Q. Does sickness come from the devil, or is it God's will?
A. Sickness came into the world as a result of original sin. It was not part of God's original plan for us. And while the evil one tempted our first parents, we can't say that he is the direct cause of any individual illness.
The direct cause of most illnesses are germs and viruses which cause infections. Yet we can say that nothing happens in this world that God doesn't either cause to happen or allow to happen. So, while God does not directly cause someone to get sick, He can allow it because a greater good can be drawn from what we call a physical evil.
Even so, it is often hard for us to understand why God would allow one of our loved ones to suffer, especially for an extended period. Unfortunately, since sickness is part of the human condition, the innocent suffer in this life, along with the guilty.
But we can unite our sufferings with Jesus' death on the cross and offer them up "in atonement for our sins and those of the whole world," as we say in the Divine Mercy Chaplet. God can bring great good out of our suffering. See the "Catechism of the Catholic Church" (CCC) for more on sickness (1499-1532) and suffering (164-165).
Q. What response can we give when Protestants challenge the Immaculate Conception? They typically quote Romans 3:23, "All have sinned and are deprived of the glory of God" and Luke 1:47, where Mary says, "My spirit rejoices in God my Savior."
A. Many of our Protestant brothers and sisters believe in a teaching of "Scripture alone." They believe that the Bible is the only authentic source of God's revelation to us. We Catholics believe that the Church continues to be guided by the Holy Spirit through the Magisterium, the teaching office of the pope and bishops.
While we believe that public revelation ended with the death of the last apostle and cannot be added to, that doesn't mean that all revelation is completely explicit. We are continuing through the centuries to try to grasp the full significance of what has been revealed to us in the Scriptures. (See CCC 66.) We Catholics believe that the Scriptures and Tradition flow from the same divine source. (See CCC 80.)
Our Protestant brothers and sisters, though, would be happy to know that the Church teaches, "There is not, never has been, and never will be a single human being for whom Christ did not suffer" (CCC 605). This includes our Mother Mary.
John Duns Scotus (1266-1308) helped unlock the mystery of how this even applied to Mary, shedding light on Luke 1:37, "For with God, nothing will be impossible." The teaching is that since God is present to all time, He preserved Mary from the stain of original sin by virtue of the merits of Christ. So, knowing that Christ would suffer on the cross to save all humanity, God freely applied this saving grace ahead of time to Mary at the moment of her conception.
Q. What is it like being a Marian and a priest? Why did you choose this vocation?
A. I don't know if I chose this vocation or if it chose me. I should really say God chose me. When I was in grade school, I was an altar boy and played at saying Mass, with saltines and water and a towel thrown over my shoulders for vestments. I actually explored a vocation with a couple of religious orders and a diocese while in school and after college.
Then I worked as an actor. And I got away from the authentic living out of my Catholic faith, only to rediscover prayer and the Sacraments in my early twenties. At that point, I began looking for a religious community that had something to do with Mary, since my family had often prayed the rosary while I was growing up.
I got a thought one day, what about the Marians? I wasn't familiar with them at the time, but I found an ad in "Catholic Digest" and sent it in.
Now I love my life as a Marian priest -- praying daily with my brothers in community, sharing meals with them, recreating and laughing with them. As the Prefect of Formation, I work with our seminarians, and it is such a joy. They are so in love with Our Lord, especially in the Eucharist, and with Our Lady!
Fr. Joe Roesch, MIC, welcomes your questions. Send them to: Ask a Marian, Editorial, Eden Hill, Stockbridge, MA 01263, or [email protected]