HAW! HAW! HAW!
My parents threw themselves into the charismatic movement of the late 1970’s and early 80’s. Every Sunday, we would drive to a weekly charismatic prayer meeting. Being a book person even at the age of seven, I always looked at their large book table. As I shopped around one evening, I noticed a bunch of tracts with cool drawings on the front. One caught my eye because it had a spooky looking ghost on the front. Being obsessed with the paranormal, I couldn’t resist.
As I read, my skin prickled and my stomach churned. The comic talked about Halloween and how it would lead to hell with a bunch of demons dancing around me screaming, “HAW! HAW! HAW!”
For some reason, that “HAW! HAW! HAW!” terrified me. It echoed in my head later that night and made me want to drop my interest in ghosts. Looking back on it now, I realize how strange it was to have such a virulent anti-Catholic artist on a table near charismatic nuns and priests. And, my parents still went to Mass every Sunday.
That was my first introduction into the strange and macabre world of Jack Chick. In many ways, you could say he was my first introduction into good horror writing. And, like it or not, he was very good at it, especially when depicting the supposed evils of the Catholic Church, largely based on the Puritan porn books of the 19th century: nuns who aborted their babies by priests, a church ruled by sinister men and women who wanted utter control over every single aspect of our lives, and the worship of a pope that led you straight to those demons who said, “HAW! HAW! HAW!”
Jess and I talked about the whole conversation and she wondered, “Are Catholics really becoming the Church of mercy?” This seems like a strange question with the trolls of Church Militant running around, and all the “Best Catholics Ever” who love to criticize Pope Francis’s every word.
But, as I look around at all my Catholic friends, all I see is mercy. We’re about a month and half away from closing the book on Pope Francis’s declared Year of Mercy. He started it all when he said, “I’m a sinner on whom the Lord has turned his gaze.” This is how he sees himself. He wants Catholics to grasp this truth about themselves too.
Every word from his mouth is focused on this idea. I find it interesting that people accuse of him trying to dismiss or negate sin. The last time I checked, when you call yourself a sinner and ask for mercy for others, that’s not a dismissal. Rather, its an acknowledgement that we are indeed sinners who need mercy. And, when we get it, we better show it to others.
I’ve often said the most terrifying parable in the Bible is the parable of the Ungrateful Servant found in Matthew 18. The story follows a servant who gets forgiven of a huge debt and then decides to have his fellow servant thrown in jail for a small, pitiful sum. That’s bad enough. But the reaction of the master is fearful, as he throws the ungrateful servant into prison and the outer darkness. His sin was the lack of mercy.
That parable will make me walk to the Grotto at Notre Dame and pray for the soul of Jack Chick. I hope he is in purgatory today, learning, growing in holiness, and that he will see Jesus face to face. I hope he is resting Under the Mercy and not hearing “HAW! HAW! HAW!”