Priest's plaintive search for God in personal tragedy

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In his recently-released book, Australian Jesuit priest Richard Leonard looks at how we understand the presence of God in our lives when we are faced with suffering, reports Thinking Faith. Using his own experience of a family tragedy, Fr Richard speaks about his personal response when he is tempted to ask: ‘Where the hell is God?’ - the title of his book.

Most explorations of where or how God can be found in human suffering tend to be fairly academic. I have found them to be immensely important, even when I have disagreed with their arguments or conclusions. I have even found the intellectual distance they establish to be somehow helpful in dissecting an anything but distant enquiry.

My passion for some answers in this area started from a different base. It was not, primarily, an academic question, though I hope my thoughts are intelligent. My interest started from experience, from my grappling with a family tragedy which forced me to confront how I can hold on to my belief in a loving God in the face of suffering.

On October 23, 1988 my sister, Tracey, was involved in a freakish car accident: she dislocated the 5th cervical vertebra and fractured the 6th and 7th vertebrae. For the last 23 years she has been a quadriplegic.

Tracey is one of the finest people I know, and even at the time of the accident, at 28 years of age, she had already lived in Calcutta for three years and nursed the poorest of the poor at Mother Teresa’s House of the Dying.

She had returned to Australia and got a job working with the Sisters of Our Lady of Sacred Heart, running a health centre for Aboriginal people at Port Keats. It was near there that the car accident happened.

Within 12 hours of my mother finding out about Tracey’s accident, she was standing in a hospital room in Darwin asking: "Where the hell is God?"

FULL STORY Where the hell is God? (Thinking Faith)