Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Why I am glad that "everything happens for a reason"!

I had no idea until recently how emotionally charged is the sentiment, "Everything happens for a reason".

In recent months, a few blog posts have been making the rounds on Facebook and social media blasting the use of the phrase, and even denying the basic truth of it. Here, here, here and here, for starters.

I'm not going to lie -- I've been disturbed down to my bones that even good and faithful Catholics have re-posted or lauded these articles.

Now, a huge caveat: I fully understand that some people are simply decrying the phrase as unhelpful or insensitive in the immediate aftermath of an intense suffering or grief. Indeed, there is much to be said for simply listening to someone in great pain, being present to that person, holding a hand, loving the person through a hard time, and being silent as they grieve or try to cope.

After all, we are all individuals, we all react differently to a crisis or tragedy, and we all need different things to help us in the moment. Recognizing the deeper meaning of something can certainly come later, when the agony starts to lift.

But the outright denial that everything happens for a reason, well that I don't understand. Here is an example of what I've been seeing:

If anyone tells you that all is not lost, that it happened for a reason, that you’ll become better as a result of your grief, you can let them go. 
Let me reiterate: all of those platitudes are bullshit. 
You are not responsible to those who try to shove them down your throat. You can let them go. 

I am left stunned by this. How can this be? How did we get so far from understanding the truth of God's Providence and what it means for us as Christians?

I am fairly certain that none of the authors I linked is Catholic, and I recognize that outside of Catholicism there is no understanding of redemptive suffering, no theology of suffering at all. This in itself is a loss, and a barrier to the true peace and joy that can be ours even in a dark and painful world.

Think about what God has told us about His divine care, down to the last detail: He knew each of us before he knit us in our mothers' wombs. Every hair on our heads has been counted. Not even a tiny sparrow falls to the ground outside of His will. Everything, everything is accounted for in God's Divine Providence.

So how could it possibly be that some things do not happen for a reason? And how could it be that our own trials and sufferings are random, arbitrary, accidental, if the greatest sin and suffering of all, the brutal torture and crucifixion of God Himself, was the very planned, very meaningful instrument of the redemption of the world and our salvation?

How could the world's gravest evil and suffering, i.e., the Cross, have a reason, but yet our lesser sufferings do not?

It's simply not possible.

We know from Christ Himself that God would not give His children a stone when they ask for a loaf of bread. Isn't everything, our joys and our sorrows, given to us by the very Hand of a loving Father? If we are weak and imperfect and do not understand His ways at the moment, does it follow that there is no reason, no purpose to those ways? Of course not.

I don't understand what comfort there could be in believing that God is not all powerful, and that pain and suffering and agony happen to us indiscriminately and incidentally while He watches helplessly? Who could find comfort in a world spinning out of control, "ruled" by a God who only picks up the pieces after the randomness of the moment begins to settle? To my mind, that is incredibly unsettling.

And thankfully, it's untrue.

We are a fearful and anxious people precisely to the extent that we don't understand that a loving Father is in control and that His Providence covers us at every moment.

It is only in total trust, only in total abandonment to God, that we can find true freedom from fear and anxiety, to be graced with the peace that surpasses all understanding. To find Christ's peace and joy is to say, without reservation, "Thy will be done" -- and then to give ourselves over to whatever cross has been fashioned for us by the Lord, for our perfection and sanctification.

This is our Faith.

One of my favorite passages from one of my favorite books is hard for modern Americans to hear:
The distinction between what God wills and what He merely permits is extremely important on the theological level. When it has to do with real life, however, with unavoidable events and our reaction to them, we might wonder if speculation about the difference is not often a subtle form of escapism. If God does not will the evil that befalls me, I do not need to accept it. Then I may in good conscience rebel against it. 

And we know, from the example of Job and the saints, that this rebelling against unavoidable suffering is not the good path. God can be trusted in all things that He places in our lives -- all things. Even in our lowest and most excruciating moments, He knows what He's doing and why. We can be sure that it's always for our good, never for our harm.

I find this teaching on total abandonment to be so comforting, so true and real, that I have ordered my life around it, just as we are all called to do. When I was in my darkest moments, how very comforting and welcome would have been these words from Fr. Jean-Pierre de Caussade:

If God takes away your peace of mind, very well, let it go with the rest; God remains always, and when nothing else is left to you.

This kind of trust, this level of surrender to God's Providence is nothing less than complete freedom. What balm for the soul!

And so, to all my friends and family: When I enter a crucible of suffering again (and I will, as we all will), I give my full and unrestricted permission for you to comfort me with the true and sweet and beautiful words that so many inexplicably decry:

Everything happens for a reason.

Nothing is random.
Nothing is meaningless.
Nothing is out of His plan or His control.

To that I say, praise God!


  1. Beautiful stated! I will share this with many.

  2. If anyone tells you that all is not lost, that it happened for a reason, that you’ll become better as a result of your grief, you can let them go.
    Let me reiterate: all of those platitudes are bullshit.
    You are not responsible to those who try to shove them down your throat. You can let them go.

    Is this guy’s complaint against the timing? Is he just mad about awkward things people say when they feel obligated to say something?

    How does this person tie together the notion of platitudes in general with the conclusion that people who say them are “trying to shove them down someone’s throat"? Bit strong, eh?

    The point is that people typically don’t know what to say so they say something canned, just to offer something because they feel it’s better than nothing. How can he assign motive of “shoving” anything “down throats”? People say flaky things all the time during times of grief. It's human nature. If it’s not the medicine you need to hear, then ignore it gracefully.

    We’ve all been there. People have said the wrong things believing themselves to be helpful. We all know that one person who will try to say something poetic but it comes out all wrong and hurtful. So, let that go. The higher road would be to refrain from judging that person as having bad motivations.

  3. Looking at his context, he opened that linked post with a description. A story was being told about a tragic accident and then a man who had been listening to this emotional tragedy utters this statement, “Everything happens for a reason.”.

    What’s the big deal? Maybe the person listening to that horrible story just felt obligated to say something because it was an emotionally awkward conversation? Maybe they themselves believe that everything happens for a reason, and they thought it would curb the mood of the conversation? I mean… is it this emotionally taxing when someone apparently says ‘the wrong thing’? How many ‘wrong things’ should we keep tabs on? And to hold someone in severed judgement over this and “destroy the myth”? Please. Extend some grace.

    He also said this in the linked post:
    This is why all the platitudes and fixes and posturing are so dangerous: in unleashing them upon those we claim to love, we deny them the right to grieve.

    “Unleashing platitudes”? “Denying a right to grieve”? Really? Can we stop being so melodramatic? I have grieved a plenty. I have never once felt robbed of a right to grieve when someone offered simple words, even if I rolled my eyes when they said them. Even when I was primed to punch their lights out. It’s called, “not a really huge deal”.

    No one “unleashes” and attempts to “deny grieving” as much as they just want to offer some type of something in the very raw moment. Let that go already. Extend some grace for people. I remember the things people said to me in grief, much of it came out wrong and was not medicinal at all. So what? They tried.

    Then he goes into how “some things cannot be fixed. They can only be carried.” No kidding. But the question is, how did we logically get this extraction from a phrase of “everything happens for a reason”? Answer: We didn’t. He is in emotional pain and so ties all of this stuff together and lashes out. People who say “everything happens for a reason” are not, most likely, attempting to “fix” anything.

    The point you make of how or why people have slipped away from understanding the wider context of God truly being in control and, therefore, taking the long-view of circumstances is another point all together. I think the main idea of his post is one of anger because he is in his own personal emotional hell. And I am with you—I am so thankful that I have the gift of faith. Without it, I know exactly the type of person I would be and that alone is reason enough for me to exclaim in jubilation, “I thank you for saving me from the pit of despair, Lord God Almighty.”

  4. Nubby, yes, exactly!! Two things are going on in these posts that I linked:

    1) An emotional reaction to being told a "platitude" (and the resentment or rage that follows)

    2) A denial that "all things happen for a reason".

    Yes, you are right that for the writers (esp. the one you quoted), it's the first point that they are hammering. And you are right... why would someone be so hateful for someone saying something that they *thought* would help, but didn't?

    To me, it bespeaks a person who is most definitely not at peace, and who is pretty darn far away from finding peace. :(

  5. @nubby
    "...Even when I was primed to punch their lights out. "

    Do whatever you have to do.
    St. Nick

    1. Haww!

      Orders affirmative, captain. I'll await your code word: Sorejaw

      And just where in Sam Hill have YOU been, Mister??

    2. 4 month silent retreat. But looking forward to Christmas cheer and drinking enough tainted egg nog to actual channel GK Chesterton.

  6. Chris! You are back! Someone privately asked me where you were? We miss you and want you here. The Chris and Nubby Show. And, the person was waiting for you to comment on the previous post! :)

    1. It was me :) :) :) 4 months of silence?!?! God bless you!!! I can go about 4 seconds without talking haha

  7. In the spirit of Advent, I cannot resist Nubbys "punch" comment in light of the good Bishops example in dealing with poor Arias. And what I'm learning in my MMA class, I'm wondering if anybody knows of another episcopal level example of using a blood choke or arm bar when defending the faith?

    1. Hmm... Knee sweep? Ya know, to make sure they get the postures right for worship... "We're Catholic! Down like this!" Whaap!

    2. Ok , but if aunt Bell pops off about the virgin birth and I go to the knee sweep causing her nog glass to remain suspended in mid air above her new horzontal posture, this will upset everybody in the room. I'll need a good defense like " ya know, Bishop Hammer Toe in the sixth century once leg swept a heretic from the communion line". I need a Holy precedent for moral cover.
      I have been well my friend, just busy.

