Why Do Bad Things Happen?

Hurricane Harvey. Hurricane Irma. Hurricane Jose. Earthquakes in Mexico.

I often get the inevitable question, “If God loves us so much, why do these bad things happen?” That question is a hard one to answer, but please allow me the opportunity to try.

First, these are all natural disasters. The earth, by its nature and in its orbit, undergoes change in and of itself. As people populate the planet, we can  also get in the way of the earth’s natural processes, which may have consequences, such as we are witnessing.

We are called to care for our creation as indicated in Pope Francis’s encyclical Laudato Si. .

Second, God loves us very much. He wants to protect us. God also inspires His creation to advance technologies to improve the state of the human race, in order to prevent too much loss when natural disasters happen.

That being said, God works through people. People who have been given free will. Freedom to choose good and not so good. Freedom to be in relationship with God to do His will or freedom to reject Him.

When tragedy arises, we are called to put our faith into action. That is the good. Out of tragedy is born opportunity to be the hands of Jesus where, in most cases, it might be difficult to see Him. God’s hand to you is grace. Your hand to God is faith.

There are many opportunities to extend support to our brothers and sisters in need who have been affected by these natural disasters. We have been encouraged to work through Catholic Charities and Catholic Relief Services when offering support. Also, allow your prayers to provide the support needed when you can’t be the feet on the ground. Mary, Patroness of the Americas and Queen of Peace, pray for us.

 

Jill Fischer is the Principal of St. Dominic Catholic School.

 

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The Voice of God

I am always amazed to hear people say “God spoke to me.”

Did God literally speak to them? What did his voice sound like? Did they actually hear something?

While I think we would all love to hear the voice of God, many of us have not had this opportunity. That doesn’t mean that God is not communicating with us.

God speaks to us in a variety of ways.

Think about the time someone came up to you with the perfect words when you needed a friendly voice.

God was speaking to you.

Or think about the comforting words of friends and family when you’re in pain and hurting—both emotional and physically.

God was speaking to you.

Think about a day at work when you need help managing a complex and stressful situation. Suddenly the words come out of your mouth and you handle the circumstances in the perfect way.

God was speaking to you…and through you.

It is not a coincidence that the right words at the right times magically appear to help you through your day. God has found unique ways to let us know that he is with us, all of the time, watching everything that we do. He also speaks to us in ways we can never understand—through emotions, through intuition, through personal observations and feelings.

So don’t wait for the booming voice from the clouds. Don’t look for a Hollywood burning bush or bolt of lightning.

All we need to do is listen to others around us…and listen to our heart. We will then hear the voice of God.

Are you ready to listen?

Share your thoughts with us. How has God spoken to you?

God is Good

I have the pleasure to visit a home away from home “up north” frequently throughout the year thanks to my husband’s family. Labor Day weekend is always a guaranteed trip “up north” – guaranteed for 12 people. Twelve people existing for three nights and three days in a three bedroom mobile home on an acre of woods.

As you can imagine, interesting things are bound to take place and they usually do. That is part of the joy of going “up north.”

This Labor Day was no different. But for some reason, this weekend everything was hitting me wrong. I found myself annoyed by things that don’t normally annoy me. I was on edge much of the day on Saturday, which could have been the lack of escape that a rainy day creates. In going to Mass on Sunday morning, I did so carrying the annoyance with me. At Mass, I laid it down before the altar. Now, if you haven’t ever approached the Mass in this way, you are missing the beauty the Mass can hold. The Mass can start to speak to you right where you need it to.

Everything about this Mass celebration spoke to unburdening yourself to God. It was so amazing that I nearly cried. I wanted to cry because I felt such consolation and relief, as well as God’s overwhelming love for me in such a way that I could go back to that mobile home and be a better version of myself for the people around me.

Every day is labor day for our Lord. He labors tirelessly for us and with us and through us. He does so out of great and overwhelming love for us. We often forget that He is there but it was times like the one I experienced this weekend that brings it right back home for me.

Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed. We are certainly worthy of His love but are we ever really worthy of Him?

God is good, all the time. All the time, God is good.

 

Jill Fischer is the Principal of St. Dominic Catholic School.

 

Focus on Listening

People spend between 70 – 80% of their day engaged in some form of communication. The average person speaks between 125 – 175 words per minute. That’s a lot of sentences flying around us every single day.

While your ears are able to pick up a lot of words, your brain doesn’t always process all of the words spoken to you. In fact, most people only remember about 17 – 25% of things that they hear.

