My heart goes out to Father Joseph Terra.
He has to heal from grievous injuries, but that’s the least of it, really.
He also has to heal in his wounded heart. He will live with the trauma he has suffered personally, and also from the additional trauma of seeing his brother priest die in front of him, for a long time to come.
Survivors of violent crime are often saddled with guilt of all types.
Why didn’t I fight harder? Why didn’t I call the police? Why didn’t I do this or that or the other? They ask themselves these questions over and over until the questions themselves become a wound, a source of shame and grief.
There are other questions, as well. Why me? Why did this happen to me? Why would anyone do this? And the companion questions: Why did I survive? Why am I alive when others are dead?
Father Terra did all he could. In fact, he was heroic. But, good man that he is, he is also bound to be attacked by the questions that keep coming in the middle of the night, the first moments after waking, when he sees a television show that reminds him.
He will wake up at the hour it happened for a long time to come. He will be struck with panic and sudden memories that feel like he’s reliving it. He will face, over and over and over again the endless repeating memory of Father Walker, coming to help him, the sound of the gunfire, the death of his friend.
It doesn’t stop because the victim wants it to stop. It doesn’t stop because people tell them they were heroes and to let it go and get over it. It simply doesn’t stop.
These thoughts punch holes in a person. They drain away self-worth, peace of mind and trust. Everything depends on how people treat the victim of a violent crime in the first days, weeks and months after the event. In that, I think Father Terra is blessed. He is surrounded by loving people who want to help and honor him.
Father Walker is in heaven. I don’t doubt that. He is probably praying for the man who killed him. I have little doubt that he is also praying for Father Terra as he makes his way through the pain and grief of what has happened.
Father Terra will never be able to rewind this tragedy. He will always be the man that this happened to. But he can, with time and God’s grace, make it into something good. He is a priest, which means he is a conduit of God’s grace. He is now also the victim of a senseless violent crime. The Holy Spirit can combine those two things in wonderful ways.
I pray for Father Terra. My heart goes out to him. I hope that God uses him and this tragedy to give new hope and healing to many lost souls who need it.
PHOENIX – On Monday morning, Father Joseph Terra, a victim from last week’s attack at a Phoenix church, made his first public appearance.Terra didn’t speak at Monday’s Requiem Mass service.Father was in a wheelchair and hands were bandaged up. Severe lacerations were evident on his head.Father Terra was beaten so severely, he was brought to the hospital in critical condition.Around a thousand people packed into Saint Catherine of Siena Monday for a requiem mass service in honor of murder victim Father Kenneth Walker.