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Why is there Suffering?

‘And he said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do questions arise in your hearts? See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself.’
Friends in Christ, after his resurrection, Jesus appeared often to his disciples, and it is interesting, that in the first visits to them, he makes it a point to show them his hands and feet. He is showing them the wounds from his crucifixion. The resurrection of Christ is hope for us, because we are supposed to do what Jesus did: rise up on the last day in our own glorified bodies. But there is something else that we must do even before that great day: we must also endure wounds on our hands and feet – or at least, wounds in our life.
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Suffering is part of this life, no one can deny that. There is much suffering in the world, it can even make people question their faith. Young people sometimes ask: ‘How can God allow suffering?’ ‘If God is all good and all powerful, why does he allow this to happen to me, or my brother, or my mother?’ ‘Why does he allow people to be tortured and persecuted?’ ‘Why is there cancer?’ This is one of the great questions. It is called ‘the problem of evil.’
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Now contained in this question are two different types of evil. Physical evil and moral evil. Physical evil is: why does God allow cancer, or earthquakes; why does God allow a person to be attacked by a shark? These are causes of suffering which are due to nature. The other kind of evil is moral evil. Why does God allow a gang member to kill a child in the city, or a person to be treated cruelly in the work place, or a kid to be beaten up by bullies? These are ‘moral evils,’ they are caused directly by sin.
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Atheists often bring up this question: They say: ‘The evil in the world proves there is no God. If God were all powerful and all good, he would not allow suffering.’ So what can we say about this? Well, first let’s say the small things, and then the big thing.
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First, Free-Will:   If God were going to stop the gang member from shooting, if he miraculously stopped the bullet in mid-air; or if, when the bully is going to throw the punch, his arm miraculously would freeze up and in this way, no one would be capable of ever hurting another, well, then we would really be robots controlled by God, there would no longer be free-will. God has given us a great gift: free-will. He wants us to use it to love, but unfortunately we use it sometimes to hate.
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And every parent often feels this same frustration, seeing children use their free-will, not always for good things. They could lock them in a closet for their life, so that they would never get into any problems or get hurt, but that is not freedom. So much suffering and pain and broken hearts come about because we use our free-will to hurt others or ourselves.
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God also allows the devil to exercise his free-will; the devil was the original source of all the moral evil, and the demons create enormous pain in the world by their temptations. So this is one reason that God allows moral evil: free-will. and we must say that he ALLOWS all this, but he does not desire it. It is his permissive will, not his active will. God suffers over the pain of the world, with us – we see that on the cross.
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Another thing for us to consider, is that God can bring good out of evil; he is working on a much larger scale than we are. He can see the long-term effects of things. God is painting a masterpiece that extends over millions of years. If you put your face up close to a painting, you may say: ‘This black smudge is ugly, what a mistake.’ But backing away a distance, one can see that that black spot is an important part of the entire painting.
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For example, a priest friend of mine was visiting a parish and after Mass, he saw a child in a wheel chair, deformed and serverely handicapped; he had a brief thought: ‘Why Lord?!’ Then he met the family after Mass. Great people. The older son was going to be a priest, a sister was going into social work, very kind and wonderful family. He thought: I think I know why – because of that child. We can sometimes see good that comes out of trouble.
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God allows some people to be cruel, irritating, or unkind; but it is just these persons who allow another to be patient, serene, and long-suffering. How can we pray for our enemies unless we have some? For most of us to become a saint, there must be another person in our life – ‘to make us a saint,’ if you know what I mean!!
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God also wants nature to be free. He allows cancer cells to grow in their own way, he allows sharks to do what sharks do and germs to do what germs do. The wind and seas move as they will; the earth’s crust shifts in a freedom all it’s own. For example, earthquakes – under the sea. In the 2004 Sunami, thousands of people died. This tragic event however produced an enormous amount of compassion and aid and generosity on the part of others. ‘But all those people died,’ you say. yes. But that isn’t the end of the story for them, is it? There is a next life. A man and woman were chatting in a barber shop in New York. The TV was on. They saw the devastation from the Sunami. The man shook his head. ‘Life is terrible.’ The woman said, ‘No, life is beautiful, but it’s full of pain.’
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Mother Cabrini always saw suffering and obstacles as evidence that God was going to bring his blessings; when she and her young nuns were to stay their first night in the United States, in an old boarding house, one of the nuns turned down the blanket and screamed, ‘Look at that, they are crawling!’,she said. The sheets and blankets were alive with bedbugs. Mother Cabrini said: ‘My daughters, things like this will happen, but it is a sign that God is going to bless us.’  
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When she visited one of her missions, the sisters there told her: ‘Everything is wonderful here, no problems.’ She wrote in her notes: ‘I became worried about that mission, I wondered if God really was blessing it.’ Suffering, problems, obstacles – the Lord wishes to sanctify us through challenges.
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So what can we say to the atheist about suffering? Let us ask: ‘If there is no God, then what? Then suffering is totally meaningless, then everything is meaningless; that means we are born, we suffer, and we die. that’s it. But that can’t be, we know there is meaning to life. This is why so many young people are in despair today, they don’t see God’s hand in the world. But he is here. St. Paul says: ‘We are heirs with Christ, provided that we suffer with him – that we may also be glorified with him.’
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God has not totally explained the Mystery of suffering, but it is true that God himself has come into the world and has joined himself to our suffering. He didn’t take it away, but he has chosen to be IN all of our pain along with us, giving it meaning; our patience in suffering means that we are helping Jesus save the world, participating in his redemptive work.
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When I was a seminarian, we had to attend some talks at a hospital. Other faiths were there too. One lady was giving a talk, and at one point she told us about a woman with cancer, who refused pain medicine, because she ‘wanted to offer her pain up for her family.’ She had a scowl on her face. The protestant seminarians and clergy laughed and said ‘it’s foolish, she must be convinced to take the pain medicine.’ But we Catholics did not laugh; that lady who was offering her suffering was probably a saint, another Christ, bringing down graces for her family. She got it. She understood suffering and it’s redeeming value.
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God has not taken away suffering, but he has joined into it, with us. In heaven, when the meaning of all things is revealed, after the pain of this life – we will finally see the end of the story. In the end of the story, we will be resurrected with the Lord, and the sufferings of our life that we patiently endured will be the great glories of our life. May the blessed Virgin assist us in all the trials of life, that we may see her glorious face with Jesus, in heaven. Amen.

