On Thursday, February 12th, I attended our parish’s monthly Ladies of the Lord meeting. The founder, Dawn Curazzato, gave a presentation on the meaning of redemptive suffering and how our suffering is joined with Our Lord’s on the Cross. She spoke of the Tree of knowledge of Good and Evil and the fruits of original sin. After the meeting I went into the Church to say a prayer before going home. While looking at the tabernacle it seemed to my eyes that a cloud of smoke passed before it. I thought it must be incense although no one was there and I did not smell anything. I went home, did a few final chores and settled in for a good night’s sleep with my husband. I always sleep well after praying with the Ladies, even if we were speaking of worrisome things.
The next morning, Friday, February 13th, the kids and I were running a little late. I usually turn the computer on in the morning and check my email. This morning I wished I hadn’t. Dawn Iacono, our Diocesan Pro-Life Director, had sent an email out regarding a rape/abortion simulator game from Japan which was briefly available here through Amazon. The sales pitch actually says “take that, pro-life movement!” I couldn’t get it out of my mind. I never turn the TV on in the morning, but usually open the paper. This day I just left it for my mother in its orange plastic bag. The theme of suffering was very much on my mind and my heart. After dropping the kids at school I walked into church for 8 am Mass. Our little bitty crucifix had been replaced with a beautiful big one, and I was again struck by the thought, “Suffering”. I pondered how evil brings suffering, not necessarily upon those who commit the evil, but suffering does come. I thought about the great evil being brought into the world through that “game” which is really training for the real war, training in bondage and death and death and death.
The night before while Dawn C. talked about evil conquering good (temporarily) through wars and mentioning Croatia specifically, I thought about the horrible weapon of rape in war and how it is archetypical of evil conquering good. Dawn talked about the degradation of the human person and I thought about how rape is that incarnate, or at least in spirit. I sat, viewing the Cross, and mourned. Then my friend Angela Grace came in bearing to me the message (as angels do) that a plane had crashed in Clarence Center the night before killing 50. One of the victims, the only one known at that time, was coming to give a scholarship in her husband’s honor; he was a 9/11 victim. My thought immediately was that the redemptive suffering coming out of this crash is directly related to the “game”. All sin is directly related to all suffering just as we are all One Body in Christ. An abomination called a game coming out of a country on the other side of the planet can be said to have caused the suffering of 50 families related to flight 3407.
Our region seems to be protected from catastrophic events, but not from suffering. Our region seems to be more devout and less prosperous. Perhaps this is another protection from self-dependency, self-deception and slipping away from God. The River of Mercy flows over Niagara Falls. The power of redemptive suffering, joined to Our Lord’s suffering, can save mankind from itself and its sins. One of the readings at Mass was the same one on the Tree of knowledge of Good and Evil. Then at the end of Mass, we noticed our friend, Evelyn, was crying. Yes, Deo Gracias, her husband, had died the night before. She mourned openly and beautifully. She suffered as his suffering ended. She did not run from it; she entered into it. She did not deny it; she gave it to Jesus. He and His Blessed Mother comfort her, through the members of the body of Christ.
I spoke with Mary Lou Daigler, another beautiful Lady of the Lord, after Mass on Sunday. I had been thinking about the smoke from the plane crash and the smoke I had seen pass in front of the Tabernacle after our meeting, almost at the same time as the crash. Mary Lou offers instead that the smoke was the sweet incense of prayer from the meeting itself. It did, in fact, move in the direction from the meeting room past the Tabernacle to the left.
As time passes we learn that many of the people on board were from Amherst and Clarence. In this small community of two degrees of separation, we all know at least one person lost. None were from St. Greg’s. Mercy, Jesus, Mercy. Thanks be to God. When the local church bells toll one week to the moment later, they are rung 50 times. At St. Greg’s they are rung 51, because one of the victims, Jennifer Neill, the niece of a parishioner, was pregnant.
Through it all, God is with us. Through it all, we will have to choose to grow nearer to Him or farther away. Neither choice will avoid suffering. Only one can redeem.