Q. A question in a recent edition renewed a bit of ire I have had for some time concerning Food For The Poor appeals for donations. How can any organization claim such greatly charitable work while paying out huge salaries? Mr. Mahfood earns $391,627 yearly, and I am not going into all the other paid employees. Their web site lists an income of $939.5 million and claims Mr. Mahfood’s salary is only .04 percent of all expenses (data from their web site). Is this “charity” using the poor for a very lucrative business? Is it honest to rake off such large sums for employees, even if it is a small part of the take percentage-wise? While I wish I could feed, care for, and hug every starving, sick, and needy child anywhere, I can’t contribute to this group.
Contrast the work of Help The Helpless in India. Now there is an organization that does great things on very little money. The Wanderer probably gets needed revenue from the Food For The Poor ads, but is this an honorable group to support? I would appreciate your thoughts on this sticky question. — C.T., via e-mail.
A. As far as we know, Food for The Poor is one of the most reputable charities in existence. We would never carry its ads, regardless of our need for revenue, if it were not reputable. If the salary mentioned is true, it doesn’t seem exorbitant to us in a world where, for example, the commissioner of the National Football League is paid $29 million a year. But if you find Mr. Mahfood’s salary troublesome, then by all means do not donate to the group. But as far as The Wanderer is concerned, we have not received any complaints about Food for The Poor.
Q. Why doesn’t God answer my prayers? — M.C., Massachusetts.
A. God answers all sincere prayers, but sometimes the answer is yes, sometimes it is no, and sometimes it is not right now. If you think back over your life, you will find that God has in fact answered many of your prayers in the way that you wanted. But on other occasions, He may not have given you what you asked for because what you were seeking might not have been in your best interest or in the best interest of a person for whom you were praying. For example, some folks pray to win the lottery, but we know from recent history that getting all that money has ruined the lives of some winners.
Sometimes we pray that a sick child will get well, but the child doesn’t. Does that mean God doesn’t care? Of course not. The God who sent His Son to die a brutal death on the cross out of love for us cares a great deal. But He doesn’t remove all pain and suffering from our lives. He invites us to share that pain and suffering with Him, and He will give us the strength to deal with it.
God is able to bring good out of pain and suffering, as He brought salvation out of Jesus’ death on the cross. Or think about all the good that disease or a natural disaster brings out of people.
We know a family who watched their 16-year-old daughter die of cancer, an awful thing to watch. But the many hours spent in her hospital room, praying and singing, laughing and sharing memories, brought that family together in a beautiful way. Of course they were sad to lose their daughter and sister, but as faith-filled believers they knew she was in a better place. They had prayed hard for her recovery, but when her death came they were glad that her suffering was over, and they looked forward to the day when they would see her again in a world where there will be no pain or suffering or death.
Jesus’ Resurrection from the dead, which foreshadowed the resurrection of our bodies at the end of the world, is the only answer to evil and suffering in the world that makes any sense. There is a story about a woman who asked to be waked with a fork in her hands. When the funeral director was asked about the significance of the fork, he said the woman had told him that every time she went to a banquet, they were always told to save their forks because something better was coming. “I want people who come to view my body,” she said, “to know that there is something better coming.”
The biggest mistake one can make is to stop praying when a particular prayer is not answered in a certain way. Jesus told us in the Sermon on the Mount to “ask and it will be given to you, seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened to you” (Matt. 7:7). So we must continue to pray constantly, humbly, and confidently, while at the same time recognizing, as Jesus did in the Garden of Gethsemane, that when our fervent prayers are not answered as we had hoped, we must say to the Father, as He did, “not my will but yours be done” (Luke 22:42).
Q. Do you know anything about the devotion to Our Lady Undoer of Knots? I heard about this recently and wondered if it is legitimate. — A.C., Florida.
A. We have seen a good explanation of this devotion in a pamphlet put out by Our Sunday Visitor entitled “Our Lady Undoer of Knots.” The pamphlet is available in bulk by calling OSV at 800-348-2440 or by e-mailing them at www.osv.com.
According to the pamphlet, which was written by Woodeene Koenig-Bricker, the devotion began back in the 17th century when a German married couple contemplating divorce handed a local priest the red ribbon that had “tied” them together on their wedding day. The priest held up the ribbon to a painting of Our Lady of Snows, untied it, and prayed that all the knots in their marriage would be “loosed and resolved.” The red ribbon changed to bright white, the story goes, and the couple’s marriage was saved.
When Pope Francis (then Fr. Jorge Mario Bergoglio) was studying in Germany in 1986, he saw a painting of our Lady untying the knots in a white ribbon. He bought a postcard with the image on it and, later, when he was a cardinal, he had the image engraved on a chalice which he presented to Pope Benedict XVI.
The image shows one angel handing Mary a white ribbon while another angel smoothes the ribbon at the other end. With the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove appearing over Mary’s head surrounded by twelve stars and eight angels, the Blessed Virgin is shown standing above a crescent moon and crushing a twisted serpent under her heel. This image, of course, recalls Rev. 12:1, which says that “a great sign appeared in the sky, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.”
Before becoming Pope, Cardinal Bergoglio introduced the devotion of Our Lady Undoer of Knots to the people of Argentina. The devotion then spread to Brazil and eventually to the entire Catholic world. It is now invoked by those needing Mary’s assistance to undo a variety of “knots” that impact people’s lives — marital trouble, loss of a job, sickness, loneliness, and other worries.
On October 12, 2013, Pope Francis said that “Mary’s faith unties the knot of sin,” which happens when we do not listen to God or follow His will. He said that “a kind of knot is created deep within us. These knots take away our peace and serenity. They are dangerous since many knots can form a tangle which gets more and more painful and difficult to undo.”
But, the Holy Father said, “nothing is impossible for God’s mercy! Even the most tangled knots are loosened by His grace. And Mary, whose ‘yes’ opened the door for God to undo the knot of the ancient disobedience, is the Mother who patiently and lovingly brings us to God, so that He can untangle the knots of our soul by His fatherly mercy.”
Q. If a person were taught by his parents that he was useless and would never amount to anything, does he commit a sin of disobedience by trying to accomplish things once he gets to be an adult? — G.P., Florida.
A. Certainly not. The sin belongs to his parents who failed to treat him as a child of God and who failed to give him the love and support and guidance that he needed to grow and mature into a responsible adult. While the Fourth Commandment obliges us to love, honor, and obey our parents, the obligation of obedience ceases if our parents ask us to do something immoral or, in this case, if they continually put us down and treat us as worthless, robbing us of our dignity.
If this person is able to overcome this emotional abuse and try to become the person God intended him to be, good for him. Let us pray for persons in this situation and for parents who mistreat and neglect the children given to them by God.