Prayer Request and Praise Report

A reader writes:

I’d asked you and your readers to pray for a friend’s mom who was having a lump removed. The friend has posted: “First off, thank you for all your prayers and encouragement during these few days for my mom. To update, me and my dad are going to pick up my mom from the hospital this morning. The lump was taken out and there was no cancer found! Pray for a speedy and smooth recovery.”

Thanks be to God through our Lord Jesus Christ!

Another reader writes:

I know of a young lady with an inoperable brain tumor. Let’s call her “Ireland” to conceal her identity. I’m asking that God may heal her through the intercession of Fulton Sheen, and I’m starting a prayer campaign to that end. Fulton Sheen recently raised a stillborn baby, James Fulton, from the dead, so I know that God is actively looking for an opportunity for his servant to work wonders. Please post this on your blog and help spread the word.

Prayer:

Father, source of all holiness, You raise up within the Church in every age men and women who serve with heroic love and dedication. You have blessed Your Church through the life and ministry of Your faithful servant, Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen. He has written and spoken well of Your Divine Son, Jesus Christ, and was a true instrument of the Holy Spirit in touching the hearts of countless people.

If it be according to your Will, for the honor and glory of the Most Holy Trinity and for the salvation of souls, we ask You to move the Church to proclaim him a saint. Heal Ireland of her tumor completely through Fulton Sheen’s intercession, so that the good Archbishop’s message may be fortified by divine signs. We ask this prayer through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen

Father, hear our prayer through your Son Jesus Christ. Mother Mary, pray for Will and all who love him! Venerable Fulton Sheen, pray for him!

  • Paul

    I don’t quite yet see why thanks are due to god for the removal of the lump and the fact that there was no cancer. Can someone explain? Just to get things out on the table right away, I am an atheist. I hope we can have a civil discussion, I hope to learn something through such a discussion.

    • Mark Shea

      Because Christians believe that God answers prayers and it is polite (and good for you) to say “Thank you” when he does. If you like, I can send you a book I have written on the subject for free. Just email me your snail mail address.

  • Paul

    Thanks, Mark. So, just to be clear, would you attribute the results of the situation to God’s actions if
    1. no prayers were offered, or
    2. if the tumor had been cancerous?

    • Mark Shea

      All of creation is the result of God’s actions. However, Christians believe that God has gratuitously chosen to include us in his ongoing work of creation and redemption and that our prayer therefore can have a real influence on the course of events. He is, of course, free to answer yes or no as he pleases and he remains good whichever answer he gives. Paul counsels us to give give thanks in all things and his great model is, of course, Jesus whose paradigmatic act is to give thanks “on the night he was betrayed”, offering the rite called “Eucharist” (thanksgiving) in direct and conscious anticipation of the moment when he will a) beg to be spared crucifixion and b) experience the refusal of that prayer in the starkest terms. Sometimes God says no. The message of the Cross (and the empty tomb) is that even such refusals are ordered toward our ultimate good.

      So yes: all things are ultimately the results of God’s actions. But God’s actions include the fact that he gives us freedom and that he knows things we do not.

  • Noble

    Please pray for my soul because I am often falling in sin. And pray for me to get permanent strength from GOD to overcome the sins.

  • Paul

    So, Mark, I presume that when someone prays for healing a cancer, if God healed that cancer, it is for the good, and if God didn’t heal that same cancer (and maybe the person died as a result), that would also be for some (higher) good. Do I have that right?

    By the way, thank you for your answers, they are very clear and I can understand them quite well.

    • Mark Shea

      Yes.

      And you are welcome. Thank you for your polite demeanor. I appreciate it.

  • Paul

    I have conversations with believers all the time, and it is a high priority for me that discussions about disagreements remain civil. I’m glad you appreciate that, too.

    More later.

    • Mark Shea

      Roger that.

  • Paul

    Hi Mark:

    Sorry I was gone for a few days, I took a trip out of town and was very busy.

