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.
I had 1001 things planned for my first week after session closed down.
I was going to storm the gates of heaven and get flaming arrows of direction in reply.
I was going to clean my house from top to bottom.
I was going to move the garden statue of Our Lady that’s been languishing in my “music room” (Don’t laugh. There is a piano in there.) outside and buy an arbor thingy and plant flowers and create a prayer garden in my back yard.
I was going to get up every single morning and work out like Bette Midler in Ruthless People with the same, awe-inspiring results.
I had 1001 things I was going to do.
What I did instead was collapse into a heap. We went out after sine die and had a wonderful dinner, just me and my family. Then, after almost no sleep, I got up Saturday and putzed around, too tired to make sense of myself. I began a Novena to Our Lady. I did do that. Prayer is the one thing on my list that I sorta did.
My husband and I went to vigil mass and back out to eat again. Then, we came home and I watched tv like a zombie.
It’s always like that after session shuts down. I don’t know what I was thinking when I made all these plans. The closing days of session are intense. And I mean INTENSE.
After it’s over, I’m still jazzed for days, and at the same time, I’m all rubbery and shot through and through. It takes a while to get my mind right and my body rested. Add to that the fact that this was my last sine die, and you’ve got a recipe for crash down time.
My youngest son and one of his friends moved my office home for me on Monday. I spent last week opening boxes and rather listlessly trying to figure out where to put everything. I need more bookshelves. And I am going to give a couple of the paintings away. I have no idea where I’m going to hang the rest of them or where everything will go. I still have a couple of boxes that are partially unpacked and two drawers that are full of things I haven’t found a place for. I also have a couple of boxes of books and posters/awards that are still at the capitol that I need to go get.
As for cleaning the house, nope.
Still needs doing.
Storming heaven? I prayed, but there were no messages wrapped around the shafts of flaming arrows coming my way. The only answer I got was when I rather lazily prayed and asked if it would be alright to skip Sunday mass yesterday (That’s how low my laziness had sunk me.) I definitely got the feeling that I should get up and go to church. So I did.
I dreamed about my constituents several times during the week. They were anxiety dreams, worrying about who is going to take care of them. That’s the hardest part, leaving my people to someone else’s care.
My friends gave me a lovely party yesterday. It was a complete surprise. I had thought they were going to do something when the session closed down, then, when it didn’t happen, I was ok with it. The date of the shut-down had been uncertain right up until the end. So I assumed it was too uncertain to plan anything.
I was totally surprised — astonished — when my husband drug me into a restaurant yesterday. I mean, I don’t do restaurants on the Sabbath. In fact, I thought he’d gone daft. He insisted I go with him back to where the restrooms were, which I thought was plenty strange. As long as I’ve known him, he’s gone to the restroom by himself. Then, he walked past the restrooms and into the kitchen. I wouldn’t follow at first, and he had to insist.
By this time, I was convinced he had lost it. We went through the kitchen and into another room and I walked into a party.
They completely surprised me. I was thrilled. And touched.
So that’s my week off. I need to pray more. In fact, I’m going to start a 54 day Novena, consecrating the rest of my life. I did the St Louis de Montfort thing of consecrating my life to Jesus through Mary a while back. This is just a sort of renewal of that.
I realized yesterday that I already know what I should do. I also realized that God has given me everything I need to do it. I was wanting direction when I already have the road map. As for my constituents, I am going to pray for them and their future as part of the 54 day Novena. I have to let go of taking care of them, and that, as I said, is the hardest part.
So, this letter to my friends, telling you what I did on my little vacation is my first post after my week off. To be honest, I’d like to take another week. I’m just now getting my head above water a bit.
But writing this disjointed post is a good palate cleanser. Telling you all about it wipes a bit of the dust off my mind.
It’s time to get this deal on the road. I think I’ll begin by doing a bit of that working out I more or less skipped last week. You see, I don’t have to get into my car and drive to work. My office is just on the other side of the living room. And my recumbent bike/elliptical/Total Gym (yes, I’ve have all that; not that it’s done me any good) is in the spare bedroom down the hall.
Wish me luck, boys and girls. I’m re-inventing myself.
Note: This is a re-post of an earlier post. I hope you enjoy reading it again.
Eve Tushnet and a friend went to see a presentation at the Jewish Community Center in Washington, DC. The presentation was designed to prepare people for the High Holy Days.