How strong of a listener are you? Are you paying attention in your conversations? Do you truly engage in a back and forth dialogue, or are you simply waiting for your turn to talk?

And what about when God talks to you? Are you hearing AND listening to His words?

For the month of September, theROCK is Focused on Listening. We’ll discover ways that you can become a better listener, and in turn, a better communicator. We’ll also look at ways you can grow in your faith simply by learning to listen.

Can you hear me now? Good, let’s get started.

 Give yourself a grade. How good of a listener are you? Be honest. Think about what you’d like to change. Share your thoughts with us.

Change Happens

Change.

Even the sound of the word can leave certain people uptight. We like the status quo. We don’t want to upset our routines. We’re worried that we’ll lose control.

Change happens. It happens to all of us.

While we are often most concerned with negative change in our lives, even positive change can cause great anxiety. Think about how you feel when you start a new job…a job you really wanted.

What can you do to handle change?

As we close out the month of August and our Focus on Change, we reflect on three simple steps to help us all handle change.

Embrace Life.

Experts will tell you that first lesson in embracing change is to learn to embrace your life. If you’re constantly fighting all of the little changes in your life, you will never be able to handle the big changes.

Embrace God.

Embracing life starts with embracing God. Talk to God. Ask him what he has in store for you. Discuss what you need to do to really get the most out of every day. Then listen to His answers. He’ll speak to you in a variety of ways: in your thoughts, through others, and special daily experiences.

Trust God.

If God is leading you down a path, walk proudly down that path. Don’t fight it. Don’t be afraid to try new things. God is molding and shaping you into the person you need to become. That can only happen if you have an open mind about change.

What we may originally perceive as unpleasant change can quickly become a moment of grace that transforms us into the person we are meant to be.

How do you handle change? Share your thoughts with us.

True Faith

I took the bus when I was in high school. A lot of students had rides or drove a car, but I always took the bus. We were a one car family, and my dad worked 8 – 5, Monday through Friday.

We lived in an old brick farm house with an extremely long gravel road. The bus opened its doors to let me out, and I began the hike home.

It was a late fall afternoon, and the sun was beginning to set in the sky. I could feel a change in the air as I saw flowers begin to wither and leaves begin to brown. We were quickly losing the warmth of summer.

I had one final bend in the road, and when I turned the corner, I saw our family car in the driveway. It was the middle of the afternoon; the car was never in the driveway in the afternoon. Why was the car in the driveway? Something had happened. My heart began to pound.

I didn’t want to panic and run to the house, but mind was pushing my body and my feet moved quickly to the back stoop.

I pulled open the old, metal screen door and entered the small dining room area. Both of my parents were sitting at the large wooden table.

My dad looked up at me and told me to come in and sit down.

He stared at me for what seemed like five minutes.

“I was laid off today.” For a moment, my brain couldn’t process what “laid off” meant. Was it temporary? Would he get his job back? Was he fired?

“What does laid off mean?” I finally asked.

“They made cutbacks. They let about a dozen people go today.”

We had a family of seven—five kids in school, ranging from high school to grade school. My father’s paycheck was our sole source of income.

In all my years, I never sat alone with my parents at the dining room table. There was always the family. Always a lot of noise and activity. Always commotion. But now it was just us.

Being the oldest son, they wanted to sit and talk to me about what this meant.

I felt like our world was vanishing before my very eyes. Lost his job…no money…how do we eat?…what do we do?

Before I could say a word, my mother looked me in the eyes and said “It’s all right. God will take care of us.”

My dad smiled. “We’ll get by. We always do. We just have to have faith.”

At that moment, I discovered what it meant to be at a crossroad. It’s the moment when you make a decision on who you want to be and where you want to go.

“It won’t be easy,” my dad added. “That’s why we need your help.” He never told me what he needed me to do or what my responsibilities were, but I said yes, of course, whatever they needed.

And that was it. That was the end of the conversation.

Change came and knocked me off my feet, and my parents and their faith placed me upright.

They didn’t have to say a lot. They didn’t have to explain. They simply had to remind me that God was at the center of every moment of every day, and no matter what the world threw at us, God was there to protect us.

It was a lesson I never forgot. In fact, in a very weird way, I’m glad that my dad lost his job.

On that day, at that old, wooden dining room table, I learned what it meant to have true faith.

This month, theROCK is focused on Change.

 

Dan Herda is an editor of theROCK and a member of St. Dominic Parish Marketing Committee.

