A remedy for Pride based on something Jesus told St. Catherine of Siena

090113We live in times collectively marked by pride. And, while pride is a problem of the human condition that has beset us from the very beginnings of paradise lost, our modern age, with the rise of atheism, rejection of God, scorn for the metaphysical, and a hyper-emphasis of the “autonomous” self, pride has taken an even more prominent place.

Largely absent from the modern psyche is any deep notion that we are contingent beings, radically dependent on things, people and factors outside our “autonomous” self. Even before we bring God into the discussion, we seem less aware today that our existence and capacity to survive is deeply rooted in thousands, if not millions of factors outside us and beyond our immediate control.

Thank God (oops, did I say that?!), that your parents met, and your great grandparents, and your great, great, great, great…grandparents met, in all the combinations necessary for you to exist. Otherwise, no you!

And let us not forget the trillions of other things necessary for all those human combinations to have happened. The earth has kept its almost perfect circular orbit at just the right distance from the Sun; the Sun and all that is necessary for its working has kept its stable burn, with no big flares or dimishments; the Van Allen belts have been up and running in the high atmosphere to deflect harmful radiation from the earth; the asteroid belt has collected asteroids and kept then from hurling on earth, Jupiter and Saturn are out there catching comets for us and keeping them away; every part of every cell of your body is functioning at a high rate of success, every molecule, and every atom too….well you get the point. We are very contingent beings.

To say that we are contingent beings is to say that our existence is not necessary, does not explain itself, and is the result of other factors and people, not us. Our existence is neither necessary, likely, nor even all that predictable.

We have discussed on the blog before that, according to the playful (but probably understated) odds of a mathematician the probability of you or I existing at all is 1 in 102,685,000. That’s a number so huge it hurts to think about it. (More on that article here: On the “Non-Probability” of your existence). There is no such thing as a “self-made man.” We are contingent, VERY contingent.

Our existence, is astonishingly unlikely and I would say miraculous. That you or I am here at all is almost inexplicable, given the number of things and people necessary for us to exist.

Even before one brings God into the picture, a little humility is called for here based on how remarkably contingent and dependent we are are. For all the braggadocio of modern man, and all our talk about autonomy, Nietzschean Existentialism, “uberman”, self-determination,  self-referentialism and all other anthropocentric, prideful and bold assertions, we look pretty pathetic, when we realize how dependent and contingent we really are.

In a certain sense we barely exist at all, so dependent are we on things and people outside our self. If you can read this, thank a teacher, If you exist at all thank ten trillion (I am not exaggerating) other factors, forces and people.

And how about thanking God? Frankly everything that exists in this created world is contingent and highly unlikely by itself.  At some point everything cannot exist based on nothing. There must be some one or something that is “existence itself” and does not depend on, or stand on anything, or anyone before it. And that something, that someONE we call God.

God is not some other thing in the universe, or even outside the universe. He is existence itself. To deny the existence of a non-contingent being is to deny yourself, for something cannot ultimately stand on nothing. There has to be a foundation that depends on nothing else to stand, that explains itself. For other things to subsist, there must be one who exists, who is existence itself. And that someone we call God.

All of this came to mind the other day as I was reading The Life of St Catherine of Siena by her confessor, Blessed Raymond of Capua. In that work he relates a conversation that St. Catherine had with Jesus (which Catherine also relates in the Dialogue). In this conversation Jesus reminds Catherine of her contingency and dependance. He also gives Catherine the secret of overcoming pride so that our ancient enemy will never outwit us. Blessed Raymond recounts the dialogue of Jesus with Catherine in this way:

The holy Virgin told her confessors, of who, though unworthy, I was one, that, at the beginning of her visions, when the Lord Jesus Christ first began to appear to her, he said, “Do you know, daughter, who you are, And who I am? If you know these two things, you will be blessed. You are she is not; whereas I am He who is. Have this knowledge in you and the enemy will never deceive you…

[Blessed Raymond continues]: A succinct doctrine… Oh, Immeasurable wisdom, wrapped in a few brief syllables…”You,” said the Lord, “are she who is not.” Indeed, all creatures are made from nothing, for “to create” means to make something from nothing. When creatures are left to themselves they tend to return to nothing, and if the creator ceased for one moment to preserve them in existence, they would rapidly be reduced to nothing again. … The Apostle says, “…for if any man think himself to be something, whereas he is nothing, he deceives himself” (Galatians 6:3). … And Jesus says “For without me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).

