Teens are smart, and they question everything. Recently, mine have questioned the goodness of a God who would allow a Catholic judge and a nine-year-old girl, who had recently received her First Communion, to be shot and killed by a madman.

These are not easy questions to answer. Why did some survive the Arizona shooting while some did not? Why does God let bad things happen? Many books have tried to tackle this tough subject, but I’m going to try to take a look at it.

First of all, to look at God “allowing” or “letting” bad things to happen is mistaken. Evil exists. It just does. Bad things happen all the time to perfectly wonderful people. The amazing thing is that God can bring good out of the most horrific situation. The most important proof of this is the crucifixion and the resurrection. One could not happen without the other and we would not have salvation without His sacrifice for us.

Second, faith is not a bank account. It is easy to fall into the thinking that if we go to Mass, say a Rosary, receive Reconciliation that we have put in something and can just pull out a miracle when we need to, or even that God owes us something. Something other than salvation?

God’s ways are not our ways. (Is 55:6-11) We cannot understand why things happen the way they do. However, practicing our faith by attending Mass, prayers, practicing devotions, and receiving the sacraments can afford us the special graces we need to overcome difficult things. Faith does not prevent bad things; it helps us survive them and even find meaning in them eventually.

Unfortunately, the way that some devotions are misrepresented can give the bank account impression. Take for example, the Novena to the Holy Spirit that is often reprinted in the classified section of the newspaper. It states that it has, “Never been known to fail,” giving the impression there is almost a magic quality about the novena. To read it and understand it this way would be wrong. Prayers are answered in many different ways, and there is no magic formula to getting the result you want. This is totally contradictory to true faith. Faith is what we have when the answers don’t seem to make sense and yet we still choose to believe. Only God can give us the peace that surpasses all understanding. (Phil 4:7) The answers won’t come in a box, a bank account of faith, or in the newspaper ... but they will come. God bless.