The idea for this article came out of my cogitations on Blood Lad. The anime provides scads of fun and excitement over the course of ten episodes. Still, as many bloggers noted, it leaves more loose ends than an unfinished tapestry. One of the more enjoyable aspects of the show is the dynamic between the vampiric siblings Staz and Braz. Due to the belief that Braz tried to kill Staz in childhood and sealed Staz’s power out of spite, Staz hates his elder brother. This attitude is understandable: if Braz has any laudable motives, he keeps them to himself. Furthermore, Braz has no trouble using others willy-nilly for his own ends.
At the same time, one discerns that Braz has a deep affection for his younger siblings, Staz and Liz, and wishes the best for them. In this manner, Braz very much imitates God’s love for His children. Also similar to God is how Braz’s motivations remain mysterious to his siblings, which cause them to doubt his affection for them.
We have an Older Brother in Christ, and the Faith tells us that He is omnipotent, omniscient, and so omnibenevolent that He consented to die in our place for the sake of our eternal welfare. Yet, the evil within our lives and in the world may cause us to doubt that God is good. I once expressed such a doubt in the confessional. The priest reminded me of the perseverance of Job despite his suffering, and I have never before or since heard such good advice in the confessional. (This same priest was far less helpful on subsequent occasions, which confirmed to me that Christ does occasionally borrow the confessor’s lips during the Sacrament of Reconciliation.) The story of Job is perfect for reminding us of suffering and the need to persevere, even as the rest of the Scriptures and the blessings in our lives remind us of God’s goodness.
Distrust of God can unfortunately even affect those who should be most confident in Him: priests and religious. In St. Faustina of Kowalska’s diary, Divine Mercy in My Soul, she writes of our Lord telling her: “My Heart is sorrowful, because even chosen souls [i.e. priests and religious] do not understand the greatness of My mercy. Their relationship [with Me] is, in certain ways, imbued with mistrust. Oh, how much that wounds My Heart! Remember My Passion, and if you do not believe My words, at least believe My wounds,” (I: 379). If you think about it, priests in particular might have greater difficulty in trusting God, because they see more of the world’s suffering than other persons. People frequently have recourse to the priest in their pain, and priests see the pain of many individuals and their families in addition to the pain of their own lives. While an atheist proponent of the problem of evil might point to the deaths of innocent children as a reason not to believe in God’s existence, the priest buries these same innocent children, deals with the grief of their families, and keeps the Faith. What these atheists know in theory, the priest sees embodied.
At the same time, priests account for most of the canonized saints. If they have been canonized, one can be sure that they suffered physically and spiritually more than we can imagine. In the saints, we also invariably see a great devotion to “Jesus Christ and Him Crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2). St. Faustina was entrusted with an important revelation of God’s mercy, and the disbelief of her superiors, priests, and fellow religious caused her great embarrassment. Added to this embarrassment were many temptations to despair and other spiritual sufferings which afflicted her from the beginning of her novitiate. Two of her constant sources of consolation were the Sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist. These both point to the Crucifixion: the source of God’s forgiveness and of the Body and Blood made incarnate on our altars every Eucharist. If you cannot believe Christ’s words, look at the Cross and believe His wounds!
What is the alternative? Looking at God as a sinister figure—just as Staz looks at his brother. But, we know by faith that God is loving and good, and Christ Crucified reveals to us that suffering does not separate us from Christ, but strengthens our bonds to Him. Another of my favorite saints who had visions of Christ, St. Padre Pio, was once told by our Lord that Padre Pio would have been lost long ago were it not for the many sufferings, pains, and illnesses which frequently afflicted Pio. Likewise, when the devil tempts us to believe that our hardships are evidence of God’s abandonment, we should turn with love to a crucifix and say: “How closely do you unite Yourself to me, my Savior!”