Even if I Die, I Should be the First One

Even if I die, I should be the first one.

That was how Father Benny Putharayli evaluated the situation when the gunman who had invaded his church during mass gestured for him to step forward.

Father Putharayli’s parishioners were already on the floor, taking cover. A gunman had walked into the Church of St Michael in Ray, ND during mass and yelled, “Stop Father!”

“It was a shocking moment because I was preaching,” the priest recounted. The parishioners hit the floor and that left Father Putharayli the only one standing.

When the gunman gestured for the priest to come forward, Father Putharayli thought, “Even if I die, I should be the first one.”

I would guess that Father’s thoughts were almost instantaneous. This doesn’t sound like the kind of situation where someone has time to weigh their ideas and contemplate consequences. Moments like this strip away the intellectual boundaries we place between who we are and who we would like to be.

It sounds as if that split second thought was Father Putharayli, offering his life for that of his parishioners.

The gunman was a killer. He had murdered two people, including his 82-year-old mother, before coming to the church. Fortunately, he only wanted money from the parishioners. But Father Putharayli didn’t know this when he was looking down the barrel of that shotgun, and given that he was dealing with someone so depraved that he had killed his own mother, things could easily have turned bloody in that church that evening.

The world gets crazier and violent acts multiply. But, even in the midst of this violence, individual acts of heroism and self-sacrifice witness to the best that’s in us. That is one of the messages we need to take away from the many terrible events in our society. Good happens, and it happens in the worst of times.

I’m tired of asking the question “Why?” about the senseless violence in our society? The operative word about these terrible crimes is that they are senseless by ordinary thinking. There will never be a comprehensible answer to the question Why? or at least not one we want to hear.

The truth is, our society has become a psycho-breeder. We don’t want to face that and the implications it has for some of our cherished misbehaviors. But without a willingness to forego easy answers and quickie fixes that will not work, the eternal whys of the victims have no answers.

As I said a few months ago, we are going to have to learn to live with this. This is our new normal.

I understand the shattered victims who ask Why? That is the first and deepest response of the grievously wounded. Coming from those whose lives have been shattered, Why? isn’t a question so much as it is a statement. I am worth something it says. My loved one who is dead or injured is a beautiful gift from God and their worth is beyond counting. Don’t you see that?

That is what Why? means when it comes from a shattered victim.

But as a rhetorical question from a stunned public, it has ceased to resonate, at least for me. I am tired of asking Why?

I refuse to go where these rhetorical Whys? lead to, which is a fixation on the monsters who do these things. I don’t want to talk about them. I would rather we never spoke their names and, when the times comes, that we salt their graves so nothing can ever grow there again.

So, if you want to gabble about the various shootings and tragedies of this week or the weeks before, go elsewhere. The silence on this blog is my salt on the monster’s graves. They are anathema to me. When I speak, it will be about the beautiful acts of heroism and love that ordinary people rise to as a result of these pitiless assaults.

We need to focus on the brave and selfless people who look down the barrel of a shotgun and think Even if I die, I should be the first one. 

Because, even in the worst of times, good happens.

From Chicago Sun-Times.com:

The Rev. Benny D. Putharayil was conducting Saturday night mass at the Church of St. Michael in Ray, N.D. when a man armed with a shotgun barged in.

“It was a shocking moment because I was preaching,” Putharayil recalled Monday night, only after learning the man had been wanted for murder. “He stepped in with a gun and shouted, ‘Stop, Father.’”

Heads in the pews turned to catch sight of 54-year-old Billy Varner, who has since been charged with the murder of two women in north suburban Antioch, according to the priest and authorities.

Nearly three-dozen parishioners hit the floor, taking cover in the pews, leaving Putharayil the only one standing, the Catholic priest said in a phone interview.

Then the man gestured with his gun for Putharayil to come forward.

“My thought was, ‘Even if I die, I should be the first one,’” Putharayil said. “By God’s grace I was a spared.”

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Massacre of Christians in Syria


According to an October 21 Barnabas Aid report, Islamist rebels waged war on the civilians of the Christian towns of Haffar and Saddad in Syria.

From Barnabas Aid:

Dozens of people were killed when Islamist rebels besieged the Christian towns of Saddad and Haffar in Syria. As churches, homes and schools were looted and destroyed, 2,500 families fled, while 3,000 people, including children, were held as a human shield for a week.