And [Blessed Raymond continues] here is a healing remedy, for what wound of pride can enter into a soul that knows itself to be nothing? Who can glory in anything he does? And thus, all vices are driven out by the words, “You are not”.

And here too are many anxieties diminished. For, as Blessed Raymond attests, “Whenever I or any of the other friars was afraid of any danger, Catherine would say, “What have you to do with yourselves? Leave it to Divine Providence. However much afraid you are, Providence still has his eyes on you and is always aiming at your salvation.[Pages 62-65, selected verses].

And thus, a sense of our contingency, that compared to God, you and are “are not”;  is a remedy for pride. In an era of pride, of a false and excessive sense of self-sufficiency, autonomy, and that we can “craft” reality and answer to no one, a simple reminder of our contingency is essential.  And here it is given and it is put in a way that only a Saint can relate: “You are she who is not… I (the Lord) am He who IS.”

Have this knowledge in you you and you will be blessed, and the ancient enemy will never deceive you. For by this knowledge is the back of pride broken and is the basis for all humility formed.

43 Replies to “A remedy for Pride based on something Jesus told St. Catherine of Siena”

  1. It’s now years that I am exposed to the talk and the explanations of the faithful, I even had quite a wish to understand it the way they do, but I must confess that I never managed it. And here I was again acutely reminded of that. I mean, this whole article revolves around the point how improbable it is that we exist exactly the way we are. I totally agree on that point. But then the conclusion is that we should therefore be thankful (to God) because we do exist just the way we are despite such tiny probabilities. That is the bit I don’t understand. Don’t you see that such a conclusion heavily depends on a tacit assumption that we are thrilled beyond ourselves because we exist (and that being existing exactly the way we are, with our parents, country, physical abilities, genetic makeup etc.)? I would really like to know where do you stand on that point? Do you agree that such assumption is tacitly presupposed? If yes, why do you assume it is so? You feel that way about your existence? People around you feel that way about their existence? It’s your experience that people generally feel that way about their existence? Or maybe you think that people should feel that way? Or what?! I really don’t understand it because I definitively don’t feel that way. I mean, if everything didn’t play exactly the way it did, there would not be me, there would not be the person with exactly the same genetic makeup as mine, with exactly the same experiences as mine, etc. But so what?!! I mean being so thrilled about the fact that despite tiny probabilities I exist exactly the way I am would seem to require more narcissistic thought than I am capable of. I just don’t manage to see my existence in this world such a great event that the world or I would be at some great loss if there wasn’t me or if I were different than I am this way. Therefore, I genuinely don’t feel that there is anything to be so thankful for (to whomever). This sequence of events or that sequence of events, resulting in me the way I am or in someone different from me, what’s the big difference?! I really don’t understand. So I wonder where do I fit in your theory?

    1. Ellis: I hope and pray I will not be considered presumptuous to say something here (please forgive me)… but you say: “But so what?!! I mean being so thrilled about the fact that despite tiny probabilities I exist exactly the way I am would seem to require more narcissistic thought than I am capable of. I just don’t manage to see my existence in this world such a great event that the world or I would be at some great loss if there wasn’t me or if I were different than I am this way.”

      It is not so much you think so highly of yourself but that God does, enough so that He wanted you, YOU (exactly the way you are)! He knew you before your were formed in the womb (so the probability that you exist IS the miracle, it is the desire of God). His Love for you is greater than your love for yourself and so knowing Him brings you to true humility (understanding of who you are in relation to God’s Love) and a right and ordered Love for yourself. Know God and you will know Truth, you will begin understanding yourself as Loved by God.

    2. Ellis,

      Very interesting thoughts here, and I know you speak for millions. We can’t really appreciate our existence if we don’t really understand the value of what it is that we have. Most people in existence today are largely disappointed with life, and therefore can’t appreciate what it even is to be alive.

      I think our pride tells us what our lives SHOULD be, but few of us get what we want. This leads to resentment – towards God, others, and life itself. The message of our society tells us we can have whatever we want if we’ll do certain things – and yet we’re so confused when our plans are dashed to the ground. We wonder what we did wrong, especially when we believe we did everything right. Or we blame others and claim injustice.

