BY AMY PERRITANO EDDY
I was raised to be a good Catholic. I went through all my sacraments, went to church every Saturday or Sunday (sometimes both), joined the choir as a teenager, and have always been, most importantly, of very strong faith in God.
There were a few times that I might have struggled, such as when I felt lonely as a teenager and when my husband and I went through several years of infertility before I finally “let go and let God.” Soon after, we were blessed with our beautiful son.
I believe that every single thing happens for a reason, and we may either find out that reason later, or we may never discover it, but we learn something in the meantime. I believe that God’s timing is perfect, and I believe that everything works out just as it’s supposed to.
Some might say this is naiveté, but I say it’s faith.
At least this is how I’ve felt — how I’ve always felt — up until the afternoon of Dec. 14, 2012.
Newtown, Conn., had an earthquake in the person of a sick and twisted gunman, and the aftershocks shook my faith in all my beliefs like no other episode in my life.
Nothing made me question my faith like this awful, evil act. I said, “God! How could you let this happen?” I could not wrap my head around it.
I struggled so much trying to reconcile what happened with what I know and have experienced through my faith. Mostly, I kept imagining those poor children; my son also is in first grade. You can just imagine how much it hit home for me, as I’m sure it did for so many parents. I couldn’t wait to get home to my son and give him the biggest hug ever.
While people were praying, I didn’t feel like I could pray. I felt like I couldn’t talk to God at all because all that kept coming out was, “How could you do this? How could you let this happen?”
Later that night, while watching a “Dateline” special on the Newtown tragedy, I saw the father of one of the little girls that was killed. He said they would get through because “we remain strong in our faith and we are praying for the shooter’s family as well.”
What an amazing man, I thought. If he could stand there and display such adamant faith after losing his precious little girl in such a brutal way, how dare I feel the way I feel.
Saturday morning, I woke up from some weird dream state and just sobbed. I thought about the parents waking up without their children (assuming they even slept) and brothers and sisters awaking without their siblings.
I went on Facebook and asked for help from my friends to help me find my faith again, to please impart some words of wisdom or inspiration. I got few responses, which told me that others were feeling the same way. I contemplated not going to church that Sunday.
By the time Sunday came, I did decide to go to church, for my son’s sake. I was teary-eyed even as I sat there. It probably was the first time I prayed in two days.
I actually did get some good responses to my Facebook inquiry. I have a friend whom I consider my mentor in spiritual matters, and I always feel like God is speaking through her to me. Her words always make sense and she always knows just what to say.
One of the things she said was, “This world is not our own, we are only travelers on our way through to what is our home. Those children are there now.”
I began to picture them celebrating Jesus’ birthday right there with Him, but I still couldn’t stop thinking, “Why did they have to die the way they did?” I was reminded that there is much evil in this world. Much evil.
But there is kindness. Ann Curry started #26, which was a call to perform 26 random acts of kindness in memory of each of the children and teachers who lost their lives.
On the other side, people are talking now — about guns, about mental health — though, doesn’t it always seem like it takes a major tragedy to bring about change?
Once in a while we hear a story of kindness — of God in another human being — such as the police officer who bought boots for the homeless man. Regardless of what the man did with the boots afterward, it was the officer’s act of kindness that mattered.
The more kindness we show each other, the more we can combat this evil. The more we pray and let God into our hearts, the less of a foothold that evil can take on our world.
I have obviously chosen to hold on to my faith after all of this. I simply concluded: Who else do I have to turn to?
As travelers on this Earth, all we can do is be kinder to each other, for each act of kindness is another slap in the face to evil, and hold on tightly to the ones we love because we never know when we’re going home.