Militants from the al-Qaeda-linked al-Nusra Front stormed Saddad and Haffar on Monday 21 October shouting “Allahu Akhbar” [“Allah is great”]. They set up sniper posts and launched a campaign of shelling, killing anyone they found in the streets. Children were crying in fear as the militants took over the towns.

One of our partners in Syria said:

1,500 families were held as hostages and human shield for a week, amongst them children, old men, young men, and women. Some of them fled… some were killed and some were threatened by the bullet, by strangulation, execution and with the destruction of their houses.

Estimates of the number of Christians killed during the siege of Saddad and Haffar range from 45 to 70; children were among the dead.

Homes, businesses, schools and other public buildings, including the hospital, were looted and destroyed; 14 church buildings were attacked and graffitied with insults against Christianity.

Thousands fled the violence, many with just the clothes on their backs. Those who took money, documents or other valuables were robbed.

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Book Review: People Pleasing, Miss Perfection, and Following God

To join the discussion about A Confident Heart, or to order a copy, go here BC AConfidentHeart 1

There’s an old story about Abraham Lincoln and his horse. It seems that the president was trying to get on his horse, but the horse started hopping around and got his back hoof hung in the stirrup. Lincoln stopped, looked at the horse, and said, “If you want to get on, I’ll get off.”

I think that God sometimes says something similar to us. Women, in particular, are afflicted with the Miss Perfection syndrome. I think it comes from our strivings to be good girls. We share an all-too-human craving for approval and validation from the people around us. For women, this is intensified by our intuitive understanding of others.

Make no mistake about it, women are better at people skills than men. When it comes to human interaction, we have a whole other level of intelligence that is just not there in most men. This intelligence can cripple rather than empower if we turn it on ourselves in the guise of people-pleasing.

The truth is, if we are trying to please others 24/7, then we aren’t in sync with the God Who made us. We aren’t doing what He made us to do. Read the Scriptures through from “In the beginning” to “Come Lord Jesus.” You will not find admonitions to make people pleasing a life’s goal in there anywhere.

On the contrary. We are a exhorted to please God, even if it displeases other people.

That’s a tough order for most of us with double x chromosomes, wired as we are with antennae that respond to the slightest change in the emotional weather of those around us.

Renee Swope wrote a book from her heart to other women when she wrote A Confident Heart. The subtitle, How to Stop Doubting Yourself and Live in the Security of God’s Promises, says it all.

Mrs Swope talks directly to women with this book. She frames her message by sharing the life lessons she has learned, first from growing up in a broken home with a distant father, and then walking the high-wire act of care-giver, mom, writer, ministry leader.

The truth is, the average American woman’s life is an insanity-making brew of conflicting demands based on conflicting roles. Most women work almost non-stop at their various jobs, and most women feel that they are failing at least a little bit at each of those jobs. We live, as Henry David Thoreau said, “lives of quiet desperation.”

We drive ourselves to get it all right, at least on the outside, and often end up neglecting the inside of our lives and the lives of those around us. Miss Perfection doesn’t have time to follow God because she is too busy trying to prove something that can’t be proven to people who really don’t care all that much, anyway.

We are not the sum of our successes with our failures subtracted to give us a net worth. We are children of the Living God, and He loves us, just exactly as we are.

People pleasing is a poison that drives us to drink deep of the unhealthy brew of perfectionism and pretense. God pleasing is simply being who we are.

People pleasing perfectionism is all about lying on the outside, hiding the flaws that make us human and hoping that no one ever finds out. It is about self-isolating fear and fraudulent living under the whip of our own demands. God pleasing is a matter of letting go and simply knowing … accepting … that He is God. God pleasing is as simple as saying yes in a long sigh of relief.

We don’t have to do anything for God to love us. No matter what we accomplish, He will not love us any more. No matter how often we fail, He will not love us any less.

Unconditional love is the answer to people pleasing, and the only place we will ever find it is at the foot of the cross.

Mrs Swopes takes her women readers through a discussion of the gifts of the spirit and how they apply to their own lives. That is the one place where I part company with her in this book. Catholics and Protestants both encourage people to spend time looking for what God wants of us. Catholics call it discernment, Protestants call it seeking God’s will.

I think — and I realize that I am almost alone in this — that all we have to do is just follow. Follow Christ. Obey the Ten Commandments and the Beatitudes and trust Him. You don’t need to chase yourself around, looking for God’s plan for your life. It has been my experience that if God wants you to do something, you won’t be able to get out of it.

It is a mark of how much this book got to me that I say that. I got engaged with it, and found myself in quite a few of the things that Mrs Swopes wrote. I did this to the point that I found myself dialoging with the author — and now the people reading this blog — in my head.