      We can do nothing. We are nothing. Every thing comes from the hand of God. God has other plans for us and He is focused on eternity. He is in the business of stripping us of any self-will, delusions and pride that we have, and it’s painful. I know!! My life is filled with one disappointment after another, to the point where I see that NOTHING has worked out the way I planned, but God has brought me to a place where I am grateful for my very existence. I even told a friend this the other day: I am grateful that I exist. And why? Because of what God has in store for me, after this brief life. To have life-everlasting, where disappointment and pain don’t exist, and love, peace and untold joy reign. Now that’s something I can get thrilled about!!

      Hope this helps! God bless you, Ellis!

    3. Ellis, your feelings about your existence are completely irrelevant to the issue of existence. One may choose to believe in God or not, but if you believe in the God Who revealed Himself to us, and wish to follow His teachings, you will have to fight against pride and self-assertion every single day. In order to win that fight, Jesus gave St. Catherine a formula. He told her never to forget that she was “nothing” called into existence by Existence Itself (God). Even if St. Catherine had hated her existence, she would still be a “nothing” called into existence by He Who Is Existence. So, where do you fit in the Christian “theory”? You fit into it in the same way that St. Catherine, or Monsignor Pope, or I do: we were all “nothing” called into existence by Existence Itself: God.

      Once we believe there is a God Who called us into existence, the next step would be to ask why… I suppose we could entertain the notion of a bored, sadistic god who called us into life so that we would squirm in misery, but “boredom” and “a desire to play cruel mind games” are not qualities associated with the notion of “god”…We possess those “qualities” ourselves. Thankfully for believers, the God Who called us forth from a state of nothingness revealed why He did so: out of sheer, unadulterated love. Perhaps that should be the first clue as to why we should try to cultivate the virtue of thanksgiving, of exultation at our existence: There is a God; He loves us.

      Ellis, I have no doubt there are very solid reasons for your rejection of the notion that your existence should be a cause of joy to be thankful for…Please, pick a day and a time to reveal to God what you feel about your existence, but do so with an open heart. Do so with a most sincere desire to understand God’s plan for you. Do so with a most sincere desire to follow that plan. God will listen; will answer; will heal you. How could He not? After all, He called you, in particular, into existence, out of an ocean of nothingness.

    4. Ellis,
      The little piece of this puzzle you seem to be missing is the wonder that something exists at all. For instance, some of us have one day not just taken all the world around us for granted, but one day, it is if we realized for the first time in astonishment the complexity of say, a bear. Look, we say to ourselves, this being we call a bear. Look, in and of itself it is astounding in its form and complexity. My gosh, we say, what a marvelous being.
      In that moment we are, the some of us, struck by the magnificent complexity of the natural world around us. We can understand where that washing machine or our kitchen sink may have come from, but how did the bear and the butterfly and the phlox come from? It’s not a so what to many of us. It’s a wow, look at that! Being overwhelmed by the magnitude of all the natural world, from oceans to lava to stars to insects and mammals, we don’t say, oh, so what? Some of us say, HOLY COW!!!!!
      Then, those of us so struck by this kind of thinking, consider then our self, and as one of this natural world, generated by it, we look and say, my gosh, its astounding that I even exist to think this thought.
      If you yawn and say, ho hum, when contemplating the natural world, your inner eyes are still closed. And it is probably only mankind that can go from just existing on this planet as one of the many beings here, to a being that can reflect on the experience of that existence. Go there. Make the leap.

  2. one anonymous: “It is not so much you think so highly of yourself but that God does, enough so that He wanted you, YOU (exactly the way you are)!”

    But don’t you see that this is complete nonsense within the context? The context is that the probability for our existence is so tiny, that therefore *we* should be thankful. One is thankful for what *one* finds thrilling. Not for that what someone else finds thrilling. Why should *I* be thankful for something *god* finds thrilling? If he is the one that likes it, then he should be thankful. Just imagine your line of reasoning in everyday life. For example, imagine that two football teams in Russia play each other, say Moscow vs. Kiev, and the Kiev wins. Then someone comes to you (I assume that you are far away from Russia and not interested in Russian football) and says you should be thankful that Kiev won, because probabilities for Kiev to win were so tiny. And you answer – so what that Kiev won?!! Kiev or Moscow, it is the same to me. And then that one replies – but it is not about what you want, it is about what the trainer Yuri Pavlovich of Kiev team wants!! It is complete nonsense, isn’t it? If it is about what Yuri Pavlovich wants, than let Yuri Pavlovich be thankful. I mean, he is the one thrilled with the outcome, so it is only natural for him to be the one who is thankful. Not you. You don’t care for Kiev or Moscow. And this is completely analogous to this situation. Monsignor says I should be thankful that I exist exactly the way I am despite tiny probabilities. And I say – why should I be thankful if it is all the same to me. And then you say – but it is not about you, it is about God and the way he likes it. Well, if he likes it that way, than he should be thankful, not me as I don’t care, exactly as in the example with football.

