Friday, February 19, 2016


Earlier this week I saw a terrible accident when getting off the freeway.

Of course, I was impatient as the traffic inched forward, wondering about the delay, but as soon as I saw the mangled, empty vehicles and the fire truck, my heart changed. I prayed the Hail Mary, asking our Mother to pray for those involved, as I cried.

Later that afternoon while waiting for my oldest to get out of school, my daughter told me about a death penalty case the teacher and students had discussed in school while on the topic of legalism. A teenage girl had swerved in her car one night and hit a mother and her child in another vehicle, killing both.

I was confused as to how this related to the death penalty until Ana explained that the police were able to prove by a text the girl had sent before the crash and by the swerve marks from her vehicle that she had fully intended to hit another car that night. In the text to a boyfriend with whom she had just broken up, she stated that intent.

Then I understood. While speaking to my daughter about this crime, I expressed my firm belief that it was indeed murder. Whether murder was the girl's intention, only God knows. In explaining my feelings to Ana, I told her that I have very low tolerance for anyone who deliberately endangers others while driving a vehicle, particularly in deciding to drive drunk or under the influence of any substance that impairs judgment.

When my son got in the car, he saw that I was upset and asked what we had been discussing.

"The death penalty."

"I'm against the death penalty."

Then began a guessing game. I guessed he felt so, because death penalty appeals cost the state millions. No. I then suggested it was because people were wrongly convicted. No, though that was acknowledged to be a very good reason.

"I'm against the death penalty, because if people spend the rest of their lives in prison, they have more time to come to God."

I heartily agreed with that.

I used to feel that every person in prison who cried, "I've found Jesus!" was scamming. I used to believe the death penalty should be speedily administered.

Now I find that I do believe conversion is possible in a jail cell and that I hope people have enough time to convert.

I was in prison, and you visited me. Matthew 25:37

It was then that my emotions overtook me again as I spoke about the motorcyclist who died after he hit our minivan more than three years ago. It was bound to come up after the wreck I had seen and the discussion with my daughter about a deadly, devastating crash.

As I sobbed, I explained that that was why I was so upset about the motorcyclist's death. Based on what authorities said he allegedly had on his vehicle and in his bloodstream, I don't know where he was in life when he died. I know it isn't my business, but it caused me much grief in the months afterward. If he had only stopped at an earlier intersection when he rear-ended a woman's car and tipped his bike, accepting any consequences for whatever substances could be found on his person. She had asked if he was okay and offered to call the police, but he sped away.

He then hit our van and later died. He wasn't wearing a helmet.

It's a little strange that I still cry sometimes about this stranger's death these few years later. My family doesn't understand it.

My husband reminded me that evening when my eyes were mostly dry, though red and puffy, that I know nothing about that man's life. Perhaps he was a decent person or a troubled soul or someone who treated others very poorly. I cannot know.

It's similar to what a friend told me soon after: perhaps he might have done more harm to someone else if he had not hit our van that day.

I cannot speak on the subject. For months after that accident I prayed for the motorcyclist's soul, and I prayed for his family. That was all I could do with what I felt, offer it up for someone's good.

Because God brought good out of that experience for me. As I explained to my kids during our emotional discussion, I never was angry with God that I got hurt that day. If anything, I was too profoundly grateful that my children were safe to be angry. I felt strongly then, and I feel passionately now, that God's angels wrapped my children up in His protection. And I thank God. I thank God.

And my injuries were meant for my good. God taught me compassion, gratitude and empathy through that painful experience. In my life I have always felt guilty. Why am I so blessed when others suffer so terribly? I was given a little suffering that day - though not comparable to what so many in this world experience - and God turned it into good, into charity.

This is the meaning of suffering in part for me, that we use it for another's good if we can. This is why women who have had abortions lead support groups for others who have experienced its spiritual, emotional and mental agony. This is why former prostitutes hit the streets to rescue other girls; only they can truly understand and evangelize. This is why parents who have lost children to terminal illness set up foundations in their honor to research and fight disease.

And though it is perhaps little by comparison, I prayed.

Friday, February 12, 2016

God speaks

This morning a talk show host named Patrick Madrid on Catholic Radio told of how he was at a conference, speaking to a group of men. Another gentleman spoke of appreciating and using our time wisely, and to illustrate his point he spoke of a certain situation that struck right at the heart of the talk host's current experience with his elderly grandmother who resided in a nursing home.

And Madrid said that he knew immediately that God was using that other gentleman to speak to him. The man had not looked at the host of one of Catholic radio's morning programs, had not seemed to be talking to him specifically at all. Nevertheless, Madrid was absolutely convinced, because of the on-point comment, that God had used the conversation to speak directly to him about his choices.

Alone in the car I nodded my head and said aloud, "Yes, He was."

Of course, because of his conviction about the message, Madrid began visiting his grandmother much more often as soon as he got home from the conference.

My husband and I had a similar situation. His grandmother used to live close to us. At the time we had babies and little ones, and the drive - thirty minutes or so - seemed often to be too long, especially with a baby possibly wailing in her car seat. Even when Grandma called sometimes, I did not give her the time I should have. I was in a rush to know what she wanted to tell me. My life seemed so full of people who needed me and a house that demanded my attention.

We were young and foolish.

Now? I regret that we didn't drive out more often to spend time with Grandma, that I didn't sit and listen to more of her family stories and look over the photo albums one more time or ask more about her own upbringing and youth. At her funeral I held my two-month-old youngest daughter and cried uncontrollably. Grandma had waited for the birth of that newest member of her family, we felt, before succumbing to her illness. We had taken Ella to see her in hospice.

A friend of Grandma's came up to me at the funeral and asked how far we lived away. I think I made it sound farther than I should have, for the woman said very pointedly, "It wasn't that far at all, was it?"

Perhaps Grandma had confided in her that her grandson's family didn't often come to visit. Perhaps God was telling me something about managing time wisely with those we love before the time is up (and exactly when we never can know). I don't know. At the time, the friend's words felt like a barb, and maybe they were supposed to be.

I do know there have been many times in my life when I felt wholeheartedly that God was using another of his children to speak to me. I talk about some of those times HERE and HERE. There was even a time when I felt He spoke directly to my heart.

Gratitude is the primary thing I feel when I recall how He used others to guide, uplift, energize or admonish me. He's talking to me. He cares. He speaks. I need only acknowledge that I hear and understand, so that I can go in the direction He is guiding me with great confidence.

As a priest called Father Davern once told our parish, a lot of what we learn about God, we learn from each other.

We never know from whom the message might come. Will we listen to, recognize and accept it?

By God's grace, may we always.