Friday, December 21, 2012

This is a request that came to me indirectly, which I feel might be a call to action.  It is from the sister of one of the priests at St. Rose of Lima Parish in Newtown, Connecticut:

"My friends,

All of you, I am sure, have heard so much about the tragedy in Newtown, CT. Many of you have received emails from me about my younger brother, Father Luke Suarez, who is a priest at St. Rose of Lima parish, a Catholic church just down the road from Sandy Hook Elementary. He, and his pastor, Monsignor Weiss, arrived at the school within moments of the shooting, and have been caring for the community ever since. The picture I have included was taken at the school.

Father Luke has an impossible task before him. His diocese is without a bishop right now, and there is very little leadership and assistance from above. Monsignor is older, went through a serious surgery recently, and is personally devastated by the losses. The parish is very large, and parishioners tend to be wealthy and somewhat ill-catechized. The rectory has received serious threats, and as my brother gave the homily Sunday at the noon mass, the church had to be evacuated by SWAT teams. After experiencing identity theft and online hacking incidents, he had to erase all of his internet accounts. After a weekend of endless media requests, notifications and vigils with heartbroken families, and little sleep, he now has two wakes and two funerals every day, until the fourth Sunday of Advent. Father Luke has not even been ordained two years.

My large family has been trying to send Father Luke our love and support from afar, and one of my brothers was able to visit with him briefly a couple times. All he asks for is prayer.

I have been wracking my brain, trying to think of a way that our beautiful, loving community could tangibly reach out to Father Luke, Monsignor Weiss, and the St. Rose parish, to support them in this most awful of times. I have sent many prayer requests, and I am asking for more prayers again. But I also want to ask everyone to search their hearts, and if the Holy Spirit moves you, please consider sending one of your family's Christmas cards to the rectory, with a few words of love and encouragement. Here is his address:

Father Luke Suarez
46 Church Hill Road
Newtown, CT 06470

My brother has said over and over again that without the prayer support he is receiving, he could not keep going. And this week is only the beginning. Everyone there is still in shock. Their peaceful home has been desecrated by violence. They will need to live with this sorrow forever.

But in our weakness is His strength. Grace abounds. Can you help me carry him through this time of trial?

On a hopeful note, Father Luke did say that no media coverage has even touched the deep, beautiful awakening of faith that has occurred there. Their tiny church, where my children have received sacraments and where Luke was ordained, has been full of people in prayer without ceasing since this tragedy happened. Love is stronger than death.

Please feel free to share the address with your family, friends, and community. An outpouring of love will sustain these good priests through their impossible ministry--impossible on their own, but possible with God.

I am so grateful to live in this community. We are all so blessed with one another. Every day, I see you all loving one another as Christ loved. Thank you for letting me reach out to you now.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

I do not know why evil exists, but I do know that it does. On December 14, 2012, a crazed man in Newtown, Connecticut shot and killed 20 children between the ages of five and ten.  This week we celebrate the birth of Jesus and then, December 28, commemorate the children killed by a jealous and fearful king.

Do not tell me that guns don’t kill, people do.  Do not share with me any of the glib sayings that defend a position that has nothing to do with freedom or democracy.  Do not tell me that if the shoppers at Clackamas Town Center in Oregon or the children and teachers in Newtown Connecticut all had guns themselves, lives would have been saved.  Do not tell me any of this.  I will not believe you.

And don’t you dare tell me that the killings are punishment from God because people are living a life-style of which you do not approve.  No such God exists.  Don’t tell me it is simply the price of an individual’s mental health problems.  This is about evil, individual and systemic.   It is past time that we get honest and confront it.

There is not a simple explanation for every aberration in the human condition.  Evil is not simple.  If we think we can overcome it through reason alone, we are deluding ourselves.  Did reason overcome Hitler?  Gacy? Dahlmer?  Lanza?  Evil exists! It destroys, maims, hurts, lies and seduces.  It bullies and kills.  It has a life of its own. e Give evil a high-speed gun, or a bomb or some other powerful means of destruction and children will be killed. It happens.  Right here.  It also happens, in our name, on foreign soil.

Why are we still so completely surprised when evil erupts? When America was called a sick society in the ‘60s, because of the Kennedy and King assassinations and the inhumanity manifest during the struggle for civil rights for all citizens and the deaths related to a war no one could support, no one wanted to hear it. But it was true then, and is true now.  We are a sick society precisely because we deny evil’s presence among us.  We have no problem acknowledging the possibility of evil among strangers and those we see as different, but we refuse to acknowledge its presence in ourselves.  If others destroy and kill, it is wrong.  If we do it in the name of what we call a higher principle, it is morally justified. We have to acknowledge the truth: evil is not a stranger; evil is always evil.

I cannot pretend that I am immune to evil’s cunning presence. Can I say with absolute certainty that if I am attacked, I will always respond proportionately? No, I cannot.  Nor can our nation. It is only with God’s grace that we can keep evil at bay.  Of course, we need to remember that even the One Who was all-good was crucified by evil.  He lost. But then, He rose beyond death and put evil in its place:  present, but devoid of ultimate power.  Evil might kill the body, but it cannot destroy eternal life.  The cross, our only hope, marks evil’s defeat.