    1. Ellis, Have you heard of the Communion of the Saints? If you were not here, your influence would not be felt in the world. Your unique contribution to society would be lacking. If you don’t want to be you for God, then be you for others. Ask someone who loves you, if they wish you were not you, if they would care if you were not here. Think of someone you love. Does it matter to you that they are who they are and not someone else? It is not narcissistic to love yourself. We are commanded to love others as we love ourselves. If you can’t love yourself, then how can you love someone else?

      1. “And I say – why should I be thankful if it is all the same to me.”
        So your life is not “thrilling” enough for you? If it is “thrilling” then you will be grateful?
        I don’t know if you are suffering from depression. Or you are full of yourself. But this entitlement stuff – oh my life has to be thrilling or I won’t be grateful to you God is childish! Grow up!

        1. “So your life is not “thrilling” enough for you? If it is “thrilling” then you will be grateful?
          I don’t know if you are suffering from depression. Or you are full of yourself. But this entitlement stuff – oh my life has to be thrilling or I won’t be grateful to you God is childish! Grow up!”

          Wow. Not a very Christian, or even considerate perspective. ‘Repent and Believe the Gospel!’ . . I posit that folks like yourself are the reason so many people never reach out and find content in Christ. The presumptuous judgement, hypocrisy and assumption you openly display is anathema to love and humility.

          May Ellis find peace, and may you find the same. No soul as negative and plain ole mean as your own could possibly be at peace. To me, of course!

  3. Donna L.: Thank you for your reply, it is a very nice comment. But, if you take a closer look into your answer, you may notice that you have actually shifted the point from ‘we should be thankful because we exist exactly the way we are despite tiny probabilities’ to ‘we should be thankful because god will give us eternal life’. Not that such a point is not interesting in itself, but it is not the topic here. And since it is difficult enough to clear one point, I would not like to widen the discussion with another, so I will not go into it.

  4. At the time that I started reading this last night, I had been starting to get all caught up and confused with myself. Reading this helped me to calm down. Thanks.

  5. This difficult to put in words but the greatest mystery to me is to realise that I am “me”. For the first time since humans exist, I am right here writing, talking, making décisions that affect life in me and arround me. I am conscious of myself and know about my humanity. I can and must make choices, I feel I’m in the driver’s seat. Why is this? Why was I not replaced by some other siblings that God could have produced? Each person can say truthfully “I am”, that makes us sons and daughters of the Lord who said to Moses “I am the God who is”.
    I think we were created because God wants to establish a relashionship with humankind. Life is truly God’s personal gift to us. There is no reason to become prideful but to be ever thankful.

  6. If you want to use science and mathematics to justify your beliefs, there is counter hypothesis that the probability assumptions made in this article are not true .

    The largest assumption made is that there is only “one go” at this universe.

    According to some multi-verse conjectures, it is suspected that there are an infinite number of universes. Anything which has a non-zero probability of happening in the multi-verse will happen an infinite number of times.

    There may be nothing special about us, as there will have been an infinite number of copies of “us”, each of us having repeated this life an infinite number of times.

    That might be someone’s idea of hell, but fortunately if its true you have no memory of it.

      1. “it is suspected that there are an infinite number of universes.”
        Okay here comes the Clown “theory” of multi-universes. A “THEORY” that can not tested or proven.
        I am exhausted, why don’t you check out “New Proofs for the Existence of God” by Robert J. Spitzer.
        When you are more educated, why don’t you come back and talk to us.

  7. Gladys H. Mariani: But no, my feelings are not irrelevant at all. That is precisely the point. The way I see it, in everyday life one is thankful for that one finds desirable, good, thrilling. That is how people generally understand the notion of thankfulness. And then the believers come, and turn the notion upside down. They keep using the same notion ‘thankful’, but all of a sudden that notion means something completely different. All of a sudden one should be thankful regardless of what one thinks about that he should be thankful for. It just doesn’t make any sense. Things like these I perceive quite often and such things are often the reason I just don’t understand the believers.

