A dear friend of mine was dealt a blow this past week. Her five year old niece was murdered.
Both of us aunties are committed Christians. Our path requires us to find a way to forgive the unforgiveable, to react to horror not with vengeance but with love and to rely upon Jesus Christ as our sole support. This is what we are held to, the standard we must aspire to, and we have to do it with a fallen nature and no support in that endeavor from the world at large.
I expressed my anger and sadness to a friend of mine who calls himself an atheist. When I told him how angry I was at the perpetrator, he immediately pointed out that I am a hypocrite because being a Catholic means I must forgive the perpetrator and love him anyway.
It did not surprise me that this was the reaction. Most people today are ignorant of the meaning of the word hypocrite and think that struggling with an ideal means we don't believe the ideal. That could not be further from the truth. I believe completely in all that the Catholic Church teaches and proclaims as Truth. I struggle with a lot of it all the time, because it is hard and it is unpopular and it can mean people won't like me. When I fail to meet that standard, I don't think it means I don't embrace it or profess it to be true. I think it means I failed. If my failure causes me to sin, I get my butt to the confessional and I make myself right with God.
I struggle with this standard because I have a vivid imagination. I cannot get the picture out of my head of the little, blonde haired, blue-eyed five year old being subjected to such brutality. I cannot shake the sadness of knowing how scared she must have been, how confused, how she could not figure out why this horrible man was so angry at her...how she must have wanted her mommy and then, blackness...
I then find comfort in knowing that as her life left her body, Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ was waiting right there for her. That He gathered her into His arms and welcomed her into heaven. How all that was left was a battered body, one that will be glorified at the resurrection. That she was welcomed into the Beatific Vision and that her prayers before the throne of the Most High is now helping her father, her mother, her older brothers, her family and their friends walk through this tragedy.
While I find it necessary that this man face judgement and hope he receives the maximum sentence for this crime, I also pray for his conversion. I pray that he comes to accept what he did, that he turns to Jesus Christ for forgiveness of his sins and that he pleads guilty in a court of law so as to spare her family the pain of a trial. I pray that he seek Truth, that while in prison he find his way to the One, Holy and Apostolic Catholic Church and that he remain in prison for the remainder of his life - and that he do God's Will while he is there, bringing others to know and love Jesus.
I deliberately and intentionally turn away from wanting to hate him. I deliberately and intentionally reject the language of revenge.
I have to - I am a Catholic. I am held to a higher standard. I am held to a standard I seldom attain.
But whose fault is that?
Please pray for the repose of the soul of little Hartley. And please pray for her father, her mother, her brothers, her extended family.
And for the perpetrator, that he find redemption in Jesus.