 

Change

A Message from Fr. Dennis Saran

William Shakespeare said, some are born into change, some achieve change, and others have change thrust upon them. Well, not quite in those words. No matter how ordered we condition our lives, we all experience change thrust upon us. It is not easy. No one wants to change. This difficulty with change is not unique to human beings.

Isaac Newton perhaps said it best in his first law of motion, “Every object will remain at rest or in uniform motion in a straight line unless compelled to change its state by the action of an external force.”

Well, the archdiocese has exerted an external force to St. Dominic Catholic Parish, and I was chosen to be your next pastor. I come having experienced a great amount of change in my life, and in humility, and compassion. I hope to become a member of your family.

We are all called to conversion; to give up our pride and self- centeredness and to become closer to God. We are all called to transformation; to change. The uneasiness we feel with change is a tension, and tension is a creative force. Holding both “what was” with “what is” is life giving, and giving life is the purpose of our worship and  the purpose of our faith: “I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10)

I ask that we help each other “turn around” towards Jesus. God is limitless and he/ she is not done with you or I yet. Conversion is a process; not a goal, not an endpoint. It is also not a process of one-size-fits–all. Each of us is called by God, when God, and how God, feels like it.

I was called by God at an early age. I served as an altar boy throughout grade school and well into my high school years. I was interested in being a priest, but I was more interested in being better than my older brother…and I liked girls and could not imagine not being married.

God waited.

I abandoned any thoughts of priesthood during my college experience studying Biomedical Engineering in hopes of admission to medical school, like my brother.

God waited.

He didn’t let me forget him, as I found solitude and peace at our Neumann Center at Northwestern University. By the time I was graduating, I had been attending Mass most evenings. I was accepted at Loyola Stritch School of Medicine, as my brother had been, and entered once again with no thoughts of serving the Lord.

God waited.

After medical school, I married in the hopes of companionship, moved from home to a new state, a new job, with a new wife. But marrying for friendship and to avoid being alone doesn’t work, and my marriage lasted six years. During those six years, new home, new wife, new job…I abandoned Church.

God waited.

My divorce changed my life and was exceedingly painful, but during those dark days, I returned to Church. I devoted my life to my children. I would spend my entire energy being a good father. I petitioned for an annulment. The day I learned my annulment had been granted, I felt that God held me once again. I met another wounded soul,  and together we offered each other healing. We married and started the process of a mixed family. There were trials and joys… more joys than sorrows. I would strive to remain a good father.

God waited.

My wife’s mother and aunt moved in with us ten years into our marriage. My oldest daughter was in college, two others were on the way. I started to write letters to express my love for my daughters. Being much wiser than I, they remarked the letters were not meant for them, but were love letters to God. I continued to write, to read, to explore, to “turn around.” For the next six years, through digesting the writings of many saints, I was drawn to a relationship with God, one of intimacy but without direction.

One year before my wife’s illness, we mused that if anything would happen to her, I would want to be a priest. In one year, my aunt and my wife both died of cancer.

God waited, and now he walked with me. Within a year, I was admitted to the seminary to be a priest.

The scariest part of change of conversion is realizing that God can work on you whenever, and in whatever way he chooses.

My story is one of change, one of conversion, one of a heart broken, and now is broken open for you, my new beloved family of St Dominic. 

It Will Be Okay

In the end, it will be okay, because God is always with us.

Are your children afraid of change? Are you looking for a way to discuss change with your family?

Check out the book written by New York Times bestselling author, Lysa TerKeurst, It Will Be Okay: Trusting God Through Fear and Change.

It will help kids discover that in the end, it really will be okay, because we have a God who is good and kind and always with us.

Focus on Change

There is one thing you can always count on in life: things change. But change is not always easy. In fact, some of us have a very strong tendency to resist change. It may be habits or routines, it may be responsibilities at work, it may personal relationships, or even how our body changes over the years.

So how do you handle change? What role does faith play in handling change? What can you do every day to keep yourself open and ready to accept change?

This month, theROCK is focused on change. We will explore what each of us can do, every day, to not just accept change, but to embrace it.

“Your life does not get better by chance, it gets better by change.”

Are you ready?

A Life of Passion

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” – Mary Oliver

We come to the end of July, and we sum up the entire month with one simple sentence: To truly live a life of passion, we must have God as the core.

This week, find a quiet spot where you can be alone. Take sixty seconds and ask yourself the following question:

“What do I plan to do to honor God today?”

You don’t need a life plan, you don’t need a six month plan, you don’t even need a weekly plan. You simply need a plan for today.

If you honor God with your words and actions today, your life will be filled with passion.

What’s your plan? Share your thoughts with us.