    As for the rest of your comment, it seems to me that you opted for the answer that one who believes is thrilled with his existence by default. I suspected that might be very frequent answer. Well, in that case there is not much further to talk about. It means that articles like this one are really aimed only at the believers, i.e. only at those who have the same tacit assumption as monsignor. And I simply em not one of those, so as to my fitting in – the answer is I do not fit in, nor should I, since the article is not intended for the likes of me. Fair enough. And also, as for my not sharing that basic assumption with believers, we do not need to go so far as introducing sadistic god here (although it is interesting venue for the thought), it is enough to restrict us to the gut feeling (or at least I have such a gut feeling) that if things in the past played differently there would never have been me, so being my life awful or thrilling, there would never be me to either appreciate it or reject it. It’s like in the movies when a fairy comes to show someone what the life would be like if there never have been you. Simply you see that there never would be you to regret that there isn’t you.

  8. Should God be Trusted?
    Inexplicably yes, since we are held in existence… any moment without His Care we would fall in Annihilation..

  9. I read this text twice and I am puzzled about the part about Saint Catherine being told by the Lord “you are not”.
    I can’t understand why God would say to his creature (specially a saint) “you are not”. My understanding is that perhaps in the beginning “she was not”. But by the merits of Jesus Christ, through faith and baptism how could she be called that way. Are we not alive and brought into “being” through God’s grace? Maybe there is something I do not understand, can someone explain this to me?

    1. The text is said and understood in a relative sense. And the quotes from Scripture help to spell that out. I think you are reading it literally, when it is said subordinately and relatively to the Lord who is Being itself. We by contrast participate in his being and without him “are not”

  10. existing is good. consider the alternative. the fact that ellis sees nothing good about his life to be thankful for is very sad. the fact that ellis sees no positive to exising is very sad. the fact that ellis believes his life is no better than never having existed is very sad. these may also be a sign of clinical depression. pray for ellis that he may experience the joy that comes from knowing God’s love.

  11. Claire L..On September 3, 2013 at 1:47 pm wrote:

    I read this text twice and I am puzzled about the part about Saint Catherine being told by the Lord “you are not”.

    Claire, If God made “Everything out of nothing,” Then we are all made from nothing. And if God doesn’t continue to suspend our existence, then back to nothing we will return.

    It is one thing to take matter, and change it into something else, but it is another, to create the matter itself from “nothing.”

  12. Donna L: Your words of wisdom: ‘ Pride tells us what our life should be’ so true. Keeping up with the Jones’ & worrying about self in the age now of another way to compare & be resentful, facebook. You are very good at discerning the truth.

    1. Thank you, Msgr.; yes, I thought since you covered the spiritual aspect of our Lord’s words to St. Catherine, that I would highlight the mortal aspect. As we walk this earth, our bodies are in constant conflict with our souls, and when we suppress the human tendencies of our nature, we bring ourselves (body and soul) into submission to the divine will. And until we pass from this earthly life, our human nature will require grace from our Lord in order to do his Will. So we are both body and soul. And of course we know that God created everything, “ex nihilo” (out of nothing). So the creation of our bodies in a certain sense is generated from matter originally created by God, and held in existence by Him.

      God Bless.

  13. Wow – what a great article. This is the first time I’ve seen this blog. A link from SpiritDaily.com led to this page.

    Your writing really synched with some of my thinking! I’ve recently had some thoughts, some speculations, that I would appreciate your comment on.

    Some of these ideas originally struck me as ludicrous, but upon further thought they strike me as quite possibly being true. I used the Selah concept – “Pause and think about that”.

    Basically I’m moving away from metaphors to reality.

    OK, here we go…

    God is light

    “God is light” (1 John 1:5). Sure, this can be seen as a metaphor, but I think it may be true LITERALLY. God said “Let there be light” (Genesis 1:2). The ancients did not have as sophisticated an understanding of we do about energy, so the word light was used to indicate the concept. I think God was saying “Let me create a universe and infuse it with My Being, My Self, Me”. With Einstein’s e=mc2, we know that energy and matter are interchangeable. Matter is just condensed energy. Matter and energy are both just an expression of God.

    “In Him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). We are surrounded by light, by energy, and this light IS God.

    So what if you turn on a flashlight and light comes out. Is that God? Well, if the universe, which is all matter and all energy, IS God made manifest, then yes, in a trivial sense, the light from a flashlight is God, but so is everything else.

