believe we can draw strength from one another.

    Take care,

    St. Francis Parishoner

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:06 AM  

  • This note is for the woman whose sister is a victim of domestic violence. I am so sorry! I think that is one of the most horrible things that can happen to a woman. I am not a deacon nor a priest nor a nun, therefore, my comment is just that of a rational person. I do not think the Catholic Church intends for your sister to be married to such a man. My understanding is that the Catholic Church will allow divorce if the relationship is not a loving, healthy relationship like God intended it to be. All relationships are difficult, but when there is no respect for each other or love I cannot imagine why God will want such a relationship to continue. Maybe God has given your sister many signs that she should walk away but she decided to bear her own cross without God asking her to. As for the Catholic Church, I think the Church has turned their heads the other way when it comes to the needs of women. Like they turned their heads the other way when children were being abused. Since the Church will most likely never let woman in we have to voice our presence more and remind them everyday that women are the nucleus of the family and Church has the responsibility to not only speak clearly and loudly against domestic violence but also to stop covering the men abuse their wives. Women are the nucleus of the family, without Mary there would have never been a Jesus.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:59 PM  

  • To the person who has written about the church turning away when children are being abused. I don't agree with you. I got a lot of support from the church. It depends which parish you are talking about and the time period. At one of the churches a priest offered to go with me to the Archdiocese and get help.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:12 PM  

  • This subject is one that I have struggled with for a couple of years now. I have often wondered, if a person isn't struggling with a physical, mental, emotional, psychological difficulty in their life,at any given moment, does that mean they are any less closer to God? Isn't that why many of the Saints inflicted physical discomfort and pain on themselves? To offer their pain/discomfort up to God as a sacrifice to be used for His Glory (however God chooses to use it).and to feel closer to him in the pain he suffered for us? I can certainly see how the Saints would feel this way. And yet if right now, I am in a place of health, comfort, joy etc. in my life should I be going out and looking for trials and pain and suffering? Should I be praying for them to come? I know to everyone trials will come. There is no life lived that goes with out suffering of some sort. And I have had my own in the past. But if my desire in life is to continually be walking closer with Christ, then should I seek the difficult trials? Should I put myself in a place of allowing more discomfort? Isn't that the ultimate way to show God your love for him during difficult times? Do we abandon our hope and joy and run away from him or do we actually draw closer to him through it all?
    God has blessed me in so many ways. and for that I give thanks daily. I ache for those who are carrying heavy crosses right now. Maybe God is asking me to use this trial free time of mine to pray harder for others in their time of difficulty. Seems too easy, but I will. Thanks be to God !!
    Any thoughts ??

    By Anonymous a seeker of truth, at 3:19 PM  

  • Hello! to the SEEKER OF TRUTH,

    Like you, I used to think that I had to suffer to find Christ. I have come to realize that I do not have to suffer or inflict pain or be horribly sad and look for difficult moments to be close to God. He is near me during every moment in my life. I just have to say "God I want to know you and be near you". I find God in the smiles of children, in the laughter of old couples, in the singing of a bird. I do not understand why Catholics always have to associate God with pain and suffering. I think the best way to find God is not to inflict pain on you or look for it, we get our share of pain and suffering in due time, but to search for those who are suffering and help them. Then you will discover Christ and you will know HIM like never before.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:52 PM  

  • Again, great comments on the issue of suffering. This is really very helpful for many people, not just to those of you who leave comments, but to all those who read this site. I do, of course, have to do my job and set the record straight on a few things...

    First, it is a gross misrepresentation to say that Catholics always associate God with pain and suffering. I see God and know his love in the world in many of the ways you, Anon, described - through the joy of those young and old, nature, etc. I see Him who is Beauty, Joy, Kindness, Mercy, and Peace every time I worship Him in the Eucharist. The most fundamental way for me to describe God is Love; this is the title of the first encyclical of our new Pope- "God is Love".

    We just happen to see God in His fullness, and accept the whole Gospel and the whole Christ. "Then, speaking to all, he said, 'If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross every day and follow me. Anyone who wants to save his life will lose it; but anyone who loses his life for my sake, will save it'" (Lk 9:23-24).

    Btw, isn't the universal Christian symbol the Cross?

    Now, Seeker of Truth, good question about what if we aren't currently suffering for Christ. As Jesus says in Lk 9, it's impossible to follow Him and not take up some kind of daily cross. But, what if my daily crosses are not very big...does God not love me? Does He not trust me?

    For any times I have felt that way in my life, I do two things initially. First, I thank God for all the blessings He has given me and for all the love he has for me. Then, I pray to help carry the cross of his Son, and think of Colossians 1:24 (we all complete Christ's sacrifice on Calvary). I have noticed most times that when I pray for that, I receive a pretty big piece of the Cross not too long afterwards- I'm like, "um, Lord, I didn't want this Cross...this is really heavy". Then, I think of the old axiom, "be careful for what you wish. You just might get it".

    If you and I are not suffering now for Christ in some relatively major way, we will. We also might forget all that we have given up to follow him in our vocation, career, family, friends, relationships, etc. Our daily cross might be that people laugh at or ridicule us for being faithful Catholics, just like they ridiculed him, and as he promised they would (see Jn 15:18).

    The whole thing about the saints is self-denial (Lk 9:23). They renounced themselves so they could announce Him. They denied themselves as a way to die to their selves. They took seriously Jesus' words about self-denial, detachment from the world (of sin), mortification, and sacrifice. They lived heroic virtue in their lives and are now with Christ in His glory.

    The whole point of suffering, as one of you wrote,is love. Jesus says the greatest love is to lay down one's life for one's friends (see Jn 15:13). He lived it, and asks us to live it each day. It is a sign of love. The Cross is the greatest sign of God's Love for us. So, when we focus on the Cross, we focus on the greatest sign of Love in the world.

    By Blogger Fr Greg, at 12:15 PM  

  • Thank you Deacon Greg for your feed back about suffering and praying to be given a part of his cross to carry. As you mentioned, many times I too have prayed to be shown where to turn with regards to a particular concern of mine. And sometimes fairly quickly get an immediate answer which doesn't always make me happy. Imparticular, once I felt confusion over what God was asking me to do specifcally for the church. How to get involved in my church (which at the time was other than St. Francis parish). He answered that prayer with a phone call by the Deacon of that church asking if my husband and I would please consider joining his marriage preparation team for engaged couples (which just a year earlier I had refused to do!) Because This involved standing up in front of a group of couples and giving a presentation on a particular topic about 3or 4 times a year. My response, like yours, was OH NO NOT THAT !!! You see I have a horrible horrible fear of speaking infront of large groups. But how could I refuse, God had just answered my prayer (literally with a phone call).And so I picked up that cross. Funny how the cross seems so heavy at first and sometimes it gets lighter as time goes on.

    By Anonymous Seeker of Truth, at 3:57 PM  

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