Shortly after the shootings in Newtown, CT a movement began to spread in the Catholic blog-o-sphere. While Facebook was lighting up with prayers for the families of the victims, others were asking for prayers for an often-overlooked group of people: the clergy.
In pictures from the minutes and hours after the shooting, we see nuns, priests and other people of the cloth comforting the parents and children. Within days, funerals were beginning, funerals for young children who had not yet lived life to the fullest. Without a doubt, those must be some of the hardest funerals to minister too. There were so many victims that many ministers had multiple funerals a day for weeks on end.
Among these ministers were Fr. Luke Suarez and other priests from St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church. Fr. Luke has been ordinated less than two years and he had to help bury multiple children per day during Advent, a season when we should be joyfully preparing for the beginning of life, not burying a child. The funerals are just the beginning, of course. Fr. Luke and the rest of the priests will spend the following months and years helping the people of Newtown heal and find their "new normal."
Knowing that it is important to help support those who give support, Fr. Luke's sister sent e-mail out asking people to send Christmas card and/or a note of encouragement to the priests. Wanting to do something, but not knowing what, I grabbed one of our Christmas cards, a small note card and wrote a short note to the priests at St. Rose's.
I don't remember what I said but I remember that the words flowed freely. My hand moved of its own accord and the words just came. I couldn't stop writing until the end and then the words ceased. I truly felt the Holy Spirit at work.
Then I placed a stamp on the envelope, addressed it and sent it off.
Today a small note card came in the mail. I was befuddled when I saw "St. Rose of Lima" as the return address. Why was the church contacting me?
Inside was a short handwritten note thanking me for my card. The note not only addressed my family by name but referenced the card I sent. It was personal, meaningful and signed "Fr. Luke's mother."
I, like many others, sent a card hoping to bless the priests at St. Rose's and to give them encouragement in the face of unspeakable darkness. I wanted them to know that they are in our prayers and we appreciate the hard work they are doing for their sheep. I didn't expect anything in return; indeed, that was not the point of the cards. But I did get something in return.
No, it's not a feel good "I am SO AWESOME!" feeling or the feeling that I am better than someone because I took a moment to slap a stamp on a card and send it to a stranger. Instead, I am blown away by the kindness and thoughtfulness of the priests at this church. In the midst of one of the (if not THE) hardest ministries of their career they took the time to have personal notes sent to everyone who reached out to bless them.
This small act tells me that the people of Newtown are in good hands. Fr. Luke was clearly raised by a woman who instilled the values of thoughtfulness and thankfulness in her son. Through this note, I can see a kind soul who is going to take good care of his flock.
And if in the midst of all this, Fr. Luke can enlist someone to help with the thank you notes, notes no one expected to be sent, then I need to stop making excuses and get those Christmas thank yous in the mail.