    God is life

    I have a Ph.D. in Neuropharmacology (The Johns Hopkins University, 1976). One of the questions I’ve had ever since college is: What is life? Despite taking many biology courses, I never received a satisfactory answer to that question. I just cannot see how more and more complex molecules, even ones that can chemically “self-replicate”, can suddenly go from just a chemical mixture to “life”. I think that life IS God in action. I think that God infuses matter with Himself and THIS is what life is – God in us. Many religions treat life as sacred, and I think they have wisdom on that topic.

    God is love

    “Where there is love, there is God”. True, self-giving, altruistic, unconditional love cannot exist in the ungodly. When love is present in a situation, that is God in action. God is love (1 John 4:8). John and Jesus were trying to express very complex topics in a very simple manner. That is why Jesus was often frustrated with His followers – they just couldn’t grab onto what He really meant.

    Since we Catholics believe that Jesus can manifest as bread and wine, we can also believe that God can manifest as light and life and love.

    Ok, the ideas above may be seen as being extreme, pushing limits, or just plain crazy! But since we as Catholics fully believe that Jesus IS truly present in the bread and wine on the altar, then why can’t God also be present in light and life and love in the same manner? If the bread REALLY IS Jesus, then light REALLY IS God, life REALLY IS God, love REALLY IS God.

    This may explain results of experiments with 2 separated photons influencing each other.

    So, I am not a physicist, but I read about experiments where 2 separated photons can influence each other (“Quantum Entanglement” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quantum_entanglement). Physicists have some fancy complex theories about what is going on, but there is certainly no agreement in the scientific community about what is really going on. How can 2 separated photons influence each other? Given the above thoughts, my theory would be that these photons, this light, that they are measuring is ALIVE and they are in constant contact with itself. We THINK we are “separating” the photons, but in reality there IS NO SEPARATION. This is all part of one organic living being, namely God. As a unity, there is no separation, no distance too far, so of course when one photon is affected the other is as well.

    Obviously, these ideas could get real wacky, real fast. They could descend into “new age” type holistic thinking. That is not my intent here. My interest is just to understand this universe we live in as a devout, practicing Catholic. I think that God is so present, that He is our reality. He can understand our thoughts and intentions because He comprises the very fabric of our being. He IS us and He has far better insights into us than we ever will.

    A priest friend recently told me that these ideas are consistent with panentheism (not pantheism!). I’ve read about that a bit now, and that seems to be correct.

    Phew! That was a headful of stuff to get out. Bill, please give me your honest opinion. Are these thoughts garbage? Are they trivial? Are they worth pursuing?


    1. Tom:

      Much to ponder in your words. God said, Let there be Light, and there was “Radiation” (a big bang, a cosmic explosion? Which continues to unfold eon after eon?). I believe the created universe is just an expression of the Omnipotence of God. He is not restrained by time or space, like we are, but rather uses it to create souls, and bring them into eternal life with him. One would think that the universe will cease to exist once the number of human souls in heaven equals the number of fallen angels, so to fill up the void they created upon their fall.

      As for the Eucharist. I kind of look at it as Jesus “assuming” the elements of bread and wine, so that they truly become Him, in his entirety. In other words, if Jesus wanted to assume the elements of your computer screen, and then transform it before your eyes, he certainly could, but he never promised that. But he did promise that “this is my body, which will be given for you… this is my blood which will be shed for you,” effectively showing us that not only would he assume the elements of bread and wine so that they become Jesus himself, but also that they would be tied to his sacrifice (i.e., given for you, shed for you). Thus we call it the “sacrifice of the mass,” because to have those sacred elements before us, we are mystically in the presence of his sacrifice on the cross.

  14. This post puzzles me. On the one hand, I get it: We should thank God for our very existence, as He created us (and everything) out of nothing. Thus, He wanted us to exist. On the other hand, I am often at a loss as to why I was intended to be born into far-less-than-ideal circumstances: an alcoholic mother and an angry father who divorced when I was very young, after years of violence. Growing up with a mother who had anxiety, depression and alcoholism. Witnessing enough violence at a young age that I became a very anxious person myself. Now despite all of this, I have a strong Catholic faith and believe in God. I know that someday, in Heaven (I pray), I will understand everything, but from this side of the veil I often wonder why God put me where He put me. Would I be a different (better) person if I had grown up in a “normal” home? Less issues? More productive? I don’t know. Perhaps I went through what I went through so I can show compassion to others. Maybe I’ll realize later in life. Maybe not until after my death. When I look at what millions endure in life (starvation, war, disease, poverty), I know that I did not have it so bad. There were many blessings, even though my life was (is) difficult at times. It’s not that I am having a pity party for myself. I just often wonder, “Why, God? Why did you put me THERE?”