[Entrusted to the prayers of St. Joseph]

 

Corpus Christi (Procession)

The Procession Ensues

The Procession Ensues

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'That they may see our Faith!'

‘That they may see our Faith!’

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A beautiful day for God

A beautiful day for God

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Stopping at the altars

At the altars

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Come, let us adore Him

Come, let us adore Him

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'And a great crowd of people followed Him...'

‘And a great crowd of people followed Him…’

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You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart...

Let the children come to me…

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You have given them Bread from heaven

You have given them Bread from heaven

 

Novena Pictures

Here are some pictures from the Feast of our Patron!  Holy Mass felt like we were in heaven, and the procession was glorious!!

The Procession begins

The Procession begins

Carrying our Saint

Carrying our Saint

No one got tired

No one got tired

The Ladies Guild marched - and also made food!

The Ladies Guild marched – and also made food!

We concluded in the gym

We concluded in the gym

St. John watching over all

St. John watching over all

Parish Novena to St. John Vianney

Our Novena is beginning, leading up to the feast of our holy patron, St. John Vianney. Let us seek his help and prayers, that the Lord would grant us our requests and our needs.
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JULY 29: TRUE LOVE OF NEIGHBOR
Saint John Marie Baptist Vianney because of your love of God you showed great charity towards your neighbor. You could not preach on the Love of God without burning tears of love. During your last years, it seemed as though you could not talk about any thing else or live for anything else. Thus you sacrificed yourself to your neighbor by consoling, absolving and sanctifying them to the limits of your strength.
Your charity inspires me to greater love of God, a love which is shown more by acts then by words. Help me to love my neighbor generously as Christ loves them.
Holy Priest of Ars, I have confidence in your intercession. Pray for me during this novena especially for …

Summer Course for priests

It is time for my annual summer Course for Priests – the ‘tune-up’ that we all need, spiritually, intellectually, physically. It’s one of the benefits of belonging to the Priestly Society of the Holy Cross: they keep you ‘on track’!