  8. I agree with the article saying that "not everything happens for a reason" and yet also cherish the teaching of redemptive suffering. I don't think the two oppose eachother as much as you think. It simply isnt true that "everything happens for a reason", a lot of bad things happen in the world because of evil acts of thers, or the death and disease, that are effects original sin. Yet, saying that everything happens for a reason implies that God is causing these evil things, which He is not, as evil is the opposite (or lack of) of the pure good that God is. However, God can bring good out of the bad, which is where redemptive suffering comes in, and why I love it so much, and my pointless suffering can be used for good. So...that's my 2 cents on the matter.

  9. Tomato, but how can that be? Let's set aside that fact that what you say ("everything does not happen for a reason) contradicts our faith, and let me ask you this:

    Did Christ's suffering and death happen for a reason?

    "Yet, saying that everything happens for a reason implies that God is causing these evil things"

    You may feel this, but it actually implies that God is in full control of his universe, and is involved to the point of counting the hairs on our heads. How can anything be without reason to a God such as this? He would never allow anything without a good reason. All has reason.

  10. Thank you Leila for your response. It's not that I feel that it implies God is causing it, but rather what the very definition of "happens" is, which is "to take place, occur" and thw definition of reason which is "a good or obvious cause to do something." Hence, everything happens for a reason is indeed saying God has a good cause for everything that occurs. I think the error is conflating cause and effect. God can bring a good effect of evil without causing it, and thus is in full control.

    Further my argument does not contradict our faith, God is in control, He brings the ultimate good (redemption of the world) out of the bad (man putting God to death). I agree that God allows things for a reason. However that reason may be that we have free will, not because He is causing the evil act.

    Than again, what do I know. I just have a few years of catholic education, not a degree in theology or anything.

  11. "Everything happens for a reason" is basically a proclamation of faith. We either believe in an Author of this messy painful thing we call "life" or not. It's basically an on-going test. There are days that are heavy emotionally and psychologically. That doesn't mean there's not a wider context with God undergirding it all. It just means I face my own limitations as a suffering human-- some days my faith is tested. That's promised to happen. Neither does it mean that believers dance through the tulips of suffering, "Oh, yay! Just YAY! Everything happens for a reason and this suffering is just peachy!" No.

    We all face our own human limitations of faith on any given day. But the guy's post which Leila quoted from is anger directed at this phrase (Everything happens for a reason) and he wants to "destroy the myths" (?) because he feels they're not helpful. Okay, so we must "destroy"? We can't just ignore? There's tons of pain amplified there.

  12. Tomato, I'm not sure I'm following you completely (my fault), but I am very sure that what the linked authors are saying (explicitly) is that things happen randomly, without reason, willy-nilly, and then somehow God helps us handle the fallout of those crazy, arbitrary things. That is not true, not true, not true. We believe in God's Providence, and that all of it, all of it, is part of His plan, even if we don't see how or why. Even if we are in great pain, even if part of that plan includes the sinful (willful) acts of others, which God has put at the service of His plan. That is why we needed be worried or freaked out or out-of-control when bad things happen.

    What the authors of the pieces are saying ("some things don't happen for a reason") contradicts our Faith.

  13. I think there is a lot mixing of two things:
    1. God’s ordaining will (like the Incarnation)
    2. God’s permitting will (like abortion)
    If something horrific happens to you or your family it is not necessarily God’s ordaining will. Why would God permit it then? Why would God permit any evil? It’s the whole problem of evil which is a lot to get into.

    1. That's why this statement (below) is so important. Most Christians are not theologians. That is why abandonment is so key to spirituality. We don't need to take so much energy trying to figure out (Is this God's will? Do I fight this cross? Do I get to resent this cross?)

      "The distinction between what God wills and what He merely permits is extremely important on the theological level. When it has to do with real life, however, with unavoidable events and our reaction to them, we might wonder if speculation about the difference is not often a subtle form of escapism. If God does not will the evil that befalls me, I do not need to accept it. Then I may in good conscience rebel against it."

      The spiritual masters say no.... We accept our crosses as if from the hand of God. Peace comes.

    2. Hi Leila -- I'm new to comment here, though I've been following your posts for a couple of years now. Yours is the only blog I've ever followed, and I am always uplifted by it! :)

      I am 100% behind the idea of redemptive suffering, and of abandonment to God's will in accepting all that comes to us, both the good and the evil. I do think, though, that the quote above doesn't account for those people who will accept the evil that God permits as a cross -- knowing however that He didn't ordain it, because it is evil.

      It is so very important when tragedy befalls us to know that God is truly Good and loving and will support us. I can understand that there is evil in our world because of free will, and I fully accept that because of this God will allow evil to affect me, and then He will give me the grace I need to get through it. But to say that just trying to distinguish between something God actively ordains and evil that he permits is a kind of escapism or trying to "get out of" the cross doesn't seem to fit everyone. I believe there are many Catholics and Christians out there that know the difference and still accept their crosses with obedience.

  14. I did not read the links. My husband lost a sibling when she was hit by a car at 13. I consider my mother-in-law to be a very faithful Catholic. She's my role model. She has shared with me that it was very hurtful when people said the accident "happened for a reason". I never say it. I stay safe with "I'm sorry". "I'm sorry" always works when I'm in a situation like that and don't know what to say.

    I think it takes time to get to a place to accept certain things like a death of a child or even the death of someone else that you love. For every person that time is different.

    My personal redemption suffering isn't something I'd want to discuss anyone that I'm not very close to.

  15. Liza, that is terribly tragic, and in no way was I implying in my post that death and suffering is not real or incredibly painful. They don't call this a valley of tears for nothing.

    Primarily, this post was not about how to talk to people when they are in grief (although I have told everyone what I hope they say to me!). It was mostly about how shocking it is that these articles, which deny God's loving Providence, are believed and promulgated by good Catholics. That is tragic, truly. The only thing that brings peace is total abandonment to Divine Providence. We should be able to speak that very beautiful truth, because it is our faith. I would never say that to someone in the moment (unless I knew that they would find it comforting, like me), but if years go by and the bitterness and resentment remain (like those who wrote these articles), then they gently should be told that God is fully in control and can be trusted. That abandonment and surrender are the keys to peace. Every saint has written on this.

  16. Thanks. I needed this. I am 8 weeks pregnant with a baby not measuring correctly (2 weeks behind). I spend most of my days glued to the couch because I spot or cramp if I do anything. Even with Napro intervention, the odds look grim. We will find out Friday morning if this baby is even alive with a 2nd ultrasound. And if he/she is, it doesn't mean he/she is healthy. I have spent the past 9 days suffering. Not like woe is me. Just sad. Praying and sad. The only comfort I have found is knowing that somehow God is still here and working. And also offering up this awful season for others. It's all I have.

    1. So sorry for your pain. Thank you for sharing this with us. Please accept my prayers to God on your behalf.

    2. Prayers, Sarah. I have lived that cross and it is so incredibly painful.

  17. Prayers, Sarah.

    Leila, I experienced this most concretely when I had to go back to work full time when my firstborn was 9 weeks old. And I had never even toyed with the idea of being a working mom. It was totally against what I thought was best for me and my son. Was it God's active will that circumstances worked out that way? I certainly did not think so then and I still question it now (although I don't really care any more one way or another). But it wasn't until I accepted it as covered by His permissive will, as something He wanted me to accept because I couldn't change, that I found peace. And it was immediate! It doesn't mean that the situation was suddenly fun. But it was suddenly bearable, because God was bearing the yolk with me. It is incredibly freeing and healing to accept the crosses God gives us. But it's also incredibly hard to take that step.

  18. Sarah, oh my goodness I'm so sorry! I will keep you and baby in my prayers!

    Connie, yes, that's it! It's not easy or pain-free, but that acceptance brings instant peace and a lifting of a great burden.

  19. Ben, I want to clarify. I am definitely a crazy nut for doctrine and good theology, and I spent years getting so excited about the differences, theologically, between God's active will versus His permissive will. It was like this huge revelation and I was giddy. It is worthwhile and important. But I've shifted gears to the nuts and bolts of everyday Christian living, and that's where, as the passage says, it is not important to know which is which. It's not even something we can really discern in our own lives, and the attempt to do so just slows us down and messes us up. Either way, active or permissive, the answer is to accept as if it comes directly from the Hand of God, just as Christ accepted His Cross, His Passion, His Suffering and Death. He knew that the Cup He was offered came from (and could have been taken away by) His Father in Heaven. Ultimately, the obedience was directly toward the Father. There was no middle man: It was all between Christ and His Father. So, that's how it is in the spiritual life, in the trenches (outside of the academics of it).... it's best, and it's a direct line to peace and joy, to accept our joys and our sufferings as if they came directly for us from the Hand of our Loving Father.

    I hope that makes sense. I think it's just so simple and beautiful.

    1. Good stuff!
      One caution about "it is not important to know which is which."
      If there is no distinction ever made in ones mind I think it can lead to the heresy of "predestination".
      Have a good Christmas!

    2. Ben, here you will need to help me out, because the Protestant heresy of predestination (Calvinism) is such a mystery to me. It's so outlandish. I think that topic (predestination) refers to the destination of one's eternal soul, specifically, right? So, each of us is created either going to heaven or going to hell, that is predestined, and nothing we do can change that course (outrageous!!). But I'm not sure how that is related to this topic?

      And yes, theologically, the distinction between God's active will and permissive will is so important. But if we are faced with *unavoidable* suffering, we simply pick up that cross and walk in obedience as Jesus did (most Christians cannot be and have not been theologically astute to that level). If it's unavoidable by any moral means, then God himself has made it unavoidable. What, then, is our response?

      I think predestination is a whole other topic. But as I said, I'm definitely not learned on that subject, so I am open to correction! :)

  20. Hi Leila, aren't we still called to fight evil, even physically? I mean both moral evil (which you fight with your blog) and physical evil such as an illness. These "crosses" surely must not be accepted until we have exhausted all options to combat them?

