Today is the feast of St James, patron of Spain. Every loyal Spaniard will tell you that the apostle’s head is kept in a beautiful reliquary above the high altar of the cathedral at Santiago de Compostela. It is as certain as the fact that Spain is the land of lands, and intense though local patriotism always is, there are times when my tierra is identified with the whole country. Today that must surely be the case. The bagpipes which blare out the apostle’s triumph before the cathedral will be silent because Spain is mourning the loss of all those killed or injured in yesterday’s rail accident near Santiago.
Why does God allow such things? Why does he not intervene to save his children from such a terrible fate? That is a question asked in every generation, and the only answer that to me makes any sense at all is that it is the price we pay for free will. We are not pieces of clockwork, wound up, set running, and kept to pre-determined tracks. God respects our freedom, allows us to use or abuse it, to make mistakes. But that is only a partial answer. Ultimately, we do not know why God allows such tragedies. We must live with the pain of not knowing, of feeling loss. That is the price we pay for being human; and the only consolation is knowing that God has shared that being human and himself paid the price along with us.
Requiescant in pace. Amen.