During one of my theology classes at Marquette University in the mid-1980s, we discussed a book, popular at the time, “When Bad Things Happen to Good People,” by Rabbi Harold S. Kushner.
I recall it was particularly challenging for me because I was also dealing with the untimely death of my mother from cancer, a disease that took her life only about two months after her diagnosis.
To that point, in my short 17-18 years of life, nothing terrible or tragic had affected me and many times during that period, I questioned why God was allowing something so bad to affect my family and me.
In fact, if I’m being completely honest, it’s something I still question, some three decades later.
I don’t believe Kushner’s book offered any real answers to me, but it helped address some of the feelings I was experiencing in the midst of this tragedy.
Understanding why a loving God seemingly allows bad things to happen to good people is one of those mysteries that people of faith cannot ever fully understand, but it’s certainly one that is debated time and time again among the faithful.
There’s another component to this question. Why does a loving God, who seemingly could do whatever he chooses, answer some of our prayers in the way we’d like, but other times, seems to either not listen to the prayers or at least not respond?
Again, another question often posed to religious leaders, but one where there is no definitive answer.
Our featured story this month on Pages 8 and 9, the story of Michelle Cascio, a mother of five from Menomonee Falls, addresses both of these questions.
About six months ago, the Catholic Herald shared her story in our weekly paper. While pregnant with her fifth child last October, she went to the hospital with severe abdominal pain. Expecting the diagnosis to be something like kidney stones, she and her husband, Tim, were stunned to be told she had pancreatic cancer. The cyst on her pancreas, along with half her pancreas and spleen, were removed surgically, and she opted not to undergo chemotherapy during her pregnancy.
No doubt many who knew the family asked how this bad diagnosis could affect such good people. Devout Catholics, the Cascios are active members of St. Stanislaus Oratory, and their lives are deeply rooted in faith, including participation in eucharistic adoration and works of mercy.
The couple’s healthy daughter, Ciara, was born on Palm Sunday and at the time we ran our first story, prayers for Michelle were pouring in from around the world, thanks to social media and a GoFundMe page started by a family member.
Wondering how things are going for the family, reporter Karen Mahoney checked in with Michelle recently and was surprised to learn, in spite of the dismal diagnosis she had a few months ago, she’s in good health!
The family attributes this amazing turnaround to the power of prayer. We’ll never know or understand why God might answer one prayer one way while another’s prayer goes seemingly unanswered.
Yet, in spite of that mystery of our faith, it’s heartening to read about such a devoted Catholic family who believes that the only explanation for Michelle’s health is prayer. It also serves as a reminder to all of us that prayer and faith are always there for us to turn to, in good times and bad.
Columnist Michele Campbell shares a similar message in her column, “Thinking Out Loud,” on Page 10. As she learned through an unexpected encounter with something less than perfect in nature, God is there to tend to us in our brokenness. Don’t miss her sweet story that carries a poignant message!
Finally, get out the crayons, paints or markers and encourage your children to enter our coloring contest on Page 11. This year, thanks to the generosity of Trainfest, we have two Walthers Trainline train sets, valued at $150 each, to give away! For the first eight entries that we receive, we have a four-pack of Trainfest tickets (Nov. 12 and 13 at Wisconsin’s State Fair Park) to give away.
All aboard! Enjoy the contest and Trainfest!