    How do you explain Luke 6:29 "To anyone who slaps you on one cheek, present the other cheek as well; to anyone who takes your cloak from you, do not refuse your tunic."

  21. Very interesting to think of. I've only read the first linked article so far and I agree with other commenters. "Sanctimonious porn" when someone tries to say something comforting? Gosh, relax, buddy. There are, in fact, times when it is comforting to think that "everything happens for a reason."

    At the same time, this is something I struggle with. I would really have to say that God can work with anything to bring about good. That is an important thought for me and is absolutely true. But to say the original event had a "reason"? Sometimes the reason is evil, like when we sin or someone sins against us. Sometimes the reason is something outside our control, like cancer that can't be cured. When my nephew took his own life in spite of prayers upon prayers from his mother, it wasn't because God had a reason for that. It was because he suffered from drug and alcohol addiction, and, not unlikely, because he had an undiagnosed mental illness and had been using drugs and alcohol to self-medicate. If I think of a "reason" for his death, I think it's one of those two reasons. I do think that in such cases, it's important to find out what the reason is, so we can fix it for the next person.

    It's too bad that there is such suffering in the world. I wish there weren't. The author of that article obviously has suffered and still bears the scars from events in his life. We all do. We're just not going to be completely healed this side of heaven, and we're going to understand a whole lot more about suffering once we get there. In the meantime, we have to find a way to deal with the sadness. Sometimes "everything happens for a reason" is helpful, and sometimes it isn't. That's my take on it, anyhow.

  22. @Sarah

    I'll keep you and your family in my prayers. I've been in a similar situation. May God be with you during this time.

  23. @Sebastian

    In cases of illness or disability, I tend to think the cross is the bearing/fighting of the hardship.

    To me, the key is you can't quit. You can't just wait to die. You can't just sink into depression. You can't grieve to the point of all else for what you lost forever.

    Debilitating grief is and should always be temporary.

  24. I personally believe that everything happens for a reason. On the other hand i also experienced that if you try to say something like this to somebody that is not religious and is going through a time of suffering, the person easily gets annoyed and hurt. I think in general we tend to comfort people using words that comforted us but if the context is very different (i.e. Not Catholic) people could feel that we are forcing our own vision of the world on them.

  25. I'm glad you posted this. I've been seeing this fly around my Facebook too. It is very difficult to know how to reply.

    The reality of it is hardship is often a catalyst for growth. It is what helps us mature, have empathy and have gratitude. Is it really that far-fetched to believe hardship also has redemptive value spiritually?

    I don't think these posters really understand the dangerous idea they are spreading. To insist that human suffering has no meaning is to spread despair. Sure, if all you have is a handful of devastating losses in your life it is easier to brush them off. But if you have string after string of losses and terrible luck in your life and people tell you there is no other meaning to life other than it is nasty, brutish and short. Well....that's not going to end well.

    I try not to count my woes but occasionally I wonder how stubborn, how prideful, how wicked my soul must be that God sends me so many opportunities to correct my flawed ways. Then I laugh, because after all He made me. I get up and keep trying.

    But I honestly don't think I would want to know me if I really believed there was no value in hardships. I'd probably be a terrible person who does terrible things.

  26. There are two ideas floating around in the comments about the phrase in question:

    1) If someone flippantly says, "Everything happens for a reason" and their choice of timing and tact is awful, then we can agree it's not the most compassionate choice. However, to declare a war on such phrases (per the article linked) is absurd.

    2) If someone uses the phrase in a wider conversation about the meaning of life or reasons for suffering, then it can be applied broadly as a way to show faith.

    The point isn't to be flippant with the phrase. The point is that there is truth to the logic of it-- even if we want to argue the details (whether the "reason" be original sin or human failing or trial by fire, etc.).

    People with or without faith sometimes don't want to hear this. People in pain definitely don't want to hear it. But to declare battle against such sayings? That's anger speaking. And it leads me to an opinion of the lack of critical thinking we see everywhere, which I'll probably get to later. Leila is good about trying to get back to bottom-tier reasoning. I think that's the main thrust of each post lately- from the Yale kids outburst, to the insulting bumper sticker, to this... I think we need to critique some thinking here.

  27. Agreed, Nubby!

    I think it is spreading around Facebook because everyone has experienced someone saying something awkward and flippant at times of loss. That's never fun.

    But the first post Leila links isn't talking about the flippant comments. That's what makes it so hard to reply too, the post doesn't mean what the person sharing it "thinks" it means.

    And it is Facebook....try to explain that and you'll lose half the audience or you'll get called down for being a horrible, callous person yourself because _obviously_ that's not what the Facebook reposter meant! Golly!

    So we let these insidious lies spread. So frustrating!

    Can we weaponize Nubby and send her after them? Ha ha!

  28. Hi Leila, aren't we still called to fight evil, even physically? I mean both moral evil (which you fight with your blog) and physical evil such as an illness. These "crosses" surely must not be accepted until we have exhausted all options to combat them?

    Sebastian, that's right, and it's why I made sure to use the word "unavoidable" suffering.... If we can avoid pain and suffering, or overcome illness, we are free to do so (using only moral means, of course). Does it mean we must always, always, always avoid suffering if it comes and there is a remedy? No, of course not. If someone wants to sit with a dying aunt even though it makes them suffer (PTSD, perhaps?), they may certainly choose to! Or if someone wants to go and fight a just war, or if someone wants to suffer for some other good cause, they don't *have* to avoid all evil and suffering. But no one is required to suffer everything that comes his or her way, nope.

    How do you explain Luke 6:29 "To anyone who slaps you on one cheek, present the other cheek as well; to anyone who takes your cloak from you, do not refuse your tunic."

    It is a noble thing! No problem there. I'm not sure it applies to the original post. (I admit, it's early here, help me out!)

  29. Nubby, yes!! I fear that many people are not reading the whole article (or the caveat) or glossing over them. There are two things going on, as you stated.

    Sharon, I have to go back to the fact that not even a sparrow falls to the ground without the Father's knowledge, outside of His will (permissive or active). So, that encompasses all that happens. He would not allow anything to happen that is without reason. Why does God permit evil? He has a reason, every time, and it's always to bring about a greater good. Our part in it, our sins, and even our grave sins, always are working at the service of His Plan, even when we don't realize it (and even when people are trying to work against Him). That is so comforting!

  30. “There is a mother who is embroidering. Her son, sitting on a low stool, sees her work, but upside down. He sees the knots of the embroidery, the tangled threads and says, ‘Mother, what are you doing? Your work is not at all clear.’ The mother lowers the embroidery frame and shows the good part of her work, each color in its place and the variety of threads forming a harmonious design. We are seeing the reverse side of the embroidery; we are sitting on the low stool.” - St. Padre Pio

  31. "I don't think these posters really understand the dangerous idea they are spreading. To insist that human suffering has no meaning is to spread despair."

    Marie, exactly! If disaster and death are meaningless and random, then we are spinning out of control. And if God only picks up the pieces after a disaster, then we are still left to the wolves for most of our worst moments, with no reason or rhyme to it. That is not comforting. And if that is true, if things do NOT happen for a reason, then either God is not all-good or He is not all-powerful. Either option is unthinkable, and that is not our God!

  32. Ha- The weapon is the brain, Marie. Hit Fakebook threads on these kinds of topics with logic. Fight in the spirit of the retorts, right? Throw some cold water on their emotion. Maybe they'll be able to understand clearly for the first time what a processed thought should actually look like and reflect.

    Here's a general comment aimed at these emotionally generated posts, articles, threads, tweets, etc.:

    I see people (authors and commenters) that have all these pockets of information in front of them, all kinds of information in their hands, but they cannot analyze. Literally, they cannot. They cannot marry two concepts together accurately. They operate like a run-on sentence: Dah, dah, dah, to dah, dahdahdah, dahahahahahaha-- and into left field we go. It’s like walking the curb but never making a straight path home.

    There’s no break in the thinking. There’s no gathering the logic to tie this thought to that one, or to untie them if they don’t belong together. It’s just feelings and writing at the same time, like a diatribe in a diary. “I feel this, this, this, this, this- the end.”

    This displays the reality that people are not forming analytical reasoning anymore. There’s no cogency of thought—there’s just the beginning of a thought and then the reactive feeling to that portion, while fingers strike keys. It’s like the emotional sandbox is an entertaining place to play so let’s just all hang out there and emote. Hey, that’s great therapy, but it’s not terribly coherent.

    So what do we do to shed some light? We give them sound bites of logic. Go straight for the bottom level foundation of the thought. It’s the best witness because of the medium involved and it gives people something easy to mull over when they’re offline. I really believe Catholics would do well to teach thought when we comment. Not just for apologetics of the faith, but overall argumentation and delivery of content in sound bite fashion. Would educate thousands.

    In this case, the phrase in question, "Everything happens for a reason" is somehow offensive. Right away, it needs to be tabled for discussion. Offensive how? When? Why? Break it down to foundation. What's the theory at work that suddenly makes this 'offensive'? The theory that "my feelings are hurt"? Okay, then break that down sensibly... etc. I just follows a line of thought that people never consider.

  33. I have a question I'd like to propose to you Nubby, Leila and the rest of the readers of this blog.

    I absolutely agree with Nubby's plan of attack using logic. But as it has come up on the blog before not everyone is willing to engage or even honest enough to admit there is an issue there. It is very easy for them to just shout "That's not what I meant!" or some variation and you never really get a chance to get into what was wrong with the post.

