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Fiat, Emma and Olivia

March 25, 2014
How was it gentle,
That curve whence they fled our gaze
like snow in springtime?

 Just one week ago, the wife of my daughter’s erstwhile thesis advisor at Wyoming Catholic College lost two little daughters in an accident on a snowy highway. She herself was not much hurt, because it was a case of slipping sideways and being t-boned on the passenger side, but the children did not make it. One minute hers; the next minute, slipping away, though it would be hours before the final breath.

So painful, so sorrowful! All the college and its students’ and professors’ families, especially those with small children, wakeful and crying at night and clinging to their children in spirit; classes disoriented, papers overdue, teachers overloaded.

Yet also…

I have been reading – for other reasons – a book called A Song for Nagasaki. It is the story of a Japanese Catholic convert who lived in Urakami, the suburb of Nagasaki which was struck by the atomic bomb in August 1945, and which had been the center of persecuted Catholicism in Japan for 300 years, ever since Paul Miki and 25 others were martyred. The very center of the long-suffering of Japanese Catholicism!

Why there?

America planned to bomb the center of a different city; it was clouded over. The second choice was Nagasaki, center city. Instead, because of still more clouds, it was here on the outskirts, right here! Could not he who calmed the storm…

Takashi eventually has this beautiful reflection on the Lamb of God who was slain for our sins, the pure sacrifice that brings an end to wars. Was not Urakami the pure lamb slain for the sins of that war which ended on Mary’s feast of the Assumption, 6 days later? “A whole burnt offering on the altar of sacrifice…”

There was a great murmur about this when he first said it – at a large outdoor Mass, by the ruins of their cathedral. But he had been loved, had worked tirelessly for the sick for months before, indeed years before, as well as pulling things together in the immediate aftermath of the bombing, on a barren and bloody hillside, though his own head was deeply punctured and bleeding steadily under whatever bandaging. He had lost all his work, research, books, home, hospital, teaching center, grass, trees, flowers, beauty of his land, and above all, friends, co-workers, patients, neighbors, the Catholic cathedral, the priests hearing confessions inside, and above and beyond all, his valiant and beloved wife, Midori. His angel. Charred he found her when relief came and he could look for her on the third day, her rosary melted in the black bones of her hand. His children lived; they had gone over the mountainside with Gran. He almost died of his own bleeding, radiation, and exhaustion in the first weeks and was saved by a miracle, but still faced long-term leukemia. He was to live 6 years, mostly bedridden.

So they loved him, and they listened: this was how he had found peace. They were the lamb that was slain for the sins of many, and so brought peace. Even today, the bombing is remembered in Nagasaki with prayer, not with anger.

Less than a year ago, the same college in Wyoming lost a lovely member of the freshman class in a hiking accident with her family; recently a new and hopeful graduate of an associated college, Thomas Aquinas, died just as abruptly, and now this. It is unspeakably painful. There’s snow all over the place and a thousand curving roads; why couldn’t God take someone more … uh …dispensable?

But God is still the Lord. He was not taken by surprise when the truck came round the bend.

I’m not very good with the Atonement doctrine as it is commonly taught: our Father has no need of blood to stir up his forgiveness; he is our father. But there is something else on the underside of this teaching, something infinitely tender, infinitely lovely.

That the wicked should suffer seems fine; they jolly well deserve it, we think, presuming them not to be ourselves, and taking passages from our scriptures to prove it. But the truth is that innocent death and innocent loss are a particular grace, achieving something more hidden and deeper, and therefore Jesus came to make of these a particular union with himself.

Jesus has a particular grace in this. I feel it in my heart. I feel joy. It is around the corner – but like a light around the corner. The light cannot hide: “all my soul’s acres shine and shine” with it.

Oh yeah, I’m weeping too, but it’s like when my brother died in Viet Nam, and I could look up and see Jesus. I remember that so distinctly. I felt it even before I saw the first letter his wife pulled from her collection:

So when you realize I’m going to be gone and in danger, don’t let it shake you. It’s God playing hide and seek with you, all you have to do is stop crying and look up, and there He is, as he was for Mary Magdalen in the garden of Easter. 

I love you… Now it is Sunday night.  Ha!  Now it is eternity.  Stop!  Do not go to jail.  Go directly to Go and collect 200…

I feel deep, deep joy and hope in spite of my tears. God is here. Something lovely is up. If we could see it, we would smile through our tears and shake our heads. Someday, we will see, but meantime, give him a chance. Just a moment; one smile of trust. He is so good a Lord!

He desires our joy.

Heavenly friends, Midori and Takashi Nagai, pray for us

Charlie Van Hecke, pray for us.

Christine Allen, pray for us.

Emma and Olivia Lewis, pray for us.

Angela Baird pray for us.

Sgt. Roy O’Keefe, pray for us.

St. Maximilian Kolbe, pray for us.

St. Paul Miki, pray for us.

Mary, mother of the Incarnation, our sister and our mother,

pray for us that we may look up into the fair face of your Son.

Father Abraham, pray for us.

Lamb of God, have mercy on us and on the whole world.


2 Comments leave one →
  1. March 27, 2014 5:56 pm

    Thank you for this Mary. It is really beautiful and very much appreciated.

  2. January 2, 2015 2:58 am

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