April 20, 2016: When bad things happen to good people

`by Susi Pittman

Father Rene Robert (pronounced ro-bear) has gone home. He now rests eternally with his Beloved Lord and Heaven is a little brighter. He was known throughout our Diocese of Saint Augustine as one of the kindest, gentlest, loving and holy man you could ever meet. He was an example to clergy and layman alike. Because of these great virtues, he fell victim to the hands of a murderer. It was a totally random act of unadulterated hate and anger pent up in a young man so dysfunctional that it boggles the mind.

Why would God allow such a wicked act upon such a holy priest? How do I come to terms with it?

Father Rene spent much of his ministry attending to the needs of the deaf, most especially well known among all those at the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind in St. Augustine, Florida. He held Mass for the deaf at the Cathedral Basilica in downtown St. Augustine and was ever involved with many diocesan groups and diocesan peoples. He was an amazing priest by any standard.

I knew Father Rene through my own personal hearing problem. I had gone totally deaf in my left ear and had started losing hearing in my right ear. I had pursued sign language class as a proactive move should all of my hearing be lost. I would make Father Rene’s deaf Mass just to immerse myself in what could be my future situation. Father was very supportive of me and the radiance shining forth from his eyes that betrayed his gentle soul empowered me even more.

So the question remains, why God?

I have come to accept that there were, are and will continue to be mysteries that ONLY God holds the answers to. Consider the redemptive suffering and salvific death of God’s only Son. The greatest mystery of all time being a heinous act that God allowed mankind to inflict upon the Divine, Jesus the Messiah. It is a mystery that will take me through eternity to even begin to grasp.

I see in Jesus the compassionate and loving God who longs for all His children to be one with the Father. Jesus, by his obedience to the One God raises us up to new life and makes us whole leaving behind a world filled with evil. Death has no sting. Whether death by another man’s hands or natural death, we ARE given into eternal hands and a new eternal beginning that overcomes any horror or atrocity left behind in this world.

It is my faith in this that levels the playing field in this world that I will leave one day. It is my faith that embraces mystery and knows that a greater good is accomplished in the worst of moments. It is my faith that requires no explanation, but fills me with a “knowing” that NOTHING escapes God for a single moment.

God’s true character is Love. In this world, man can push God’s hand away from him or ask God to draw near. Real love doesn’t reason or measure, it doesn’t create barriers or impose conditions. Striving for this kind of love asks God to draw near. And it is needed in times of spiritual testing.

Such is the case as I look at the ugly presence of Steven Murray. Once he was a small little boy who grew in an environment that changed him from his childhood innocence into an uncaring thug. How that happened is still to be known. But, I have to look at him as loved and wanted by God; as a purposeful creation by the Father. It is then that I see Jesus between me and Murray. From the home of the Trinity Jesus throws my human measurements out the window. He is the judge, not me.

Murray had no power over Father Rene, with the exception of being able to send him out of this life. A life that is temporary, and a life in that whatever good Father Rene would have finished achieving will indeed be brought to fruition by the Lord.

How can we forgive?

If my condition for giving forgiveness is the it will be received, then I don’t think I would ever forgive. Forgiving the other first is the foremost healing act that removes anger, bitterness and revenge. You may say it’s impossible to forgive this man. God says, nothing is impossible. God will give me the grace to go beyond my wounded self and forgive. Forgiving allows me to claim my own power and not allow the event to destroy me.

Knowing Father Rene and thinking of what his final moments on earth may have been, I can only see the radiance of his soul through his loving eyes and hear his gentle voice telling Steven Murray, I forgive you.

In all things we suffer tribulation, but we are not distressed; we are sore pressed, but we are not destitute; we endure persecution, but we are not forsaken; we are cast down, but we do not perish; always bearing about in our body the dying of Jesus, so that the life also of Jesus may be made manifest in our bodily frame. For we the living are constantly being handed over to death for Jesus’ sake, that the life also of Jesus may be made manifest in our mortal flesh.

2 Corinthians 4:8-12

~Remember you always with love Father Rene~


Susi Pittman is founder of CatholicStewardsofCreation.com and Owner-President of Twin Oaks Publishing; she is author of Animals in Heaven? Catholics Want to Know!; an advocate for the Florida Catholic Conference;
a member of the Florida Publishers Association, Independent Book Publishers Association, the National Association of Professional Women, the ASPCA, the Humane Society of the United States and the National Audubon society.



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