    I love Nubby's emoting sandbox imagery. I think most of us can agree the public sphere has become a very large Sandbox where everyone feels free to just spout off whatever they think. That freedom to just emote has promoted a lot of evil. It ties into Leila's ball bearing post where most people will just go where the culture takes them.

    There are some who are proposing that if we cannot get people to honestly engage with us we have a duty to silence them. That they are unknowing/unwilling/uncaring agents of the enemy and we can't let them stand unopposed.

    It has been suggested that those on the side of Truth and logic fight fire with fire. We use rhetoric rather than logic to defeat them.

    While this may not convert them, it destroys the Public Emoting Sandbox and stems the promotion of evil. It might even encourage people to start to use more logic to think through things and defend their arguments.

    Most of us find rhetoric to be a distasteful tactic. We prefer logic and prefer an honest, straight forward debate.

    I'm on the fence myself. I'm starting to see it as a choice between graceful losing or a small chance at victory.

    That being said....maybe we are suppose to lose (for now.)

  34. There are some who are proposing that if we cannot get people to honestly engage with us we have a duty to silence them.

    I’d never agree with silencing anyone. I want to hear their thoughts out loud. I want to wade through them either aloud with an audience who is perhaps interested and reading along, or on my own because I enjoy the mental exercise.

    That they are unknowing/unwilling/uncaring agents of the enemy and we can't let them stand unopposed.

    We can always put forth a good argument, but no sense in getting paranoid over ideas of “agents of the enemy”. I try to respect people a little better than that.

    It has been suggested that those on the side of Truth and logic fight fire with fire. We use rhetoric rather than logic to defeat them.

    We can use both. We should. Rhetorical methods, in the strictest sense, can be used to persuade or to prompt an immediate response. Either way, it pushes dialogue and it always includes logic. Driving away from the emotional edge is where we want to go, but we can do that with passion. It doesn't mean we're either scornfully rhetorical or robotically logical. It means we find the style that fits the person we're arguing and tailor it accordingly, so to speak.

    Also, I don’t see it as you see it: a choice between losing or gaining small victory. I see it as a way to generate conversations that are robust and not the usual 140 character emotional tweets we see in our cyber world of today. Not every conversation need be won or lost, per se, maybe it just has to happen and unfold from there.

    I also truly believe we need to know our own gifts. Not everyone is gifted to think the same way, but we can all learn how to think, even if we don’t debate. Leila generously gives us all a platform to do this out loud and it can possibly aid in someone’s conversion, at least intellectually. Ultimately, that's God's work. Personally, I comment to illustrate the thinking as I see it. If God wants to use that to help others, then amen.

  35. "We can always put forth a good argument, but no sense in getting paranoid over ideas of “agents of the enemy”. I try to respect people a little better than that."

    And yet we all chuckle at the story of St. Nick punching someone.

    As for agents of evil, the Church herself speaks out again Enemies of the Church. They exist whether we want to acknowledge them or not.

    I appreciate your viewpoints so thank you for sharing them.

  36. I think you hit the nail on the head when said scornful. That's exactly it.

    So my question is, is it sinful to be scornful?

    I'm not sure it is. We are scornful of Satanism, of murders, liars and cheats. Why should we not be scornful of those who are too lazy to use their God-given brains to analyze what they are saying and promoting? Especially since that laziness is contributing to the deaths of millions of the unborn and the deterioration of our ethics?

    Please understand, when I say silence I mean shout them down. Not take away any legal or other rights. I also believe if they came back with honest questions and analysis we shouldn't be scornful but instead engage and try to instruct.

  37. Marie,
    I laugh at the punching story of St. Nick because it's a running joke around here. I also laugh at punching because I know my own temperament. I also think a sense of humor is healthy. It's just a joke and not at all how I really feel about loving people. Don't you ever feel like socking someone?

  38. Why should we not be scornful of those who are too lazy to use their God-given brains to analyze what they are saying and promoting? Especially since that laziness is contributing to the deaths of millions of the unborn and the deterioration of our ethics?

    Because scorn isn't the way of the Master. Right?

    I get your exasperation here, but ... our example isn't scornful. It's open arms for all on a Cross. That's the tough part, right.

  39. Believe me, I'm just as exasperated as you. I guess the real question to ask ourselves is, "Why do I engage these people?" My answer cannot include scorn. It can include instruction and even frustration but not shouting down anyone like the Yale students did to their dean, right.

  40. sjneg:

    "I believe there are many Catholics and Christians out there that know the difference and still accept their crosses with obedience."

    Yes, so ultimately they are accepting, period. They have surrendered, period. That's the simple thing of it. I know that there is a theological difference between what God actively wills and what he permissively wills. But in my life, does it matter which is which? I don't event think about that anymore. I just know that if suffering must be borne, I will bear it, and it's given by God for my sanctification. So, the person who bears all things for Christ is not trying to escape or look for loopholes, it's true. But enough people are (I hear it every single day... "This is not God's will!" "I need to seek and find God's will for me!") that it needs to be gently exposed. People try so hard to leave their crosses instead of picking them up with grace. Or, they resist and resent the crosses in their lives. That's the escapism that becomes a spiritual danger to many. Not to all, but to many.

    1. And I am not disregarding what you said, as it's very true. I'm just agreeing, and adding that the thought about escapism was not absolute, for sure. But it is pervasive.

  41. Christ overturned tables, St. Nick punching isn't funny just because it is a running joke. Parents/siblings/friends use exasperation and scorn to mold us. Societal taboos are based, in part, in shame and scorn.

    It is a tactic that is often used, arguably it has been used by the Church.

    The way I see it the question "Why do I engage" has four possible answers.

    1. I don't and therefore do nothing.
    2. I use logic, which in my experience is ineffective
    3. I use rhetoric including scorn for its own sake- Which would be evil and wrong.
    4. I use rhetoric including scorn in the hopes it helps people come to their senses and see that shouting people down or refusing to think things through is not a good path.

    I would really rather not use scorn or rhetoric. But I'm unsure if it is because it would be wrong to do so or if I am trying to protect my reputation and image as a "nice" person. I'd much rather be sweet but where's the line between being loving and coddling and enabling?

  42. Sharon, I think that suicide is the hardest suffering of all, for those who are left behind to grieve and wonder why. It's the thing that forces us, more than anything else, to trust in a loving God and know that all is well in His plan, whatever that may be.

  43. Marie, quick question (I am not classically educated, but I have a little knowledge of it): Why is rhetoric bad?

  44. Christ overturned tables, St. Nick punching isn't funny just because it is a running joke. Parents/siblings/friends use exasperation and scorn to mold us. Societal taboos are based, in part, in shame and scorn.

    It is a tactic that is often used, arguably it has been used by the Church.

    Hold on a second.
    Two things:
    1) I was not molded with exasperation and scorn. So that’s not a good generalization. Scorn is not the right treatment to help anyone grow and learn. Are you equating scorn with healthy discipline?

    2) And look logically: You’re wanting an excuse to heap scorn on your neighbor. Right? How, logically, does this bring kingdom come? You’re trying to make your neighbor (therefore, Christ in him) feel small, shamed, guilty, wrong, and unrighteous. Right? They’re already guilty of that without the extra drizzle, right?

    God, on the other hand, elevates, exalts, forgives.
    Big. Diff.

    I hear you. I get your frustration. But how will this outlook help you inherit heaven? Scorn is what was heaped upon Christ. To continue to scorn people in the here and now is to continue to scorn the Lamb. See? Logic.

    I’m saying this with love: I hear your emotion and I empathize, believe me. But we cannot allow ourselves an excuse to start letting exasperation get the better of us because that boils over into an excuse to hate our neighbor. And that’s a numero uno No-no.

    1. Just had to say that I love "the extra drizzle" as you used it here.

  45. Nubby- I'm not taking any offense at all. I'm genuinely asking because the argument is tempting. I'm very grateful both you and Leila are letting me ask.

    I am defining separating scornful feelings and scornful actions. What I mean is I don't believe you can have scorn in your heart for a person and be in the right. But scoffing at someones argument or showing it is ridiculous can be a scorn act even if your heart isn't scornful. Does that make any sense at all?

    Would it still be bad to use even if it isn't really scornful? It'll lead to hurt feelings?

    Leila- I don't know that it is bad. It is a method of persuasion base more on emotion than logic. It can be very useful to show people the extremes of their argument. I think we all use rhetoric a bit.

    What was proposed to me is a much more extreme use of rhetoric that is less about persuading an individual speaker but more a group.

    It will lead to hurt feelings but I don't think that is sinful in itself.

  46. " Are you equating scorn with healthy discipline?"

    Possibly. I remember eye rolling (from friends) or snorts (form siblings) and looks (from parents) that caused me to pause and rethink my comments. Some of those did veer into scorn. Which could just be bad acts on their parts.

    But what about societal taboos? A lot of their power comes from scorn and shame. Or am I barking up the wrong tree?

    1. Scorn is too strong of a word because it's tied to human value. You mean mocking, belittling arguments. I understand. Don't think it's wise, but I understand.

  47. "I hear you. I get your frustration. But how will this outlook help you inherit heaven? Scorn is what was heaped upon Christ. To continue to scorn people in the here and now is to continue to scorn the Lamb. See? Logic."

    Very interesting point.

    But neither God nor we are required to forgive the unrepentant sinner. How can we elevate or exalt someone who unapologetically advocates murder of innocents, the destruction of marriage, the debasing of fellow humans?

    In my mind, Christians in the past took up arms over what they believed to be sins against God. They killed people over it. And I am hesitating to hurt someone's feelings?

  48. But neither God nor we are required to forgive the unrepentant sinner. How can we elevate or exalt someone who unapologetically advocates murder of innocents, the destruction of marriage, the debasing of fellow humans?