Since the High Holy Days are about repentance, it tracks that the presentation was on atonement. However, Eve finished the evening more bemused that enlightened. As she put it,
All of the stories were interesting and for the most part well-told–but literally none of them followed the form I was most hoping for: “I sinned, I realized I was wrong, and I made amends, here’s how.” Several of the stories explored related questions of conscience: Ritija Gupta turned the story of how a bad-girl friend persuaded her to steal sixty cents’ worth of beads, at age seven, into a sharp little parable on how we misunderstand the gravity of our actions, condemning ourselves for peccadilloes while assimilating huge ongoing sins into our sense of what’s normal and acceptable. The host, Amy Saidman, did a funny shtik about the war between “Citizen Amy,” whose conscience would never allow her to damage a car and not even leave a note, and “Spray-Tan Amy,” who can’t stop because she is receiving an award that night, who is special and above the rules.
… The most powerful story came from the most intensely compelling storyteller, Colin Murchie. He’s someone I’ll be looking out for at future Speakeasy events. I don’t want to tell his story for him, but it was about a night when he was forced to completely reassess the motives which had led him to become a volunteer firefighter in a very tough Maryland suburb.
Based on Eve’s description, I would say that one reason the stories didn’t lead to atonement is that they weren’t about serious sin. I understand why, or at least I think I do.
The evening wouldn’t have been entertaining if the story tellers had talked about their adulteries, abortions, shoplifting and the night the guys all got drunk at the fraternity house and passed the girl around. If the wife-beater among them had confessed to beating his wife, and the woman who was sleeping with her husband’s best friend had told all, the evening might have ended early.
But the truth is that the first requirement for atonement has to be an action that wounds someone else.
Let me give you an example. Back in my misspent youth, I was the NARAL Director for Oklahoma. I referred women for abortions. I helped organize the first abortion clinic in Oklahoma and got it up and running.
In short, I helped kill people.
Lots of people.
Helpless little people that I denied were people while I was advocating for their deaths.
Now there’s something that needs a little atonement.
But how? How does anyone atone for so heinous a crime?
For those of you who are reading this with baited breath, waiting for me to give you an answer, I’ll cut to the bottom line: You can’t. You can not atone for sins as black as the ones I’ve committed.
Can’t do it.
Nothing you can do, nothing you can say, nothing, but nothing, but nothing will ever make right again what you have done wrong.
But if, for reasons that confound all comprehending, God still loves you, even after what you’ve done; if He welcomes you home to Him with joy that defies your ability to find words to describe it, and if He then puts you back into the same place where you committed some of your worst sins in the past –
– If He does all that, then, just maybe, you get the chance to … not do it over, because nobody ever gets the chance to do anything over … but to do it again, and this time to do it better.
How does an adulterer atone for his or her adultery? By being faithful to their spouse.
How does a wife-beater atone for beating his wife? By loving her the way God intended.
But even this kind of living atonement cannot undo the harm you have done. One of the hardest penalties of committing grave sin is that you can’t un-sin it.
You can’t unadulter, unbeat, unrape, unkill anyone.
Without Jesus Christ you are stuck there in the pit of your sin and remorse forever. You will be a murderer/adulterer/liar/beater all your days. This is why I sometimes get so impatient with people who come on this blog and demand that the Catholic Church change the rules to tell them that their sins aren’t sins. They never do this about eating too many cookies or being a volunteer firefighter for the “wrong” motives.
Nope. They’re ok with those things and the Church’s teachings about them.
It’s the biggies that get them on here demanding a hall pass to heaven. They want the Church to tell them that their adulteries, abortions, disordered sex and lying, cheating ways are not a sin. They claim that anyone, anywhere, who says otherwise is “judging” them.
There are days when I want to put my arms around these lost souls and hug them. There are other days I want to ask, Are you kidding? Where do you get the arrogance to do these things and then demand that the Church — the Church — say that they are not sins?
Do you know what saved me?
The knowledge that I had sinned.
Without that, I would still be lost.
As for atonement, that came long afterwards, when I was mature enough in Christ to survive it. Atonement for me was being given an extra measure of forgiveness I most assuredly did not deserve. God put me in the place and almost coerced events so that I would be given the opportunity to pass pro life legislation. Atonement for me was being pilloried by pro abortion people. I was forced (against my will, I have to admit) to suffer public hazing for the babies.
It was that suffering, that character assassination and constant emotional battering, that finally set me free.
God forgave me, and, after a period of intense grief, I realized that I could not refuse His forgiveness by hanging onto my grief any longer. To do otherwise would be to say that my sins were greater than His mercy.
But it was the atonement — which in my case amounted to a kind of social death — that finally set me completely free of my sins.
I could not undo what I had done. I could not unkill those I had helped kill. I was powerless to rewind the havoc I had wreaked with my sinfulness.
