I’m afraid that, trailing off on random thoughts inspired by the Haitian Crisis, I may have been a bit unclear in my conclusion.
Let me start this second reflection by using the quotation from C. S. Lewis that the writers of _Shadowlands_ caricatured: “Suffering is God’s megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”
Nowhere is that statement more fitting than in this case. I do not, for the record, agree with Pat Robertson. I think that *WE* deserved the Haitian earthquake. The real tragedy is that it has taken this disaster to open up people’s eyes to the plight of Haiti.
“Deserve” is the wrong word to use in a crisis, because we all “deserve” it. The slightest thought against God deserves eternal damnation.
How any Christian could say another person “deserved it” when Christ Himself so obviously did not “deserve” His suffering is absurd.
Haiti may be one of the most materially poor countries in the world, but it is also one of the most spiritually rich: a country where *everyone* gets up first thing in the morning to *walk* to daily Mass.
Is there Satanism going on in Haiti? Certainly, and in the US, as well, which is a point I made in a Facebook exchange which inspired my summary post on Freemasonry.
Is there often a connection between a society’s actions and its disasters? Absolutely. When the US executed Timothy McVeigh, the Bishops warned about the cycle of violence and how the rift in the Natural Law would only get worse. Three months after McVeigh’s execution was 9/11. Does that mean the victims of 9/11 “deserved” it?
California has been experiencing an ongoing forest fire for a couple years now–a fire that started just days after one of Schwarzeneggar’s great atrocities against the Natural Law.
But the connection is not to sit back and say, “HA! GOTCHA!” The connection is to repent. The connection is to solve the problem. The connection is to fall on our knees and beg for the Divine Mercy to shower us and the whole world.
Last night, Mary was reading a passage from Mother Angelica’s _Answers Not Promises_ about a woman named Rosalie. Mother was having one of her stressful days when Rosalie, whose brother was a priest, came to the door. Rosalie came to Mother for advice because her brother the priest was insisting that suffering was always God’s punishment, that God was just up there hurling down lightning bolts at bad people. Rosalie, by contrast, believed (as I do) that the purpose of suffering is for us to share with Jesus, and vice versa. She coined a term: “Tribulate.” “The way I see it,” said Rosalie, “We’re supposed to tribulate!”
The conversation inspired Mother Angelica, who went back to the other nuns and said to stop fretting about their crisis: “We’re supposed to tribulate!”
Another appropriate reflection from my wife this past week was an article she read last week about being careful of getting what you pray for: stories of people who prayed for things to happen, got their superficial prayers answered, suffered horribly in the process, but then found their *true* prayers answered in the end. One example was a family who dropped everything to move closer to the husband’s dying father. The husband ended up out of work, and the family had tough financial times, but, during the husband’s period of unemployment, he was able to spend quality time with his father before his father died. Then, after his father died, he got a great job.
I think suffering is one of God’s greatest gifts. St. Teresa of Avila teaches that every time we pray the Our Father, we are praying for suffering. When we pray, “Thy will be done,” we mean “Your will, not mine.” And God’s will is always for us to suffer, just as God’s will was for Jesus to suffer.
Again, the operative issue, when we confront suffering, is not to judge the victim but to consider why God allowed it. If the devout people of Haiti “deserved” their earthquake, then the godless United States ought to get about a 20.0 on the Richter scale.
As I said yesterday, the salient issue is not “God’s punishment” but “God’s protection.” The fundamentalist believes the Christian should never suffer. The Catholic believes that Christians should, as Rosalie put it, “Tribulate.”
Every day I am alive is a miracle. Every day I’m alive is a sign of God’s protection: St. Jude valve tethered to weak connective tissue in my heart and natural aorta that could tear out; artificial valve that could cause a stroke or get clogged with clots (and is always perfectly clean on my tests even though it should be all clogged up according to my usual INR readings); artificial valve that could get infected; mitral valve prolapse; tortuous carotid artery; venal ectasia; brain aneurysm; descending thoracic aortic aneurysm. Eight conditions that can cause sudden death.
Now, one could, in my situation, “blame God.” An outsider could look on and say, “God is punishing you.” There are many reactions one could take to such a situation. The way I see it, by all rights I should have been dead for the past 13 years, 8 months, 7 days and counting.
God keeps me alive because He wants me here, because He needs me to share a message with the world, and part of that message is the very point that suffering is His Gift, not His punishment. The only tragedy, as Leon Bloy said, is not to be a saint.
At that time some people who were present there told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with the blood of their sacrifices.
He said to them in reply, “Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were greater sinners than all other Galileans?
By no means! But I tell you, if you do not repent, you will all perish as they did!
Or those eighteen people who were killed when the tower at Siloam fell on them –do you think they were more guilty than everyone else who lived in Jerusalem?
By no means! But I tell you, if you do not repent, you will all perish as they did!”