    But again, hold on. I don’t mean we elevate what they do. I mean that we simply remember whose image they are made in. It’s not what we or they do, action-wise. It’s who we inherently are. Whose die cast are we made in? Who cast the mold? Not us, right. We cannot forget that. My mold is your mold is his mold is her mold is God.

    In my mind, Christians in the past took up arms over what they believed to be sins against God. They killed people over it. And I am hesitating to hurt someone's feelings?

    I hear your passion and fighting spirit, but if you're all about bringing your own idea of justice and righteousness to those who don’t understand or don’t care, then that means you're responsible for doling out the kicks to the head, right. Just picture the questions that follow that line of thought…

    How many would be appropriate? 5? 10? Til he blacks out? What's a good number? You'll have to know these things when you stand before God and give reason as to why you let your own version of justice fly. Just to be clear here.

    Scorn and contempt are traps. You'd be turning into what you mentioned above-- an uncaring/unknowing agent of the enemy. Right? I think if we get too exasperated, we need a break. I think our focus needs to stay on the idea of reasonable thought processes and intellectual understanding, and not a focus on “the irritating people out there that just don’t get it”. Agree?

  49. Let me just say that I understand your desire is to mock their argument as a wake up call. Just shine the brightest way you know how. People will see that light and come to it. If arguing or debating gets too emotional for you, then maybe consider staying out of it a while. We have to guard against getting lathered up at idiocy. Trust me, I know the

  50. Thanks Nubby, you are a good sounding board.

    I was mainly asking about scornful rhetoric because I know it is easy to descend into that and it is often perceived that way even if you don't mean it to be scornful.

    It is worth noting to anyone reading that rhetoric does not HAVE to be scornful. I'm merely asking about it because of some of the examples I have seen.

    I think to use rhetoric effectively (and properly) you must have a very strong leash on your emotions since rhetoric's power lies in emotions. With logical it is much easier to keep your emotional distance.

    If Nubby or anyone has any other thoughts I would be interested in hearing them.

    I have to admit I was fully expecting the "Get thee behind me, Satan" response so I appreciate the discussion. Sorry to hi-jack the thread.

  51. Marie, you said, But neither God nor we are required to forgive the unrepentant sinner.

    I dispute this. Am I only required to forgive the people who repent? Then I have a lot of hurts I could be holding onto right now. Where does the Bible or the Church say this? Jesus and St. Stephen and St. Maria Goretti are famous for forgiving those who had not repented. You're saying this is optional?

  52. Also, Christ overturned tables. But Christ is god. He reads human hearts. He was the rightful Judge of the people selling in the temple. You and I are not the rightful Judge. We are often wrong about which of are opponents are open, what they are thinking, feeling, what in their background may be effecting them, etc. We have to be careful of saying that because Jesus did a thing it is perfectly okay for us to do it too. That's not always the case.

    1. Indeed, he can flip tables all He wants because He is operating in perfect justice and righteousness. We aren't.

  53. Thanks Nubby, you are a good sounding board. No prob. It was good. You've used my nickname IRL. lol Glad if it helps.

    Yes, Connie, I was just going to hit on that idea of forgiveness, too. We pray the Our Father and ask for forgiveness "as we forgive those who trespass against us"... for this reason. It's directly proportional to our ability to inherit Heaven. Can't get in without forgiveness extended even to those who never ask us for our forgiveness. It is a huge requirement.

  54. Sebastian, on turning the other cheek:

    I wrote a section on the Spiritual Works of Mercy for my current book A Spiritual Growth Plan for Your Phlegmatic Child. I dealt with this question under Bearing Wrongs Patiently. Here is what Aquinas said about turning the other cheek:

    Holy Scripture must be understood in the light of what Christ and the saints have actually practiced. Christ did not offer His other cheek, nor Paul either. Thus to interpret the injunction of the Sermon on the Mount literally is to misunderstand it. This injunction signifies rather the readiness of the soul to bear, if it be necessary, such things and worse, without bitterness against the attacker. This readiness our Lord showed, when He gave up His body to be crucified. That response of the Lord was useful, therefore, for our instruction.[In John 18, lect. 4, 2.]

    Then I go on to explain:

    In other words, if we can resist evil, if we can protect ourselves from another person’s literal or figurative blows without seeking revenge, we should. Jesus did not turn the other cheek when the high priest struck him, but admonished him for his sin, which broke the Law of Moses. Then Jesus bore scourging and being crowned with thorns patiently. He forgave those who crucified him. At each point, he had to discern what action would further the Father’s purpose.

    As I said earlier, bearing wrongs patiently sometimes seems to conflict with admonishing the sinner. The phlegmatic should learn to ask, “What would benefit my opponent most? My remaining silent or my speaking up?” If someone commits a minor sin against him—one that does not greatly damage their relationship—bearing it without comment is often best. Sins that fall outside the three conditions for admonishing the sinner are also often best overlooked.

    Wrongs are not always sins. They can also be misunderstandings or errors of judgment. Does charity or justice demand that the phlegmatic explain or defend himself? Or will silence better accomplish God’s will? These are questions you can help your phlegmatic child explore.

    Hope that helps.

  55. Luke 17:3 "Be on your guard! If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him." The next line states if your brother sins against you 7 times he should apologize 7 times.

    That being said. Of course we can forgive people if they are not unrepentant and there are plenty of reasons to do so including your own mental health.

    But it is fairly common for people to heap abuse on Christians and then demand forgiveness without changing a thing. I've been told in those circumstances we are not required to forgive although we may if we want.

  56. I was also told there are parts and steps to forgiveness. It is a process and not always immediate. You can work towards forgiveness.

    What I am remembering about that conversation was when someone asks for forgiveness it ought to speed the process up in a hurry.

    Whereas if they are unrepentant and especially if they are continuing to sin we should work towards forgiveness.

  57. Leila and Connie, thank you for answering (and sorry for my late answer, I wasn't able to write earlier). I am much preoccupied with the evil of ISIS these days, and believe that we have a duty to fight it, for the good of all concerned. It was good that Leila reminded me that she wrote only of unavoidable suffering that we must not rebel against. I completely agree.

    I asked about Luke 6:29 in this context because it's a hard teaching, and I do not believe we should turn the other cheek to ISIS. Connie beautifully explains: his injunction signifies rather the readiness of the soul to bear, if it be necessary, such things and worse, without bitterness against the attacker. This readiness our Lord showed, when He gave up His body to be crucified.

    This is what the Trappist monks in the film "Of Gods and Men" did (real story), what a number of priests did who remained in Syria despite being implored to leave for their own safety, and who were eventually brutally murdered. What the young Coptic men on the beach in Libya did, who would rather die, with the words "Jesus is Lord" on their lips, than deny Christ, which is what they were asked to do to be spared. Courage is the key word in both instances, it is what Christ (obviously...) and the early Christians had in abundance, and what we coud use more of today.

  58. Stating, "If he repents, forgive him," is not the same thing IMHO as saying, "If he doesn't repent, you can hold his sin against him." The Catechism's teaching on forgiveness can be found here:

    It seems to me that no condition is being put on forgiveness in the Catechism or in many other passages of Scripture. I have found some blog posts arguing that we don't have to forgive the unrepentant (several at Catholic Answers), but none of them quotes anything stating positively that there are some situations in which we are not obligated to forgive. To me, this is to important an issue--if I want God to forgive me--to base my actions solely on negative evidence.

  59. Conni- I'm asking a priest. I see no reason why "if he repents" would be included if it wasn't important. Most of my comments are based on a conversation with a priest on forgiveness but it was a long time ago I might have misunderstood.

    I'll let you know when he replies, even if he skewers me. :-)

    Just to warn you, I have no idea when that would be. It is a busy season for them. :-)

  60. I have never heard that we may not forgive the unrepentant. My understanding has been that we forgive all. How could it be otherwise? We are measured by the measuring stick we use.

    When we pray, "Lead all souls to heaven, especially those in most need of Thy mercy", whom are we talking about? It has to be the worst of the worst. So, we are praying this but not forgiving them in our hearts? We are still binding them? I don't understand that. Forgiveness is as much for our own souls as others' souls, no?

  61. Sebastian, yes, we are to vanquish evil where we can. My thought about Jesus' words is to remember that what we offer personally (our other cheek) is not what we would do if that same person came and slapped our wife or our baby, or threatened them. I don't think that Jesus would say, "If someone attacks your wife, go ahead and stand back and watch it happen." But if we want to suffer for Christ personally, we are certainly allowed! :)

    If I'm missing something, let me know. Still nursing the migraine and I have to go to a high school choir concert now.... Lord have mercy.

  62. "We are measured by the measuring stick we use. "

    But it is the same measuring stick.

    We all agree we are required to repent and turn away from sin to get God's forgiveness, right? It doesn't matter if we forgive every slight against us without an apology, we are still required to repent.

    Now, if you refuse to forgive that can lead you to terrible places and to other sins. You can't seek revenge or be spiteful.

    If someone begs your forgiveness and you refuse, I think God will hold that against you.

    This is largely an academic distinction but I am wondering if we are confusing a prudent course of action with an obligation.

    Like I said, I'm asking a priest to see if he can clarify. Anyone else have any sources? This obviously is a question that has come up before.

  63. I'm being totally honest here, it's never been a question that has come up for me. I have never heard that we are allowed not to forgive someone. So, I'm intrigued, but sort of baffled by this idea.

  64. I forgot to hit "publish" on my last comment. I am going to try to dig a bit more on this topic of forgiveness. My experience is that a lot of well-meaning priests give bad advice because they are just going by their opinion. I'm looking for some authority. We can't be forgiven if we don't forgive, so just how far that forgiveness must extend is not a trivial issue.

