Dear Sister,

There is so much suffering in the world. Why does God allow people to suffer, especially good people? What is the relationship, if any, to faith and suffering?

Dear Friend,

There is indeed “so much” suffering in the world!  I would recommend to you #302-314 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church which deals with this question beautifully.  God did freely choose to create the material world in an imperfect state – tolerating physical evils, like natural disasters, while His Providence moves creation “toward an ultimate perfection yet to be attained”.

Yet the Catechism is careful to point out that God is in no way the cause of moralevil. Moral evil is strictly the result of the misuse of freedom by those creatures – human and angelic – who were intended by God to exercise the dignity of freedom to pursue their own greatest good – their destiny of perfect union with their Creator.

Some would question whether the freedom to choose, and even the consequent power to love, are really ‘worth’ all the suffering caused by moral evil that we see in our world. The Old Testament grappled with the mystery of evil – and it is a mystery – throughout its length, the story of Joseph in Genesis being especially insightful and instructive. The Church offers no facile answers: “There is not a single aspect of the Christian message that is not in part an answer to the question of evil” (CCC 309).

You asked about the relationship between faith and suffering. In this life, faith is, itself, the ‘answer’ to suffering. It does not tell us “why” so much as “how”.  Among others, the Catechism quotes Dame Julian of Norwich: “Here I was taught by the grace of God that I should steadfastly keep me in the faith… and that at the same time I should take my stand on and earnestly believe in what our Lord showed in this time—that ‘all manner [of] things shall be well.’”  In our own sufferings and those of our loved ones that can be quite an act of faith – but we do have every model and encouragement.

Like Our Lady beneath the Cross, our moments of greatest suffering are our greatest moments of faith. It has been the constant teaching of the Church that God will allow evil and suffering only when and if He is going to bring a greater good from them – a good so good that we ourselves will one day know the fulfillment of St. Paul’s act of faith: “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are as nothing compared with the glory to be revealed for us” (Romans 8:18).

Until next time, may God bless you abundantly and give you the strength to withstand whatever may come…

Sister Benedicta Marie, O.C.D.

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