This will be a hard post for me to write, and perhaps, harder still for you to read.
Yesterday my husband and I received news from a friend, the kind of news that leaves you reeling, the kind that you ponder with tears in your eyes and an ache in your gut.
I am so sorrowful, so concerned, so worried for my friend. And sadly, this is not the first time I have heard news that just rocks me, and leaves me wondering how in the world we can live on in this wretched world.
I considered keeping this to myself, but as I pray for this family in need, I feel strongly that I need to reach out to my internet family and ask for your prayers as well.
I learned that our friend's husband of over 20 years has been molesting their children. The police are involved, a family has been ripped apart, and a mother, father, and three beautiful children will never be the same.
I am shocked, of course, but sadly, not as shocked as I once might have been. I have lived enough years to lose much of my innocence. These things do not happen to people in the movies, to folks we see on the TV news or read about in tabloids. They happen to US, to our friends, neighbors, and families.
Several years ago I received a phone call from a friend asking if I would be attending the memorial service for a couple I knew. I was confused. What had happened? When she told me that Helen and Steve had died, I was certain there must have been a car accident. They lived in Florida, and often returned to visit family back here in Michigan. They must have been in a crash on I-75.
I had met this fun couple when I was living in Hamtramck, a little Polish town surrounded by the city of Detroit. I was lonely then, and the only homeschooler I knew in town was the one I saw in the mirror each morning. When I met Helen at the local library, and she introduced herself as a Catholic homeschooler, I was thrilled. I was soon taken in by her generous, warm spirit. She and her husband Steve had a cool flat near our home, and they and their two daughters were friendly, faith-filled and exuberant. We visited their home many times, had dinner out with them as couples (Aaron and Steve really hit it off) and hosted sleep-overs for our girls.
When they moved to Florida we even visited with them there, enjoying a dinner out at Margaritaville and visiting the Catholic bookstore where Helen worked with her daughters. We loved talking with them, laughing with them, and praying with them and for them.
So when I heard that something had happened to Helen and Steve, it was upsetting, of course.
Then I found out what had happened. Not a car accident, but something much, much worse. Steve had killed Helen, shot her in the head, and then killed himself on a Florida beach.
Looking back, I believe that the day I heard this news was the beginning of the end of my innocence. I could no longer entertain the notion that things like this happened to people "out there." Evil happens everywhere.
Yesterday when I heard the shocking news about my friend's husband, I thought of Helen and Steve. I prayed for their souls, and I prayed for their daughters, the little girls who used to spend the night with my girls and whose lives will never be the same.
I prayed for them, and I prayed for myself.
We convince ourselves sometimes that our personal sins are just not all that bad. We wonder why the Catholic church is so set on messing with our personal choices. Does it really matter what I do? Why can't the church stay out of our bedrooms? If I do something "wrong", how much impact can that possibly have? My choices are my own, right?
Our sins leave indelible marks on the world.
The sins I've mentioned today are horrible, mortal wounds. We rationalize that our tiny sins, our impatience, our insensitvity, our unkind words, our thoughtlessness, our laziness, will not matter much to others.
How wrong we are.
I know the truth, that each of us sins and that all those sins create darkness in the world. I also know that we are all touched by larger, darker evils. The results of pornography, adultery, incest, greed, and the like don't just affect "them", they affect us all.
I know that OUR families all have serious issues to address. Sometimes we faithful folks -- the kind who attend church every week (or even every day) the kind who homeschool their kids and write lovely Catholic blogs and tithe ten percent and pray the rosary -- are battling all sorts of evil in their homes and extended families. It's time we acknowledge that none of us is immune from sin -- big sins and small. The man sitting next to you at church might be dealing with sexual addiction. The catechism teacher might be battling alcoholism. The lady who leads the rosary might be unfaithful to her husband. Several of your very good friends might be considering divorce.
I know this sounds a bit like "The end is near! Repent! We're going to hell in a handbasket!" I'm not a pessimistic, hopeless, fatalistic sort. I firmly believe there is hope for us.
But sometimes I fear that we think the really big sins are for someone else, someone we don't know and don't need to know. That's just not true.
Our neighbors, our families and our friends are suffering. Let's pray for one another today, especially for the families touched by sexual sins.
We can heal, but first we must recognize that we are ALL in need of healing.