  65. I've heard it come up before but mainly in passing. It never inspired a big discussion.

    I'm proceeding with the assumption I am wrong for two reasons. First, you all seem in agreement that it can't be right and the Catechism's comments on forgiving enemies seems to support that. Second, there are a number of benefits to forgiving others and I think we naturally forgive people with time. It takes a lot of work to refuse forgiveness over a period of time. That seems to suggest it is the best course of action.

    Also, any harm done to us can't be the same as an offense against God so it seems reasonable there are different standards to forgiveness.

  66. Marie,
    Forgiveness is most definitely an obligation. It ties directly to judging. We either judge or we forgive. There is no hole there, it’s one or the other. Can’t be both. Can’t be an empty space. The goal is spiritual communion with God and with the mystical Body of Christ. The discourse in Luke 6 goes from Loving Your Enemies right into the discourse on Do Not Judge. All is explained in light of judging and forgiveness. All is tied together here because the thrust is relationship to others, and therefore, ultimately relationship to and with God.

    The stick you hand Jesus for measuring at the end of your life is going to be put into his hands and used immediately back on you. So he will see our shortage of forgiveness and guess what? No reward. He is bound to that measurement because it’s what we hand him to work with, at our final hour.

    This is why the discourse flows this way in Matthew, too. Regarding the beam in our eye and the speck in our neighbor’s: First remove the plank from your own eye, only then will you see clearly.” -Matt 7:5

    We cannot fake forgiveness, we cannot circumvent it. It’s a necessity because it ties to healing. And we cannot find healing if our vision is obscured by beams in our own eyes, because that makes us blind. The point is to see clearly, that we refrain from judging, that we may forgive freely. It all ties together for true healing and freedom and unity with neighbor and in God.

  67. Nubby, Thanks for pointing out the context of the judging passage and linking it with forgiveness as you did. That's very persuasive to me. If I'm not a judge, I must forgive. God's the real Judge and He will ultimately deal out forgiveness or judgment.

  68. I remember wondering about this very question so I did some that Christ on the cross asked God to "forgive them for they know not what they do" they were forgiven though not sorry (probably). I guess that was a good point. Christ would know their hearts though, so maybe it was just as an example to us? Because we don't know the condition of their hearts, like I think Nubby said.

  69. How I wish these posts came with photo posting features. I'd post a picture of my son John Paul. Its been 7 years since my miscarriages, but JP is here only because I have two other children in heaven. At the time, right after, someone did say to me, well, its God's will. Not good timing or the right thing to say, but all this time after I can see it. And its true.

  70. Welcome, Connie. I agree that context is so important (esp. with the original Greek) because the gospels were always shared as part of the liturgy and not just for individual exegesis, so meaning was better understood. I have learned a ton about messages in full context with the help of some great meditations- some over 700 pgs., but critical in analysis of language and content, and great tools for reflection and understanding.

    To Marie's question, something like forgiveness is so central to our union with God, it would not be considerate for us to reduce it down to something that is too difficult or confusing spiritually, but 'benefits us' on a natural level. There is a spiritual reality operating in the life of a believer, and love of God mandates forgiveness be always operative in us so that we may receive God (his grace, friendship, forgiveness). My understanding: We cannot fake forgiveness or get around it, because then we’re ultimately faking love or skirting love. And we have a #1 obligation to love selflessly. We have to really be healed of our grudges- even if it takes a lifetime and some purgatory – otherwise we don’t have the capacity to attain Perfect Love, Himself.

    I look at forgiveness as necessary housekeeping. Keeping our souls clean with room inside so that we don't hinder God in whatever degree. We forgive with God's grace to the best of our ability, but we cannot write it off as something merely good in natural reality or natural experience of life. The spiritual dynamic should be amplified because the lesson is a spiritual one.

  71. Monica, I totally get that! I, also, have a child (my Alexander) who would not be here if I did not lose the previous child. It's a blessing, truly, to know that I have two children for all eternity where there would have only been one! Sometimes, we are shortsighted here on earth. Well, lots of times, ha ha.

  72. A thought about obedience as it relates to this topic. Jesus was obedient unto death. We are called to be obedient unto death. What does obedience mean? It means doing what the Father asks of us. Doing His will, not ours. When do we have to be told or reminded to be obedient? ONLY when it's hard and there is suffering. If my Father tells me to go and gets some delicious chocolate ice cream for myself, it's easy to obey and it's hardly a cross. So, that can't be what it means to be "obedient unto death". There is an implied suffering there. And the one giving us the "orders" to go that painful route is ... our Father, yes?

    So, doesn't the call to be obedient unto death, the call to pick up our cross, doesn't that imply very clearly that that cross is from the Father? That we must obey by picking it up? Doesn't it imply that even the suffering unto death itself is something HE calls us to? Obedience to the loving Father is not pain-free. It is the way of Calvary. But isn't it God's will that we go that road, in obedience?

    That word "obey" just really speaks to me this morning, directly related to this topic, and seems to confirm and tie it all together.

  73. Okay, I finally went to some of my protestant buddies because I couldn't find anything discussing Luke 17.3 from a Catholic perspective and here's their interpretation.

    Whether or not our brother repents deals with how we treat him going forward. If he repents, we forgive and the matter is over. If he does not, that's when we turn to Matthew 18 15-17 which states we should talk to our brother, then bring others to talk to our brother, then tell the Church. If he still doesn't repent we treat him as a "pagan or a tax collector."

    Either way, we are still to unconditionally forgive him for all the reasons everyone has listed here. The brother's repentance or lack thereof only changes how we deal with him going forward.

    I don't think that is inconsistent with what anyone here says and it is consistent with the rest of the Catholic Church's teachings on forgiveness.

  74. So I retract my earlier statement saying we don't have to forgive the unrepentant.

    Anyone else hearing the "The More You Know..." jingle?

  75. Nubby,

    I was raised Charismatic, so I LOVE the Bible and exegesis and have always been a big fan of understanding things in context. That particular context just never struck me before.

    I also wanted to point something out with regard to what Leila said about God not just "Picking up the pieces." God does not react to anything. He is outside of time, the Lord of time. So, we can say when something bad happens, "Oh, well, I'll just make the best of it." But God does not have to do that. He has already known from all eternity what was going to happen. All times are present to Him. That means that everything that happens to us as Christians is already incorporated into His plan for our sanctification. He has no surprises, no "Plan B." That does not mean that he desires people sin or hurt us or that natural disasters or accidents happen. But He is so omnipotent that NOTHING can ever throw Him for a loop. Nothing can get the better of Him, nothing thwart His purpose. Even with freewill in the mix. That's why we can have peace, even while we are suffering.

  76. The brother's repentance or lack thereof only changes how we deal with him going forward.

    Shouldn't have any direct bearing on how we deal with him. We forgive him, that's the only way we deal with him because that's Orders from Headquarters. If you mean 'deal with him' as in keep a distance because there's wounds there, then okay, maybe we back away from people to some extent emotionally or even proximity-wise, but we cannot ever excuse ourselves from loving that person at the bottom of it all. The spiritual lesson trumps the emotional reaction, or at least in theory it should. Our goal is perfection. What will keep us from getting there? What will help us get there? And to quote my gym wall poster: "Success trains. Failure complains." We have tall orders to follow God, no question.

  77. the call to pick up our cross, doesn't that imply very clearly that that cross is from the Father? That we must obey by picking it up?

    Yes, Leila, because even philosophically and metaphysically speaking, one can't separate who God is from what He does. He is the highest degree of perfection as we understand it, metaphysically. He is also the grounder of all reality, mover of all reality, which basically is the kind of understanding we gain as we follow the map of 'proofs' (St. Thomas, et al.) from "sensible being" to "subsistent being" (metaphysical terms). Meaning that God doesn't operate in abstract ways, but that his existence and his act is demonstrable in proofs like Aquinas’. I should give the cliffnotes version here…

  78. "Shouldn't have any direct bearing on how we deal with him."

    Of course, it does.

    "If you mean 'deal with him' as in keep a distance because there's wounds there, then okay, maybe we back away from people to some extent emotionally or even proximity-wise,"

    That's exactly what I mean. We do not enable or condone sin. We are not required to be punching bags for others. We are allowed to protect ourselves and that can and does include enforcing emotional and physical distance.

    "but we cannot ever excuse ourselves from loving that person at the bottom of it all."

    I don't dispute that. But I don't agree loving a person means you have to continue to put yourself in danger.

    1. Well, of course not. I never said it did and not one of us implied that in our conversation about forgiveness. Who is saying that?

      Loving and forgiving from a physical distance is very Christian. No spatial aspect could thwart it.

  79. "God does not react to anything." Yes! This is a key statement, simple and profound. It grounds everything we are saying here.

  80. At last night's caregiver's support group meeting I saw and heard people who are experiencing deep pain and sadness each day. Often they feel alone in their burdens of caring for their loved ones, but to a person they know that their sorrows are not without merit. They suffer willingly, even if sad at their sufferings, and through their tears they affirm how blessed they are. And even when they feel most alone, they know they are not.

    I am so privileged to know such loving people.

  81. @ Leila,
    As I understand it...
    Predestination is divine ordaining of ALL that will happen. Although it is mostly discussed in regard to salvation, it is not limited to that. So, when something bad happens to someone and we tell them "it happened for a reason", they may automatically think God specifically ordained it to happen to them, which may not be necessarily true.

  82. Ben, but we as Catholics definitely do believe in the non-heretical type of predestination (as Augustine taught it) and which, as I understand it, is God's complete knowledge of all that has or will happen, and incorporation of everything into His plan. This is done without interference of our free will. It is a great mystery! I can't begin to grasp it. But the truth is, yes, God has in a sense ordained whatever happens in the plan. Nothing is outside of his Providence. As long as that leaves the space for free will to operate within God's will, then it is true that God ordains all. I hope that makes sense! This is one of those subjects that the minute we begin to speak of it, we risk falling right into heresy, ha ha! Like talking about the Trinity! It's almost impossible to talk about the nuances and depth of it, in our finite, time-bound minds. But give me some references, correct me if I am wrong. I have a lot to learn, still. :)

  83. Since I told the group I would share, here is the response I got from the priest I asked about forgiving the unrepentant.