    Anyway, I understand what you’re saying but there’s something that doesn’t make sense to me: If you credit God with not healing cancer in order that a higher purpose be served, then God could not only use someone as a means to an end, but could actually allow someone to be horrifically tortured as a means to another end. Using someone as a means to another end denies that person’s very humanity, yet somehow God, the most good, does this, even through torture. People sometimes say that, without God, anything is possible (a la Nitzsche), but you’ve just described something that shows that *with* God, anything – including the most horrific torture imaginable, is possible.

    • Mark Shea

      I’m afraid I don’t understand you. God *is* the end and goal of each person’s life. And God ordains that human beings have been created for their own sake. You are, like countless previous atheists, attempting to argue that God, the source of human dignity and all our good, is the enemy of human dignity and goodness. I thought we’d already made it clear that God does indeed create a universe in which very bad things (like the crucifixion of God) happen–and that he brings good out of it.

  • Paul

    Hi Mark:

    I think I get what you’re saying, but if you’ll allow me to put it in my own words, we can check if I’ve got it right. What you’re saying is that people have no dignity, nor goodness, apart from what God gives them. So God can freely use people for larger ends because any inherent worth comes from God anyway. Is that right?

    On another point, it seems contradictory to hold that God has ordained that people are created for their own sake, as you say, yet God can use people as a means to an end. God reserves the right, in other words, to treat people as if they were not created for their own sake, as if God is not responsible to himself (God can break one of God’s laws).

    Lastly, I’ve only come across your blog very recently, so I missed the part in which you made it clear that God does indeed create a universe with very bad things.

    • Mark Shea

      You’re talking as though there is some larger end than God that God is seeking. You’re also still talking as though God, who says that man is the only creature he has willed for his own sake, does not will man for his own sake. Consequently, your line of questioning still makes no sense to me.

  • Paul

    Sorry, Mark, I think I misunderstood you. Let me try again by asking some questions. So, when God doesn’t heal a cancer and lets the person die, would you say that

    1. Good will definitely come out of that decision by God (I think you will agree with this);

    2. The good that comes out of that decision is greater than whatever pain or emotional anguish the person with cancer, or those who know or love the person with cancer might suffer.

    3. This greater good makes the pain or emotional anguish that is suffered worth it.

    4. This greater good is sometimes (usually? always?) difficult or impossible to articulate.

    5. Lastly, for whose benefit is that decision? Is it for the benefit of the person with cancer, and/or for those who know or love the person with cancer, and/or for those who don’t know the person with cancer at all?

    • Mark Shea

      Sorry, Mark, I think I misunderstood you. Let me try again by asking some questions. So, when God doesn’t heal a cancer and lets the person die, would you say that

      1. Good will definitely come out of that decision by God (I think you will agree with this);

      Depends on what you mean by “good”, I suppose. But yes, God permits evil so that his glory will be shown even in that. Also, I’m not sure I’d use the word “decision” to describe God’s action here. It’s not like God is waffling between options and unsure what to do. Creation and redemption are a seamless flowing river of Act by the God who is pure Act.

      2. The good that comes out of that decision is greater than whatever pain or emotional anguish the person with cancer, or those who know or love the person with cancer might suffer.

      Yes. Assuming the people we are speaking of here are willing to cooperate with God. Judas’ sufferings did not do him any good, but his act of evil and the sufferings he helped cause issued in great good for others.

      3. This greater good makes the pain or emotional anguish that is suffered worth it.

      God is the good. He is not seeking some greater good. The pain and anguish we suffer is a participation in his suffering.

      4. This greater good is sometimes (usually? always?) difficult or impossible to articulate.

      Only inasmuch as God is a mystery we cannot fathom. But that is not to say that God is unknowable. The promise is that we shall see God face to face.

      5. Lastly, for whose benefit is that decision? Is it for the benefit of the person with cancer, and/or for those who know or love the person with cancer, and/or for those who don’t know the person with cancer at all?

      The benefit is for any who seek the face of God. That offer is open to all. And, by the way, it does not require a mastery of Christian theology or even the knowledge of Jesus name in order for the God to already be at work in the soul. Any who are open to whatever light of the Holy Spirit is available to them can say yes to him, even if they don’t know his name yet. God is the light that lightens every human being.

