When good and bad things happen to the faithful, is it just by random chance? Or is it the Holy Spirit working in some mysterious way? And if so, how can we recognize the Holy Spirit in our daily lives?

“These questions raise the age-old tension between God’s will and our own free will,” said the Rev. Msgr. Arthur A. Holquin, episcopal vicar for Divine Worship for the Diocese of Orange and pastor emeritus at Mission San Juan Basilica in San Juan Capistrano.

Holquin and other biblical scholars believe that while God may know what may happen in the course of our unfolding lives, he doesn’t predetermine it. That’s because God implanted into the human heart free will — which, of course, can be both a blessing and a curse.

Msgr. Mike Heher, pastor of St. Anne Catholic Church in Seal Beach, recently wrote in a parish bulletin about the need for Catholics to “test all spirits” because not all spirits come from God.

“Most of the time, a good spirit brings you love, joy, peace and the like. An evil spirit does the opposite: it brings confusion, doubt and disgust. But if you are leading a seriously sinful life, a good spirit may visit you with depression and disgust so you’ll want to change your evil ways.”

So how do Catholics know if what we are doing is in accord with God’s will or not?

Msgr. Holquin cites St. Paul’s Letter to the Galatians (5:22-23):

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

“Discerning the will of God is invariably connected to reflecting on whether our actions and choices have produced in our heart and mind one or several of the fruits of the Spirit,” Msgr. Holquin said.

“If not, then there’s a very good possibility that the choice we have made may not be in accord with God’s will, but rather a manifestation of a decision that is contrary to the Lord’s intention for us.”

Writing in Christianity Today, Dawson McAllister reminds us of the importance of remembering that the Holy Spirit will not prompt us to do anything that goes against Scripture.

“We need to make sure we’re listening to the voice of the Holy Spirit, not the voice of our own desires,” McAllister writes. “And we know which is which by checking this voice against the truth of God’s Word.”

As for why God lets bad things happen, Gary Zimak, writing for Catholic Stand, notes that tragedies result in people helping one another.

“We also see an increase in prayer,” Zimak writes.

Tragedies also give us an opportunity to trust God, he says.

“It is during the dark times that we must truly “walk by faith and not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7),” Zimak writes. “When skies are blue, it’s a lot easier for us to trust than during storms. However, storms often give us the best chance to grow closer to the Lord.”’

Full story at Orange County Catholic.