    "Well, I would say that we have to work toward forgiveness. We should earnestly and consistently pray for the person who harmed us. One caveat I guess you would call it is that forgiveness doesn't look like amnesia. While we shouldn't bear ill will towards the person and we should still desire their good and salvation, we may no longer be able to trust them.

    Does that help some? I would add that forgiveness often involves grief and that is a process which takes time, not a light switch."

  84. Since I shared our situation here... today we found out we lost our baby. This post was really helpful to read before getting that news. I am prone to "what ifs" and regret and feeling like maybe it could have been different. But as sad as I am, I don't feel like that at all right now nor am I mad at God or even confused. I'm sad. This sucks. I hate it and wouldn't wish it on anyone. But I am at peace too. ust because something bad happened doesn't mean God is absent or lost the battle. I don't have all the answers as to how this fits into His will, but I feel like I can trust Him still and His will. Thanks for all of you who prayed.

  85. Oh, Sarah! I'm so terribly sorry for the loss of your little one!

    I remember being so sad, weeping, after my miscarriage, but yet somehow having the peace of knowing that everything was okay in God's Hands. Praise God for your trust in Him! Thank you for letting us know so that we can all pray for you and your family.

  86. So many people have prayed; I am sure that has helped with the peace. Also, I think the torture of not knowing... we've been on a roller coaster for most of this pregnancy... is finally over. God allowed me to prepare in stages with this situation, and now I finally feel free to actually grieve and move on instead of existing in that in-between stage. Although the in-between stage was great for offering up suffering for others.. that literally was the only good aspect of that, feeling like the suffering could be used for good. I am sure once my hormones tank, the weeping part will come too. I was also blessed that my husband could come to the ultrasound with me.

  87. Continued prayers for you and your husband! I'm so sorry to hear this. Just hold on to Him.

  88. Hi Leila,
    This post came at such a good time. Recently I have been close to the edge: my husband left me while my Dad was ill, my Dad died and on that very day I had to sign for my house to be sold, the house sold quickly and I had to find a rental house and only got one at the eleventh hour, then removalist didn't show up! And on and on...
    Then I read this post and suddenly looked at things differently. When the flattened boxes that I piled up were taken by a gust of wind and strewn all around the backyard I started to laugh. OK God, you're testing my faith and you want me to see where it's at! I read a bit from the book you recommended, "He Leadeth Me", and now I am slowly but surely losing my resentment, letting go in abandonment and seeing myself grow. A Job moment. You have no idea how much this post has helped me. Thank you!

  89. Marie M, then I have no doubt in my mind this post was meant just for you! May God continue to bless you with his grace and peace no matter what the cross! He can be trusted, and your reward for that trust will be great in heaven! Xoxo

  90. Can I say that this post happened for a reason?

  91. This post really helped me put a lot that has happened in my life recently in perspective. I won't elaborate because it's a lot to type and well past my bedtime lol. But anyway, the comments really resonated with me and helped so much with my understanding. Bless you all and praise God for Leila's blog.

  92. Crystal, that makes me so happy! God bless you!

  93. Just a thought here. Even if we're in pain yet believe in God, eventually we'll get to a ledge where we can feel thankful for the past and look forward to the future with confidence in healing and better days. Our belief gives us the virtue of hope which, itself, is just enough fuel to keep going forward. When hope is lost, or was never placed in God to begin with, then we see attitudes like the man who is lashing out at 'platitudes'.

    Can we get to a place, eventually, where we smile and offer thanks for the past even amid the pain? Yes. Can we look at the future with a focused confidence or even a renewed or remade relationship with God? Yes. These things take time, but we do well to talk ourselves off of the emotional ledge just by speaking life out loud and generating that faith all over again.

    Your post is obviously helping people. People everywhere need to see that there's even just a dim ray of light breaking through even when they don't feel the warmth.

  94. Reading Ronda Chervin's "Avoid Bitterness in Suffering". Highly recommended for those of us grappling with incredible pain. Thank God for giving us the Cloud of Witnesses to help us.

  95. Nubby, yes! And Marie, I just recently saw that book on the Sophia Institute Press site and it looked great! She is a Jewish convert and she is a brilliant woman, but I have not read that particular book. Thanks for exposing it here!

  96. I am reading this with great interest, since it is something I do not really understand and I find it a difficult concept. But I want to understand and that is why I have a few questions, because I am confused about a few things.
    1/ Somewhere somebody said that God does not react to things, but surely when something bad happens to us, He is there for us? Or is this not what is meant when we talk about God reacting to things?
    2/ Is it so that God thinks 'she needs to learn more about loss, so her husband has to die?' Or is it more in a general sense that we all need to learn lessons and therefor certain things happen to all of us?
    3/ When something really bad happens to you (like a rape f.e.), how can you feel like this is something that God wanted to happen to you? Or must I see this in a different manner?
    Please know I am not trying to be flippant or something like that, I seriously want to understand this correctly.

    I loved the tale about the mother and the embroidery, that made sense to me in a lot of ways.

    Sarah and Marie, you are in my prayers and I am sorry for the troubles you have right now.

    Kind regards,

  97. I have not read all of the comments, nor have I read the linked posts. However, what I have been able to read certainly seems to strike a nerve. The authors of these posts, obviously, had a very strong reaction to these words. I agree that some of that can indicate a bitterness and rejection of God's will. However, it is a phrase at one time that I had a very hard time with myself. Perhaps at least some of it was a lack of willingness to accept God's will, but I think that when there are strong reactions, sometimes there is a truth mixed up in it, too. I absolutely believe that God's redemptive plan is in absolutely everything that happens, so I want to say that before I attempt to explain what I'm talking about.

    In my case, at least, there is a certain understanding about "God's sovereign will" that was floating around. It is an understanding that seems to originate from some sort of Protestant thought, but I have seen it in some Catholics as well. While there may be nothing wrong with the terms themselves, practically speaking, it more or less puts God as a puppet master, pulling all of the strings. I have seen this understanding applied, even when there is sin involved. For example, this understanding would basically mean that if person A got drunk and drove and killed person B, it was God causing all of it, even the sin in the first place. That, of course, is wrong. It would also more or less assume that God personally tweaked the gene mutation that caused another person to get cancer, etc. This understanding of all things being God's will reducing Him to a puppet master is just as wrong as an understanding that reduces all happenings to randomness and God is just there to pick up the pieces.

    In the drunk driving scenario, if it were not God's will for person B to die, it would not have happened. I would simplify and say that it's permissive will rather than ordained will, but regardless, it is His will and there will only be peace with surrender to that. But if a person has had such a strong and painful reaction to the phrase, it could stem from a rejection of God's will, but it seems to me that maybe it's merely the fact that they are lacking a deeper understanding of God that is needed. He is no more puppet master that clockmaker that winds things up and steps back to let things happen however they will.

  98. Somewhere somebody said that God does not react to things, but surely when something bad happens to us, He is there for us? Or is this not what is meant when we talk about God reacting to things?

    When we say that “God does not react to things”, that just means that God does not scramble for a solution to the problem like we do, because he has already foreseen it. He doesn’t react within human limitations. He acts according to his will, which is external to all boundaries, including time. He never needs to react to what happens within time or space. He is outside of time and space, and he is external to all that happens. We are the ones bound by dimension and time.

    Is it so that God thinks 'she needs to learn more about loss, so her husband has to die?' Or is it more in a general sense that we all need to learn lessons and therefor certain things happen to all of us?

    He allows things, he doesn’t necessarily send things our way.

    When something really bad happens to you (like a rape f.e.), how can you feel like this is something that God wanted to happen to you? Or must I see this in a different manner?

    God never wants sin to happen, but he will bring good from whatever situation if we give it over to him. He didn’t send a rapist. He knew the act would happen, but we don’t equate His knowing with His wishing it to happen.

  99. A major obstacle in understanding God is understanding that He is not limited by time or space like we are. He interacts with us. It's exactly like the idea that He is the higher plane interacting with the lower plane. This is evident in our world, esp mathematically. We are higher than our thoughts, we interact with thoughts, but we are higher than them. Just like God to us.

  100. Catholic Mutt, Yes! He is neither a puppet master nor a clockmaker. He lives in what some have deemed the "eternal now".... since time and space are both creations, the Creator does not live in time and is not bound by His creation. He lives outside of time, which of course is impossible for our minds to grasp this side of heaven.

    Bettina, great questions!
    Nubby is right. God does not ever "wish" or "want" us to suffer. Not at all. . . He only allows suffering in order to bring about a greater good. So, even as the worst sin of all happened (the torture and killing of God), Jesus was able to remind us of who was really in charge: He told Pilate that any power Pilate had came from above. And yet, Pilate really and truly had free will to choose. God had to allow people to choose grave evil (including rape, yes) so that we are free to love. If we cannot choose evil, then neither can we choose love. And then we are merely robots or slaves, never free to give or receive love, from God or anyone. But as we are made in the image and likeness of God we MUST be able to love, as that is the greatest gift of all and the greatest desire of our hearts!

    It is a testament to God's goodness (he IS Goodness) that He puts even grave sin at the service of His plan. It's something we can only marvel at, and not fully understand till Heaven.

    But we got a great glimpse of it in the perfectly timed epistle from today's readings:

    "Rejoice in the Lord always.
    I shall say it again: rejoice!
    Your kindness should be known to all.
    The Lord is near.
    Have no anxiety at all, but in everything,
    by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving,
    make your requests known to God.
    Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding
    will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus."

