God's healing hand

Question: How do I know that God loves me and will not reject me? I grew up in a home where rejection was the norm. I had the same experience at school.

Seven years ago, I married a man, who now wants to divorce me, despite my efforts to keep our marriage together. I know in theory that God loves us all, but how do I know that I am one of them? 

-- Name and address withheld

Answer: Your question is a most difficult one. And, though it may bring little comfort to say so, many people feel the way you do. Indeed, I would surmise that most of us feel as you do at least some of the time.

I will quote for you one of the passages that I myself have found most helpful and encouraging in moments when life looks less rosy and one feels beset upon by the world. It was written by Cardinal John Henry Newman and is taken from a book entitled "Meditations and Devotions of the late Cardinal Newman" (1893). I encourage you to read it as addressed to you personally.

Here it is: "God has created me to do him some definite service; he has committed some work to me which he has not committed to another. I have my mission -- I never may know it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next. . . . I have a part in a great work; I am a link in a chain, a bond of connection between persons. He has not created me for naught. I shall do good, I shall do his work; I shall be an angel of peace, a preacher of truth in my own place, while not intending it, if I do but keep his commandments and serve him in my calling."

Cardinal Newman continues: "Therefore I will trust him, whatever, wherever I am, I can never be thrown away. If I am in sickness, my sickness may serve him; in perplexity, my perplexity may serve him; if I am in sorrow, my sorrow may serve him. My sickness, or perplexity, or sorrow may be necessary causes of some great end, which is quite beyond us. He does nothing in vain; he may prolong my life, he may shorten it; he knows what he is about.

"He may take away my friends, he may throw me among strangers, he may make me feel desolate, make my spirits sink, hide the future from me -- still he knows what he is about."

In moments of near despair and desolation, the best image we have is of Jesus Christ on the cross. We are reminded that Christ was rejected, felt loneliness and abandonment, and wondered about the providence of God. We do well to remember that Christ, whom we adore, is a Christ who suffers in all the suffering of the world and that he is eternally for us Christ upon the cross.

For Christ, the cross led to Easter; for us, life may be an ongoing Good Friday; but Easter, too, will come.

Catholics and Masons

Question: My friends say that Catholics may now join the Masons; I say that we cannot. Who is right and why?

-- Charles McKelvey, Harbert, Mich.

Answer: You are correct. While American Masons are a benign group and do many good works, European Masonry continues to be quite anti-religious -- and specifically anti-Catholic.

The fundamental reason -- as expressed in the 1983 document "Declaration on Masonic Associations" by the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith -- against Catholics becoming Masons is that Masonry has a worldview and ritual system of its own that makes it difficult to reconcile with Catholicism.

Its character as a secret society adds to its inconsistency with Catholicism.

Msgr. M. Francis Mannion is a priest and theologian of the Diocese of Salt Lake City. Send your questions to Pastoral Answers, Our Sunday Visitor, 200 Noll Plaza, Huntington, IN 46750 or to mfmannion@osv.com. Letters must be signed, but anonymity may be requested.