Father John Catoir

What do you do when God, your friend and protector, suddenly turns you down and says “no”?

A tragic event, such as a death, can topple your childhood dreams about a heavenly Father who will help you through the trials and tribulations of life. Deaths happen all the time. However, when someone you love dies, even though you pray and plea to save them, it can be heart-wrenching.

The anger and confusion that an unwanted death unleashes can be devastating. You begin to doubt the very existence of God. Ultimately, the experience will either lead you to a reluctant acceptance of God’s will or a rejection of his will.

We see examples of this in the Bible, in those disillusioned that God, their protector, would allow others to enslave them, and in those who remained faithful and praised God for their subsequent liberation.

We hear of this when some question why God would allow unthinkable atrocities such as the Holocaust to occur.

In the Bible, God reveals his answer to such questions. A man named Job had his world turned upside down by numerous tragedies. One misfortune after another devastated him, and yet he remained steadfast in his faith. He put on the will to honor God, no matter how great the miseries of his life affected him. In the end, God rewarded him for his deep devotion.

Upon prayerful reflection of the Job story, you may gain some perspective on the simple concept: Life is a test.

We all have drama in our lives, things that we can’t understand and sometimes take out on God. I had my own drama when I was in the seminary. My mother was very sick, and I prayed incessantly that God would heal her and let her live to see me ordained.

Was that too much to ask?

I was confident that God would grant my plea, but God did not answer. He took her home two years before my ordination. Needless to say, I was deeply shaken, not because I needed motherly care. After all, I had been on my own throughout my college years and in the Army. I was shaken because I suddenly had serious doubts about God as a helper and protector.

How could I go on as a priest if I could not depend on God’s promise to help when I needed it?

I began to doubt my vocation. Was God really calling me to be a priest, or was it all a figment of my pious imagination? In the weeks that followed, I endured a state of distress and continued with my classes, putting on as brave a front as I could muster.

Then gradually, in a month or two, I began understanding the whole experience as a test of faith. I thought about the fact that my mother’s suffering, which had lasted for many years, was at last over. This was a good thing. I could see her sitting in a front-row seat, in heaven, on my ordination day.

I began to realize that time does heal and that God’s will takes into account the suffering of others, not just the pain of one person.