Saturday, January 9, 2010

Comments of the Week - Avast there, Skipper!

Posted by Frank
No, it is not mutinous to correct your superior officer when they make a mistake. We consider this counseling our superior officer. You see, Webster pulled the plug early yesterday to head up to Vermont for a semi-long weekend. Trying to beat all the traffic streaming out of Boston, I suspect. So when he posted the Comments of the Week earlier today, he failed to notice that my post on my buddy Blaise Pascal garnered more comments than the Brother Sun, Sister Moon post from earlier this week.

Now, Blaise is a master of probability theory (duh!), and my post on his letter faced long-odds in catching up to BSSM in so short a time, so Webster is excused from missing this development. But let me be Frank (pun intended!) for a second and yell, belay that command, because Blaise and I pulled way ahead of your post Skipper. The YIMC reader base (we few, we happy few) actually, sorry to to say, skunked your post with 34 comments (now 35 thanks to Anthony "Tony" Layne) versus 22 for BSSM. Can you hear the Beach Boys tune Shut Down playing in the background? Forgive me Webster!

Chalk it up to the subject matter of the posts, which are as different as night is from day. The subject of Blaise's letter being
. And more specifically death from the Catholic perspective. Admittedly, it is a delicate subject and one for which none of us have all the answers. We are blessed though in that our little community offered up differing perspectives of the mystery of our lives and our eventual deaths.

Reader, and guest poster, EPG writes:

I admit I have my doubts about "the decree of providence" argument, at least to the extent that it applies to the particular circumstances of every death, in time, place and manner. For example, here in Florida, we recently had a notorious case in which a young girl was abducted from her home, raped, and then buried alive by a sexual predator who lived near her. It's hard to see "the decree of providence" in that.

Perhaps it is better to think that God holds the handlebars of the universe lightly, and that, in creating a universe which included the possibility of free will, he allowed for all sorts of disasters, including room for individuals to commit evil, which may have consequences for those who happen to be near them.

(But then, theodicy (editor: the attempt to justify the behavior of God)is a thorny problem, and I don't expect any of us to resolve that.)

Perhaps a better response is simply to acknowledge, at least in the case of premature death, that there is no answer except the cross and the empty tomb. Christians have the ability to say at least, "Look, we don't understand the mystery of suffering and death, but we know that God shared in it on the Cross, and that the empty tomb tells us that death, however painful, does not have the last word."

An anonymous reader gave us this news to contend with:

Hi, I love your columns and want to know what you would say to a mother whose 4 month old died of SIDS. She does not like to hear "God is in charge. He knew what he was doing when he took your son, or God needed another angel in heaven, or be glad because he has reached his goal with no sin on his soul...these are only driving her away from God.

Whereupon several of you responded in, what I hope, are helpful ways to this tragic, personal, and very particular circumstance. Jan from the blog Runs with Angels offered up these words of advice:

To anon - there is nothing you can say to someone who loses a child, especially unexpectedly. The only effective thing I've found is to listen very carefully to what the grieving say and take your cues from that. Always be ready to listen and gently guide through each episode, if you will. The only thing you can truly say is "I'm so very sorry." Even if that is all you say, over and over, that is really all there is.

And an Anonymous reader offered this:

I understand your pain on losing a baby. If you look at the archives for this blog for Dec 16th, you'll find a reference to the Youtube clip for "99 baloons" in the comments. Very Inspirational! (even 24 years later) for me. I lost a baby at two days of age - and I realize that losing a child at 4 months is a whole other experience. And I know this because my sister lost a nineteen year old! Please accept my prayers as you fold this tragedy into the tapestry of your life.

Helping one another bear the burdens of the Cross is why we are called to be members of Christ's body through the Church. Reader "pinksy82" shared a piece from Anne Dillard while "Athos" sent this link to a helpful little book on the matter which he authored.

The "comment of the week" award goes to Warren Jewell, our own Doctor Mellifluous who, now that I taught him how to cut and paste comments, is really letting us all benefit from his experience of walking along the narrow path of Catholic Christian faith. Warren, take it away:

Father Benedict Groeschel, after nearly dying in an auto-pedestrian accident, wrote that “There Are No Accidents’ – it IS all in God’s hands.

But, if circumstances – the dead child, most movingly – seem harsh, we become tentative to have God the Prime Mover of all, that God would permit, even cause such tragedy. That is an odd kind of arrogant reluctance, coming from souls who still very willingly put up the sins that put the very Son of God, humiliated, beaten and tortured, on His Cross.

And, yet, if in our weak and timid spirits God’s hand cannot seem to directly bring even death, He permits all that comes into motion that yields death, even of His most beloved innocents. Thus, the tortured child then buried alive began a few generations ago in the murderer’s family’s lessening moral strictures on such actions. God was there – He knew where it would lead and He let sinful human free will take its awful course. Then again, without God’s complicity in building me, I would have died before birth, short of say, lungs. It is decidedly a mixed bag, here, time-side, now that we have all sinned and come short of God’s direct Eden-like Presence and loving glory.

I am reminded of our crucified Savior’s words at Luke 13:2-5: "Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered thus?
I tell you, No; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.
Or those eighteen upon whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who dwelt in Jerusalem?
I tell you, No; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish."

To Christ, there was this aspect to such a judgmental assessment: “Just who the Hades are YOU, to question God’s will with you, you sinners! Get out of His face, and repent or forever die, and leave His infinite will to Him, His eternal choices to Him. You have eyes – SEE – You have ears – LISTEN – and accept whatever the Father gives you that He may save you.”

And, thus does every prayer have its humble completion and move toward sublime perfection in the clause “. . . and Thy will be done.”

Amen! Keep these comments coming as Webster and I keep answering the question Why I Am Catholic to the best of our ability.

While pondering the mysteries of life and death after writing this post and reading these comments, a friend, former comrade-at-arms, and YIM Catholic Face Book fan posted this video of The Verve performing their song Bittersweet Symphony on his Facebook page. Somehow, it seems very fitting that I include it here for your enjoyment and as a conclusion to this homage to our dear readers. May God bless us all, each one of us!