  • Paul

    Thanks again, Mark.

    When you wrote, “God permits evil so that his glory will be shown even in that,” I have to admit I was taken aback for a second. It is inconceivable to me that we could describe a being’s actions as “good” if that being permitted evil in order to show that being’s glory; allow me to explain:

    You’re saying, then, that there is no action, no matter how horrific (such as an torture, or causing suffering, pain, misery, etc.) that is beyond God to do or allow. This means that God could act in a way that causes the most – literally the most – harm and pain conceivable, to further show His glory. My problem with this is that, if one were to imagine a completely evil God – the exact opposite of your God – I do not see any difference between those two Gods *in this regard.*

    • Mark Shea

      I’m just paraphrasing St. Thomas here. Your objection essentially boils down to this:

      Objection 1. It seems that God does not exist; because if one of two contraries be infinite, the other would be altogether destroyed. But the word “God” means that He is infinite goodness. If, therefore, God existed, there would be no evil discoverable; but there is evil in the world. Therefore God does not exist.

      His answer is this:

      Reply to Objection 1. As Augustine says (Enchiridion xi): “Since God is the highest good, He would not allow any evil to exist in His works, unless His omnipotence and goodness were such as to bring good even out of evil.” This is part of the infinite goodness of God, that He should allow evil to exist, and out of it produce good.

      You seem to me to be demanding contradictory things. On the one hand, you demand human dignity be respected and people not be made means to some greater end. The tradition agrees with you, insisting that man is the only creature God has willed for his own sake. But then you also reproach God for allowing evil and, apparently, not creating a police state universe in which it is impossible for creatures to commit evil. But to do this would utterly obliterate the human dignity and freedom you rightly commend. (It would also, by the way, obliterate the dignity of angels, who likewise have the power of choice, albeit of only one act of choice). I get the sense, though I could be wrong, that you are conceiving of God as a sort of mad scientist, experimenting on rats to satisfy his ego. If so, then I would suggest that you need to shed such a crude anthropomorphism. Remember: the paradigm is Christ. God (that is, Christ) allows the suffering he undergoes to issue in his glory. Our sufferings are participations in God’s sufferings. God is not in a lab coat, thinking “Man! This will make the human lab rats really appreciate me!” He is among us, suffering with us. His glory is the Cross because his glory is the resurrection.

  • Paul

    Hi Mark:

    In my opinion, your last post did not address the specific ideas I raised in my previous post. I am not making the argument in my July 18, 12:06 post that you seem to think I am. For instance, the essential problem that St. Augustine addresses, as you wrote in your last post above, is the existence of evil in light of God’s presumed existence. But whatever problems there may or may not be between God’s existence and the presence of evil, that is not the issue I was addressing.

    To boil down my point to its essence: if God can allow or cause to happen the most unimaginable horror, pain, torture, etc., to further show his glory in a way we can’t understand, then that is indistinguishable from what an evil God would do. Do you agree or not that God as you understand him, and an evil God, would be indistinguishable in this specific respect?

    • Mark Shea

      God does not cause evil. He permits it because he wills the good of freedom. So, no. I do not agree that God is indistinguishable from an evil god. It appears you are attempting to argue that God a) does not exist and b) is evil. Which is it? And if the latter, what good are you contrasting with his alleged evil and where does that good come from since God is Creator of all? As I say, you seem to be wanting to have your cake and eat it.

  • Paul

    I am not arguing here that God doesn’t exist and is evil. I’m saying that your description of God is indistinguishable from an evil God because your God can allow or cause to happen unimaginable torture, pain, and anguish. I’m making a comment that your idea of God is incoherent because you claim he is good but you describe a ssituation in which he would be indistinguishable from an evil God.

  • Paul

    Another thing: in general, we atheists think that believers are not humble enough about their epistemology, that they are too quick to jump to conclusions, based on mere appearances. To give you an idea of how absolutely convincing false appearances can be, remember that the chair you are sitting in is not solid, it is mostly empty space.

    • Paul

      Oops, wrong thread.


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