This year we are at this very old home made into a retreat house in California

This year we are at this very old home made into a retreat house in California

Course schedule

Here is our daily schedule

Course lot

On our excursion day, I hope to climb that mountain!

On our excursion day, I hope to climb that mountain!

 

On the Value of Work

Friends in the Lord, Today is Labor Day, and at a time when many suffer from unemployment and worry, let us consider today a few things about work.   
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For the world, work is about producing things, the end-result is all that matters. But for we Christians, we look at work in a much different way.  Work is the means during our day, by which we offer praise to God.  In fact we should praise God in all our activities: in rising, dressing, cooking, playing, and in – working.  
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Work is such a part of us, that we often identify our very self with our work.  I am a mechanic. I am a nurse. I am a homemaker, we say. It’s often a large expression of ourself. For this reason, if we feel little valued at work, we are sad. If we lose our job, we take it personally. Sometimes too personally.  But work is important to us.  
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Fr. Francis Fernandez says,[i] ‘we win heaven by our ordinary work.’  
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Jesus spent 30 years of his life working, and nothing is written about it.  We too, with Christ living in us, offer our daily work to God,  and so to that end, we should do only honest forms of work,  and do it with the greatest perfection possible.  
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Human work done in this manner,  no matter how humble or insignificant it may seem,  helps to shape the world in a Christian way.  
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Enduring with patience those demanding customers; at the job site, returning anger with a kind word –  Every act of goodness that we do and offer, especially the hard ones, makes our work holy, and brings supernatural grace to daily life.  
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The most mundane tasks offered to God, suddenly become valuable. A man cutting grass may decide that the front lawn he will offer for his son, who is going through a difficult time.  And so the man cuts the front yard with perfection.  Grace is brought down to his son, and to himself.  And his work is not done with boredom, but with love.  
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Even the unemployed man should rise on time, and map out a day of work for himself. His main work: looking for a job. Sometimes children come to know their father best when he is out of work, because he has a little more time.  All of these daily offerings are ultimately brought here, to Mass,  to be offered to our Father.   
For Christians, work is not just about results,  because work is OUR way, by which we praise God.    

 

[i] In Conversation with God, Vol 1, p. 344. Info in this homily is from here.

Patronal Feast

The Feast of St. John Vianney. Today was the day we were waiting for, and we were not disappointed. Many came to honor our patron.

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The storm clouds stayed away just long enough
The storm clouds stayed away just long enough

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Parish groups carrying their banners
Parish groups carrying their banners
Careful men, that's a Saint you are carrying!
Careful men, that’s a Saint you are carrying!
The celebration followed - a day for our parish family
The celebration followed – a day for our parish family
Pray for us.
Pray for us.

Summer Workshop

All Christians need on-going formation, in order to keep us close to the Fire. As they say, our spiritual life is like a plant: if it doesn’t grow, it will whither. Ideally, we do a half hour of mental prayer daily, a monthly recollection, an annual retreat, and also a time for intellectual growth.
This summer is our annual priest workshop for the Priestly Society of the Holy Cross; I attended one near Boston this year with about 30 other priests; a time for study and formation, but also a great time to renew fraternal friendships with priests from around the country…

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The classroom
STudy
The chapel here is perfect for prayer
Prayer
… and fun too!
2014-07-03 19.15.39
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Corpus Christi Procession

Corpus Christi: The great Feast of the Body of Christ, the day that we pay reverence to Jesus in the Holy Eucharist.

1 The Procession

Bells are rung as we approach an altar.

2 Procession

Stopping to pray at one of the four altars, beautifully provided by Catholic families

3 Altar

Off again to proclaim our Faith!  Curious neighbors looked on to see our love of Jesus.

4 crowds2

Father carrying Our dear Lord

6 eucharist

Altar boys leading the way. Maybe they will all become priests!

5 Altar boys

The streets could not contain our love

7 Streets could not contain us

The Lord has many loving children on this earth

8 The Crowd

 

 

 

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