    Isn't that exactly what we've been talking about here? God is so good! Even in the deepest, darkest pit of evil, our GOOD God is fully in control and making it all work for His good plan. We can trust. It is a mystery how He does it, but He has proven Himself trustworthy!

  101. Leila and Nubby, thank you very much for clarifying this for me, I feel like I understand it better now. (like I knew I would with your explainations :-) )
    The free will part is a major factor!

    So, to see if I understand it correctly: we all have free will to choose good or evil. Some of us choose evil that effects others, and the other person suffers.

    But it does not matter if the suffering happened because of somebody else or not, God is there for us to guide us through it and to help us come closer to him because of it?

    Again, thank you for putting up with my questions!
    Kind regards,

    PS Today's readings are indeed very beautiful and fitting!

  102. Bettina, yes, exactly! And not only does God simply help us through suffering and bring us closer to Him, He also gives a very powerful meaning and role for suffering in the world. Redemptive suffering is what the saints all understood as the way to help in the very redemption of the world and the salvation of souls!
    Here is a little piece on the meaning of redemptive suffering:

  103. You’re welcome, Bettina. Happy to help.

    But it does not matter if the suffering happened because of somebody else or not, God is there for us to guide us through it and to help us come closer to him because of it?

    Yes, He is there always for two reasons that come to mind:
    He is Being itself and He is Mercy itself (to name just two realities of God).

    Look at “Being” first:
    He is there always because He cannot for one second be apart from what He has created. He literally emanates being because He is “being”. His nature is existence. His nature itself generates other natures. He imparts that to His creation. He generates life and being and nature and movement and all these things that we can demonstrate metaphysically (we can tie those thoughts and predicates together a la Aquinas, Aristotle, and the rest), and even along philosophical lines. He is never apart from that.

    Look at “Mercy”:
    When people are angry at God for situations or events that happen in life that cause pain (of whatever type), then they lash out like the man in the article which Leila has linked. They don’t understand that one can hold up “Mercy” next to “pain” or “evil” and still come away with the New Testament truth of how Jesus Christ is merciful. There is no discrepancy there. Mercy is present even when we suffer. Especially so, some could argue.

    Our main understanding from the New Testament is: Mercy = God’s Son. Mercy shown, mercy given, mercy taught, mercy acting in the face of sin, mercy poured out to the undeserving, mercy against unjust actions, or unjust thinking, mercy in the flesh walking among us. Mercy in the actual person of Jesus Christ is the whole key.

    The New Testament is the new lens. We see Jesus in the flesh now, in the NT. He walks among us. He comes closer to us now than at any other time, better than any time when he was only described in a foreshadowed context in the Old Testament.

    It’s like the main character has come down off the stage and is interacting with the audience. He is no longer written about from times of old. He is near, yes. Even better, He is here, in this moment. Filling every moment, because He is spirit here and now. His flesh has ascended to the Father. His spirit has descended to be with us forever. Do we respond? Are we attentive to that? Are we aware that His name is “God with us” (Emmanuel)? Do we believe it, especially in times of suffering?

    Do we understand that surrender means that we acknowledge that life is like overlays of reality in His hands that He alone pieces all the workings of the parts together in His goodness of being- in His mercy?

    It’s all mystery, but it’s not the type of mystery to be solved because His nature alone is mysterious and we’ll never understand it here. But we can enter into the mystery, knowing and trusting that even the painful pieces must be “good” in some way.
    It’s where faith becomes operative in the believer. This faith is not blind faith or “band-aid” faith. We can bring our intellectual understanding higher, if we desire. We can focus on the reality that God is known to us, through so many evidential avenues: philosophical, metaphysical, historical, etc. The list goes on. And we can rest in that. Better yet, we can bask in that. Yes, to answer your question, God is there for us.

  104. Nubby, that is so beautifully stated! And Bettina, read the writings of the saints and focus in especially one what they say about suffering, and how they experience it. The saints are just like us, but they have given over their wills so fully, and they love and trust God so much that they only want what He wills, to be clay in His hands to be molded however He needs, for His good purposes. And in that way, they see all the events and sufferings of life differently than the rest of us. It's a beautiful thing, brings great peace, and it's something we are all called to. (Most of us need to work all that out in Purgatory, but the saints learned and lived this level of trust, prayer, and abandonment here on earth.)

  105. Hey, where's our bumper sticker friend? What, with all of this "thinking" going on... she might get a new perspective on believers if she and those who share her opinion would surface and hang out a while. Could actually, ya know, generate some prrrrretty complex thinking...

  106. Nubby, wouldn't that be amazing???? Sigh, where are they?

  107. Nubby, thank you for your wonderful explaination, I have a notebook and I write things like this down, so I re-read it and study it :-) (a lot of your words in that notebook already!)

    Leila, I will read the Saints, thank you for the tip and for the link to your post about suffering.

    This is all not easy to understand, but I do feel I have a better grasp of it!

    KInd regards,

    1. I am truly humbled. Thanks, Bettina. Anytime...

  108. It would be amazing. It would be stunning since they make knowledge claims about God all the time when they 1) don't possess sufficient knowledge (to begin with) to make such negative claims about God and 2) they don't even realize that they lack the data necessary to make such claims.

    To me, this is actually what "thinking" looks like and it's not "hard" as our bumper sticker friend indicates. And it all ties to the critique on lack of thinking we talked about earlier.

    Here's all the stuff on the table to examine. Stuff that belongs there. Not feelings. Because feelings don't belong in examining evidence. We're just supposed to "think" and sort and analyze and tie together. We're not supposed to look at what's before us and say as absurd as, "Well, I don't believe in God even with all of this, and my favorite color is green, and Jesus never existed and I have nothing concrete to add..!" That's NOT thinking. That's emoting. That's not analyzing. That's offering irrelevant commentary. Where are the "thinking" atheists?

  109. Nubby, have you seen Bishop Barron's latest series on the Mystery Of God? It's gonna be awesome:

  110. Looks perfect.
    How do we make this mandatory viewing? ;o)

    He has a gift for breaking down thought. He has a gift for analyzing. He has a gift for summarizing lofty lessons into succinct sound bites. He has a gift for thinking and teaching.

  111. Yes, he does, and oh my gosh, can you even imagine if this stuff were actually required? Having to learn about something this important (and something that has shaped western civ) should be standard. Even if people don't believe, it's cultural illiteracy not to understand the Christian God.

  112. Funny you should mention that, Nubby. It WILL BE mandatory viewing in my org, and that's not even part of the Catholic Church! Most staff are not Catholic... Looking forward to start the series in the new year!

  113. YES! And hold this up and compare it against someone like Dawkins who shapes peoples' minds with shrugging and guessing and supposing. Aquinas demonstrates. Dawkins guesses and takes stabs in the dark. He stumbles around any concrete data-- because he has none. He doesn't even have a predicate to his philosophy! Ridiculous.

  114. That's good news, Sebastian! Minds will be enlightened. Hallelujah!

  115. Everyone will hear what they want to hear. But perhaps a seed or two will be planted. The real work is the Holy Spirit's. Can't wait to see how it goes.

  116. "Aquinas demonstrates. Dawkins guesses and takes stabs in the dark. He stumbles around any concrete data-- because he has none. He doesn't even have a predicate to his philosophy!"


  117. Leila, we are a global NGO with a local branch in my country with around 35 staff. Every week we gather for half an hour to present and discuss themes of faith and other "human interest". Presenters rotate, and themes are very diverse. While many of our staff are critical of the Church, they know me and they make an effort when I present topics of our faith.

  118. Sebastian, that is awesome!! I love how God plants faithful Catholics, at least one, where there are few or none! Thank you for your courage!

  119. You guys amaze me. There is some serious Sapientia going on round here. Leila, you should rename, "The Big Sapientia Bubble".
    Nubby, so many great thoughts. Yes, outside of time! Considering loss and gain, joy and suffering in light of timeless existence is the only way you can throw away the score card and have peace.
    To add to DNBA's comment above about caregivers. Love is the only thing that is never wasted. I (we, my wife and I) had the privilege of being caregivers and can't tell you what a blessing it is.
    Last year a friend of ours lost her husband of 25yrs to cancer. 6 kids youngest being 8. She understands the wisdom that you guys have spelled out above. To watch someone exhibit strength and understanding in these matters is simply inspiring. Someone who understands the eternal thing, the Catholic thing, and has the stones to live it is awesome. Our friend, on the night before the funeral at the rosary, in front of a packed church, took the opportunity to give a talk. She understood the "whats the reason" thing and acted on it. She was crushed just like the any of us would be however, she knows that there is another side of the tapestry. One that she will not see this side of eternity. Her husband was a youth leader, music leader and well known and loved in many circles. She took the opportunity to let everybody there know exactly why they loved her husband. She spoke of his virtues, beliefs, wisdom and faith. She said things that challenged many people's thinking and planted an untold amount of seeds in young and old alike. She too would go crazy with all the "things happen for a reason" comments, but would never take personal offense and simply appreciate the persons attempt to console. In some ways I think her talk and her attitude was an answer to all the comments. Like, "I'll give you the reason". She will still tell you that it is really hard , and overwhelmingly so at times. Redemptive suffering and Hope. Nubby, you touched on Hope. Huge! Not wishful thinking but understanding the tapestry of the timeless eternal. This is wisdom. And I feel humbled to know of such things.
    and Margo, thanks for having my back sister.
    Where is GFNY?
    O Wisdom, coming forth from the mouth of the Most High,
    reaching from one end to the other,
    mightily and sweetly ordering all things:
    Come and teach us the way of prudence.

  120. Excellent piece, Leila...excellent.


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