A Confident Heart is designed to be used either in personal reading or in small group settings. It comes with a dvd to help the study group setting.

If you are a woman who is struggling to find spiritual balance in your life (which of us isn’t?) then A Confident Heart is a good place to find some answers.

I’m going to offer a free giveaway of this book to three of Public Catholic’s women readers. It will be very simple. The first three women commenters who ask for it, will receive a free copy.


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Akita: Fire Will Fall From Heaven

We’ve already talked about Fatima in a previous post.

This is more information about Akita and what happened at Kibeho, Rwanda, before the genocide. Our Lady prophesied the Rwandan genocide and warned against it a decade before it happened.

Sister Agnes Sasagawa
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Kibeho with Immaculee

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Kibeho prophecy Immaculee

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Fatima and Akita: The Third Secret

Oh my Jesus, forgive me my sins and save me from the fires of hell. Bring all souls to heaven, especially those most in need of your mercy.

Our Lady specifically asked at Fatima that we insert this prayer into each decade when we pray the Rosary.

These are the other prayers we were taught at Fatima:

Pardon Prayer
My God, I believe, I adore, I trust and I love you. I beg pardon for those who do not believe, do not adore, do not trust and do not love you.

When we offer something to God
Oh my Jesus, it is for love of you, in reparation for the offenses committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and for the conversion of poor sinners.

When we pray before the Blessed Sacrament
Most Holy Trinity, I adore you! My God, my God, I adore you in the most blessed Sacrament.

The Angel’s Prayer
With the Blessed Sacrament suspended in mid-air, the Angel of Fatima prostrated himself and prayed,

Most Holy Trinity — Father, Son and Holy Spirit — I adore you profoundly. I offer you the most Precious Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ — present in all the tabernacles of the world — in reparation for the outrages, sacrileges and indifference by which He is offended. By the infinite merits of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I beg the conversion of poor sinners.

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I May Fall, But I Will Rise

We are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses …

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The Tragedy of Not Becoming a Saint


Father Robert Barron on our universal call to sainthood.

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Let My Lifesong Sing to You


May you have a happy and holy All Saints Day.

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Forbes Names Pope Francis the World’s Fourth Most Powerful Person


Pope Francis managed to make Forbes most powerful list, and he did it without a single Tomahawk missile.

I would guess that this is a bow to the pope’s worldwide popularity. What is ironic is that despite the fact that the pope has none of the trappings of raw power that the other members of the Most Powerful list possess, he really does have a kind of power.

The power to persuade through love and hope is and always has been the most potent kind of power that anyone can possess. What these other people have is the power to destroy — through weapons, taxes regulations., or expenditures of monies. They can, if they are careful, creative and deeply good people, shape this power to the purposes of good.

But Pope Francis has the healing power of Christ at his disposal. This acts on the many cruelties and sins of individual lives in the same way that water acts on stone. It slowly wears away the rough edges and transforms, but it does it so gradually and painlessly that the observer can not see it as it happens.

What is interesting is that every Christian has access to this same healing power, if they will just use it. Scripture tells us that love is stronger than death. I don’t think this refers only to physical death. I think it refers to our whole death-worshipping culture and, on a personal scale, to the many little deaths of cruelty and indifference that we encounter in our daily lives.

Love is stronger than death. God’s love is stronger than the entropy of decaying civilizations and the slow deconstruction of wasted lives. His love cancels out the annihilation that is the core craving of all deep evil.

God’s love is the not just the transforming power in human society. It is the glue that holds everything, everywhere, together. We see the corrosive effect that rejecting God has on individuals, on their belief systems and their overall behavior. We see it writ large on societies that fall away from Him. But the truth is, God is still holding those people and this world in existence, even as they reject Him. If God ceased to love existence into existence, there would be nothing, absolutely nothing, anywhere. Existence itself would cease to exist without the power of God holding it in place.

When the scriptures tell us that He holds us in the palm of his hand, they are telling a truth that is simultaneously metaphorical and literal. We exist because He wills existence itself into being. And yet, for all that incomprehensible power and grandeur, He cares for and knows each of us as the individual lights that we are.

The Holy Father, who speaks for His Son’s Church, does have power. It is the power of the words that lead to eternal life spoken to a world dedicated to following after its own death.

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Elderly Woman to Mugger: If You Kill Me, I’ll Go to Heaven and You’ll Go to Hell


Ninety-two year-old-woman witnesses to a mugger and sends him home to pray.

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