    1. Ann you have weathered the storm, and are still faithful. That is a testimony to God’s grace. In this life many of us find ourselves in less than perfect situations: thus the need to pray, forgive, and extend mercy. That is how we preach the gospel without saying a single word.

      God is at work in your life. Step back and you’ll see it.

    2. Ann,

      I am sorry that you had to go through so many intense, bad experiences. Nothing I can say or do will erase that. However, what helps me when I think about such things is this quote:

      “Why?” is the question written in hell by the devil.

      I can’t recall the source of that quote, but it helps me realize that we won’t know “Why?” in this world. I share your hope that someday, in Heaven, we will find out all these answers.

      God bless you – hang in there!
      Padre Pio: Pray, Hope, and Don’t Worry!!!

  15. Why do we make things so complicated when they don’t need be? Jesus’ words are so simple and easy to understand. Acceptance is the difficult part for many.

  16. I asked a question on Yahoo Answers in the religion and spirituality section, which is heavily populated by atheists.

    I asked the question: “Atheists: are you not aware of your own contingency?”

    The question offended someone (I suppose an atheist) and he reported it – the Yahoo staff fell for it and deleted my question as something in violation of Yahoo standards (because it offended someone).

    That is part of the politics of atheism.

  17. Jim,

    Your statement reminds me of the bumper sticker that reads “COEXIST,” made up of Muslim, Christian, Jewish and other symbols (peace sign, etc.). But … the very people who continually preach tolerance, seem to be the least tolerant.

  18. This is an amazing article. I read all the responses which are even more interesting, especially Ellis’s point of view.

    There is a book called: “I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist” by Geisler, Norman L., Turek, Frank
    which very systematically explains and proves God exists and we are all existing for his glory.

    I think Ellis (and all of us) can learn from it’s writings.

    I too had questions about myself in the past and still am struggling with problems but I understand more now and keep growing spiritually.

    I am no way affiliated with the book. It’s just that I know it helped me.

    I thank God for giving me the desire to share this with you. I usually never respond to blogs.

  19. Nice post.Our planet offers held it’s nearly ideal round orbit from the perfect range in the Sunlight; the sun’s rays as well as everything is essential because of its operating offers held it’s steady burn off, without any large flares or even dimishments; the actual Truck Allen belts happen to be installed and operating within the higher environment in order to deflect dangerous the radiation in the planet; the actual asteroid belt offers gathered asteroids as well as held after that through throwing on the planet, Jupiter as well as Saturn tend to be available getting comets for all of us as well as maintaining all of them aside; all of each and every cellular of the is working in a higher price associated with achievement, each and every molecule, as well as each and every atom too…. you obtain the stage. We’re really depending creatures.

  20. I liked this from Msgr Pope:

    “It is the soul that God makes from nothing. One need not argue that after creation God makes our bodies out of nothing.”

    May I ask a couple of questions Msgr?

    1) If God makes a soul from nothing, then isn’t it His soul? So why do I call it “my soul”?

    2) Again, if God makes a body out of materials he created, then isn’t it His body? So why do I call it “my body”?

    I’ll take a shot at the answer father, but I would like your comments:

    I suppose the answer is that, like a bubble coming out of a bubble pipe, the bubble is suddenly given it’s own independent existence by the bubble pipe. The gift of existence, and the self receiving the gift are created at the same time. Thus the newly created self, the person, is (a) self aware, and (b) aware of the parts of itself (physical, mental, intellectual, and spiritual), (c) aware that he/she owns and is now responsible for these things, (d) aware of other things that have been given existence, (e) aware of other persons that were given existence, and (f) is, or is not, grateful to God for this gift of existence.

    I also think that ONLY if I am on the road to heaven should I be grateful for existence. Jesus said of Judas that “it would have been better for that person if he had never been born”.

    So existence is a double edge sword. The bubble must not disrespect the bubble pipe, or float too far away. In fact, it should query the pipe about the reason for it’s existence, and ask if there is anything it should be doing with this gift. The bubble had better stay in good communication with its source so that it doesn’t fail to achieve the reason for its existence.

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