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Tuesday, June 17, 2008

A Catholic Responds to Horror and Fear

Self-giving is the first step along the road of sacrifice, joy, love, union with God. And thus, a whole life is filled with a holy madness which makes us encounter happiness where human logic would only see denial, suffering, and pain. - Saint Josemaria Escriva
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Over the Father's Day weekend the Central Valley was stunned by a horrific and vicious crime. A man suffering some sort of psychotic break was found beating his 2 year old son to death on a country road. He was raving that the child had been invaded by demons. The man was stomping and kicking the child. A passerby, a volunteer Fire Chief from one of our smaller towns here, tried to stop him when he realized what was going on while his wife called into Sheriff Dispatchers a scene of unspeakable carnage playing itself out in front of her eyes. She watched as her husband, a strong man, tried again and again to pull the man off the baby - a baby that had, by this time, been beaten beyond recognition - without success.

Sheriff Deputies arrived by helicopter, landing less than 20 yards from the scene. A Deputy, now being hailed as a hero, kept yelling for the man to stop. The perpetrator flipped them off and aimed a soccer-style kick at the lifeless body of the child. The Deputy felled him with one shot to the head.

And there, in the middle of a quiet country road, lay the bodies of father and son.
I have always struggled with this type of crime. I get nightmares. I get physically sick. I find myself crying and wishing, somehow, that I had been able to be there to - to what? help? stop him? offer myself as bait? what other overly-dramatic thing can I come up with?
I don't know...I only know that when something like this happens it always feels as though someone has socked me hard in the stomach. The wind is knocked out of me and I find myself holding on to something solid for support.

Intellectually, I know and accept that nothing happens in God's Universe by mistake. Unlike many people who hear that statement, I know it does NOT mean that God wills such evil to happen; rather, it is a by-product of His love for His creatures that the Creator will not go where He is not invited, allows us each free will to chose what and how we will send this precious gift of life given to us at the moment of our conception. I understand and I believe that from all evil can come great good. I know this, I understand this and I accept this....I believe.

Lord, help my unbelief.

Because in the middle of all the theology and the rhetoric and the debate over doctrine and dogma is the body of a little boy, battered into so much debris, and the body of the man who helped to bring him life, driven to madness and an unspeakable crime by forces not yet understood. Drugs? Insanity? Both?

And in a little apartment several miles away a young woman, a teacher by profession, sits between her parents in stunned silence...a haze of tranquilizers keeping the reality away from her for the moment so that she might not also collapse into insanity and death. Her husband is dead. Her child is dead. Both taken from her without warning, she claims. No signs. Nothing to indicate that the man with whom she created this precious new person would someday be gunned down while stomping the boy to death, grinning and flipping 'the bird' to a deputy who begged him to stop before having to pull the trigger.

As a Catholic, I hold fast to the belief that this child is safe in the arms of Our Savior and Lord, carried to her Son by the Blessed Mother herself, no longer scared or hurt or suffering.

I believe, Lord. Help my unbelief.

As a Catholic, I pray for the soul of the father who did this to his child. I do not know what demons possessed him - real, imagined, drug or psychologically induced, does it really matter? His immortal soul is, where? heaven? hell? It is not revealed to me, nor is it up to me - it is in the hands of a God of both Justice AND Mercy, who welcomed me home to the Holy Mother Church despite having murdered four of my own children in the name of freedom.

I believe, Lord. Help my unbelief.

Tonight, before I go back to sleep and begin my 'new day', I ask St Therese and St Cecilia - my friend and my patron - to comfort the survivors of this tragedy. I ask Our Lady to spread her mantle of protection over those who tried to help and those who witnessed this brutality. I ask the Lord to remember all of us today - we need You right now, Jesus, more than we have ever needed You.

I believe, Lord. Help my unbelief.

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