But God could heal me of this grief, and He did. He gave me the chance to suffer just a bit, and the suffering cleansed me in my heart and mind.
I read somewhere — I think it was In This House of Brede, but I’m not sure — that atonement is really at-one-ment. That is a beautiful thought, and I think a true one. Atonement heals the person who atones and allows them to fully rejoin the human race, including those they have harmed, with a renewed self and a new purpose.
Now I, the former advocate of abortion, champion the unborn. I moved from who I was to who I am, from my then to God’s now. In the process, I found a wholeness and forgiveness that only someone who has gone to Jesus in the hopelessness and desperation of knowing that nothing they do can ever undo what they have already done can understand.
None of this belongs in a play, of course. At least not an entertaining one.
But it is the truth.
In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled today that prayers said before the town council meetings in Greece, NY do not violate the Constitution.
Justice Kennedy wrote the majority decision which said in part that there is a historical precedent for opening legislative meetings with a prayer that the even though the prayers offered at the New York town’s council meetings were predominantly Christian in nature, they were not coercive but rather “evoked universal themes” such as “calling for a spirit of cooperation.”
From Today’s Catholic News:
Kennedy wrote that the “inclusion of a brief, ceremonial prayer as part of a larger exercise in civic recognition suggests that its purpose and effect are to acknowledge religious leaders and the institutions they represent, rather than to exclude or coerce nonbelievers.”
He said that unless the prayers “over time denigrate, proselytize or betray an impermissible government purpose” they will “not likely establish a constitutional violation.” He also wrote that because the town had followed a policy of nondiscrimination it was not required by the Constitution to search beyond its borders for those who could offer non-Christian prayers in an attempt to provide balance.
Like everybody my age, I’ve got a lot of past.
Not all of my past is good.
In fact, a portion of it is seriously miserable.
I try to forget.
And forgive myself for the things I’ve done.
I try to forget.
And forgive others for the things that have been done to me.
But there are days when that load of past can get heavy. Especially in church. My miserable past includes a couple of bad times with church. I’ve experienced the rejection of unforgiveness. Even though I forgive as best I can, the memory still comes back from time to time, like an ache in an old break in a bone when the weather changes.
The two greatest challenges this poses are a loss of trust and a deep feeling of unworthiness. The bad opinions of others can imprint on a person and leave their ugly image. Trust, once it’s cut away, doesn’t re-grow. It callouses over, but the nerves are dead.
I have periods of time in my life when the hardest thing I have to do is go to mass. Not because of any latent anger, but because of the deep sense of unworthiness. I have no right to be there in the presence of the Presence, and I know it.
I had an exceptionally rough bout with this recently. I actually left the church during mass, left my husband there, holding the hymnal and looking at me with uncomprehending eyes as I left, driven away by the unworthiness that is branded into me.
I used those moments away to gather myself to myself and then I went back in. But it wasn’t easy. I got through that mass by looking at the tabernacle and talking to Him.
Because it’s true, you know. I have no right to be there, in the presence of the Presence. I am unworthy, as John the Baptist said, to untie His sandal. Yet the reason, the only reason, that I am there is that He invited me.
In the final analysis, the Presence does not belong to any priest, or even to the Church itself. They are its guardians, and the conduit by which God graciously consents to dwell among us in the Eucharist. But the Presence is God Himself, and as such, that Presence belongs to no human being. It is It’s Own Self.
I came to the Catholic Church and asked to come into full communion because Christ in the Eucharist called me to Himself. It was a call that was so clear, persistent and patient, that, in the end, it worked its way past all the obstacles to what was at the time a rather bold step of faith.
Jesus called me to Himself in the Eucharist. That is why I am Catholic.
And on that day when my own unworthiness flared into a blistering flame inside me, when I wanted to run away, to paraphrase St Peter, because I am a sinful woman, He was there, not to call, but to strengthen me past my focus on me and bring me into a fresh focus on Him.
I kept looking at the tabernacle, at Jesus, present in our midst. I don’t know if it was a prayer, or a conversation, or a vow of a sort. I only know I spoke directly to Him and He heard me.
“You are my Lord,” I told Him. “You are the reason I am here. You are the One I trust. You and only You.”
There was more. But that’s the gist of it. Shattered trust is like an amputation. It can’t grow back. We can never undo the things we’ve done or forget the lessons of the things that are done to us. Forgive, yes. But forgetfulness would be to unlearn the life lessons and forego the spiritual depth these things give us.
If you live long enough and do enough hard things, you will lose your trust in people, in fate, in your own good luck. The illusions of personal invincibility die a hard death, but Christ can and will raise up a new trust and a new invincibility from the ashes on that pyre of self-sufficiency.
