The little boys were lined up and shot dead by their father, the last running away only to be dragged back next to his dead brothers and finished off. Then, the father sat and waited for the police.
This is the story I found reported in my local news on Father’s Day.
Presuming this is an accurate report, I shuddered with sorrow—for the boys most especially but also for those who had to clean up the remains, for the family, and even for the perpetrator.
Orthodox. Faithful. Free.
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I am particularly saddened by such tragedies because I see them through the frightened eyes of the children. I also see them with the graying eyes of a father who lost three children before birth and have but one natural born and one adopted son. Even adoption was limited because of my age. One of the first prayers I memorized as an adult was to St. Gerard, asking for help to receive the gift of children. I still pray it, but now I pray for children to enter my life as students to inspire in the Faith.
We fathers give thanks and cling to what we are given, or ought to. If we are generous, we wish well to others more fecund and thank God for His Blessings.
Fathers pass on to their children a part of them different than mothers. We did not bear our children. Instead, we watched the process of in utero growth and birth from afar. From there, we live with, in, and through our children as they mature into adulthood and independence. We do not nurse them or salve their wounds like their mothers. We give advice, impart knowledge and skills, jest, and wrestle with them. We also discipline and lead them in right ways. If we fail, or if the vagaries of life take our children, the loss adds to our pain the insult of a trenchant sense of failure. Fathers pass on to their children a part of them different than mothers. Tweet This
Knowing that others have experienced such loss is no consolation. It may even add to the sense of failure. Scripture is filled with the story of fathers and sons and loss. Job lost all his children when the wind “shook the four corners of the house.” Job’s world was blown off its four corners. The loss of property was nothing compared to the loss of his future, to be lived, as it were, through the lives of his children. It was a test of Job’s faithfulness.
Others clearly failed through permissiveness or worse. Eli, Samuel, Saul, David, and so many others saw their sons perish. The fruits of their failures destroyed the futures they had sired.
Why would a father choose to eliminate his sons?
There is something evil in these acts. A man destroys what men since Adam have yearned to have. He evidently feels compelled to do what he naturally should feel compelled not to do. Even lions only destroy cubs of other males but not their own. They instinctively do this to ensure the future life of their own blood line.
Yet, we read how the pagans sacrificed their own children, often the first born, for good fortune in this life. Herod the Great executed sons for treason. Those purposes likely were not involved this past week.
Millions of adults have mental illness or addiction issues that often lead to unpredicted acts of violence. I understand that tens of millions of American adults are on antidepressants. The exact number is hard to discern from the data, but it is clearly growing. SSRIs, a particular class of pharmaceutical, are thought to be often involved in such incidents. There is no indication yet of whether any substance was involved here. Yet, even if something chemical is claimed to be a cause of this latest bad local news in our fallen world, I refuse to accept it as exclusive.
Something more sinister drives this evil, because it is not isolated. It may be dramatic and extreme, but it occurred in a milieu rarely seen in history.
Today’s men allow their sons and daughters to be sterilized with expensive medical procedures performed by strangers. They give over their children to be taught to hate them and their values by a corrupt and failing daytime incarceration system also ministered by strangers. They hand them indecipherable devices created and managed by strangers to distract and lure their children away from the beauty of Creation. Suicide and self-destructive behaviors have soared with these abominations. How could they not?
Yes, what happened in the town near Bethel—God’s house in Hebrew—was terrible. And it is being played out slowly, quietly, around the country and the Western world. We must pray for all involved in the many tragedies being played out daily all around us.
Another prayer I memorized as an adult includes a verse from Job. I learned it as I was learning my Faith for the first time, having been poorly catechized. It was so dear to me I often prayed with my hands: “The Lord has given and the Lord has taken away, blessed be the name of the Lord.” I grasped and let go as I said the words, visualizing and feeling the reality of this life.
We are stewards of even our children. They are given, but they can be taken away. They may drift away. Many do. They are not ours. They are God’s. I cannot forget this, whether joyful or angry, proud or ashamed, animated or exhausted. Yes, they are mine to love and hold until they grow too big to want my physical reassurance. But they are only mine to steward. They are souls to stand before the Just Judge. I must make them ready and answer for my stewardship when it is my time.
Pray for fathers, good or bad.