Finding peace in tragedy

By  Elena Feick, Youth Speak News
  • March 10, 2008

I believe that nothing can happen that God does not will, and all things work to the good of those who love God — even in the midst of tragedy.

On Feb. 3 we students at Our Lady Seat of Wisdom Academy in Barry’s Bay, Ont., received news that four of their classmates had fallen through the ice while driving a van across a frozen lake the previous day. Before an official report was released, we held an all-night prayer vigil before the Blessed Sacrament at St. Hedwig’s Church in Barry’s Bay and rosaries and chaplets were offered up, pleading for grace to bring all the students to safety.

I just couldn’t understand that this had actually happened. It all seemed surreal to me.

Of the four, Gregg Gassman and Jonathan Quist survived while Paul Sanders and Janine Lieu were found dead. They had both been completely committed to Christ, and our knowledge of their faith has brought much comfort to our community.

Our Lady Seat of Wisdom Academy has only 60 full-time students and 80 in total. We come together as a school to pray, to work, to eat and to play. Essentially, we come together as a sort of family.

We are located two hours west of Ottawa in the Madawaska Valley where there are about 1,300 people in the surrounding area. The passing of Janine and Paul was hard on this community: the students at the Academy, the parishioners at St. Hedwig’s and the residents of Barry’s Bay. It was to our faith and to each other that we turned for solace.

Yet, how is it that a loving God could will for this tragedy to happen? I find comfort in the breakdown of how God wills things to happen. God permissively wills, directly wills or indirectly wills everything. Without His will, nothing can happen.

His permissive will allow moral evil, but never His direct or indirect will. But what happened was not clearly a moral evil; no malice was involved in this accident. Since God does not directly will any evil, this means He indirectly willed what happened and all the pain it has wrought. But God does not indirectly will something bad without directly willing something good. I believe this tragedy is all somehow part of God’s providence.

We can only see little pieces of the good that has already been etched by God’s hand, through this loss.

When Pembroke Bishop Michael Mulhall presided over the memorial Mass for Janine and Paul, I realized for the first time that the church tangibly cares about each of her members. I was impressed that our bishop cared about a handful of grieving students — enough to come himself to offer comfort.

The outpouring of support from the local community to the school has been overwhelming: cards covering our bulletin board in the hallway, gifts of comfort food and prayers and donations to help a busload of students attend Paul’s funeral in Kincord, Ont. 

Steve Marsh shared another example of God’s providence in the eulogy he gave at Paul’s funeral. “Some have even felt the initiative to return to the church,” he said.

If, by Paul and Janine’s seemingly early call home, one soul is saved that might not have been, if by our suffering we are sanctified, or if by our example others are encouraged, then I must accept God’s will despite my own pain and the pain of my friends.

(Feick, 21, is a first-year student at Our Lady Seat of Wisdom Academy.)

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