“You are my Lord,” I told Him, and it was as much vow as prayer; an open acknowledgement of the truth of things, bound up in a promise. “You — and You only — are my Lord.”
“You are the reason I am here.” I said, not because I enjoy the liturgy or find affirmation in the friendships, but “You — and You only — are the reason I am here.”
“You are the One I trust,” because You have proven Yourself trustworthy time and time again, because You loved me first and because You forgave me and walk with me and endure me and keep forgiving me over and over again.
“You and only You,” because people, even the most lovable and precious of people, will let you down. Because, I, you and everyone, will let ourselves down. We will betray one another and we will also betray ourselves. Only Christ will never fail us.
I was not the only wounded person in the church that day. I am never am. We are all wounded, in one way or another. We shatter our self-righteousness by the things we do, and we face the terrible isolation and aloneness of the things that are done to us.
The many cruelties people practice against one another — our gossip and slanders, violence, lies, betrayals and deliberate degradations — are all at base an isolation of the other person, a way of putting them outside while we remain inside.
We draw lines around ourselves and our group, whoever that group may be, and then we push everyone outside that line into a sub-class of one sort or another. This hurts and maims all of us.
So many times on this blog I see angry, harsh comments, coming from people who at base are just trying to express their sense of isolation and rejection. The truth is, no one of us, not a single person of us, has the right to stand before God.
But He is our Lord. And He has invited all of us — ALL of us — to His table. No one of us has a right to be there. But, by the miracle of His love, no one of us is too wounded, too sin-sick, too disreputable, too female, too gay, too poor, too fat, too ugly, stupid or lost to be refused a place at that table. We are all welcome.
He is always with us, even when others fail us or turn us away. He is always ready to accept us and forgive us. We don’t have to stop sinning and get perfect to come to Him. He accepts us just, as the old hymn says, as we are.
We may have to jump through more hoops that we can manage to find surcease and acceptance from other people. But all we ever have to be or will ever have to do with Him is put our hand in His and say “Yes.”
“You are my Lord,” I told him. It is as simple as that.
Kevin Sorbo, star of God is Not Dead, shares his remarkable story of faith, including how his faith helped him through a traumatic health crisis that could have killed him or left him an invalid.
As his wife says in the video, “He’s a good guy.”
At Miletus, Paul spoke to the presbyters of the Church of Ephesus:
“Keep watch over yourselves and over the whole flock
of which the Holy Spirit has appointed you overseers,
in which you tend the Church of God
that he acquired with his own Blood.
I know that after my departure savage wolves will come among you,
and they will not spare the flock.
And from your own group, men will come forward perverting the truth
to draw the disciples away after them.
So be vigilant and remember that for three years, night and day,
I unceasingly admonished each of you with tears.
And now I commend you to God
and to that gracious word of his that can build you up
and give you the inheritance among all who are consecrated.
I have never wanted anyone’s silver or gold or clothing.
You know well that these very hands
have served my needs and my companions.
In every way I have shown you that by hard work of that sort
we must help the weak,
and keep in mind the words of the Lord Jesus who himself said,
‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”
When he had finished speaking
he knelt down and prayed with them all.
They were all weeping loudly
as they threw their arms around Paul and kissed him,
for they were deeply distressed that he had said
that they would never see his face again.
Then they escorted him to the ship.
Acts: 20: 28-38
Pope Francis has set aside this coming Friday as “24 hours for the Lord.”
He is hoping that local parishes will offer special opportunities for prayer and the sacrament of confession. I’m going to try to take advantage of this call for prayer and reconciliation as best I can. Hopefully, many Public Catholic readers will do the same.
We are living in times where our faith is challenged and attacked by the larger culture. If we are going to stand for Christ and not fail, we need to pray and keep ourselves spiritually clean.
From Catholic News Agency:
.- During his Sunday Angelus, Pope Francis announced that March 29-30 would be “24 hours for the Lord,” during which people can find special opportunities for prayer and the sacrament of confession.
“Next Friday and Saturday we will live a special moment of penance, called ‘24 hours for the Lord.’ It will begin with a (liturgical) Celebration in the Basilica of St. Peter’s (on) Friday afternoon, then in the evening and night some churches in the center of Rome will be open for prayer and confessions,” he explained to the crowds in St. Peter’s square on March 23.
“It will be – we could call it - a celebration of forgiveness, which will happen also in many dioceses and parishes of of the world.”
The Holy Father then noted that “the forgiveness that the Lord gives us” should make us “celebrate like the father in the parable of the prodigal son, who when the son returned home, had a party, forgetting all his sins.”