Monday, May 2, 2011

A Day of Contrasts

By Rick Howick,
Principal, St. Catherine of Alexandria School, Riverside

At our school assembly Monday morning, we had so much to discuss and very few ways to keep them clear for children.  Osama Bin Laden was dead, John Paul II had been declared blessed, and of course, we had May crowning.  As I began to speak, I realized just how important the contrast was between the two events the day before, and that was what I told my students. 

John Paul II was declared to have lived a life blessed by God.  He was one who preached about mercy, a man who could visit the prison cell of his would-be assassin, hold the hand that held the gun, and forgive him.  He was declared blessed on Mercy Sunday, a day dedicated to the mercy of Christ, that all who approach our Lord are promised that no matter how awful the sin, God’s mercy will blot it out.  That celebration of mercy on the streets of Rome was contrasted in the evening news with the death of Osama Bin Laden.  He organized Al Qaeda and masterminded the bombing of the African embassies, the USS Cole, and the September 11th attacks.  Confronted with arrest, Bin Laden resisted and was killed.  The streets of Washington and New York erupted in jubilation. 

John Paul was appalled by the events of 9-11 and was grieved at the war which followed.  It was fitting that Pope Benedict XVI chose Mercy Sunday to celebrate his declaration that John Paul is among the blessed.  It seems also fitting that the news of the evening was such a jarring contrast with the events of the morning.  The practical application is that we are always confronted with evil.  Do we choose mercy?  In John Paul’s life, that choice was consistent and clear, and underscored against the backdrop of events in Pakistan.

For my students, I reminded them that the death of any person is a sad thing, and it is a shame that Bin Laden did not choose a path of mercy.  It emphasizes the importance of John Paul’s motto, totus tuus, that our lives dedicated to our Lord through his mother can only lead to mercy.  That is the path we are asked to follow in life, one dedicated to the mercy of God in all that we do, which may, in little ways, change the world for good. 

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