I’ve come to realize that for all its distractions, Social Media serves as a reminder of the fragility of life, the closeness of death, and the ever-present tragedies that intermingle with our joys in this Vail of Tears. Over the years, I’ve heard more heartbreaking stories than I care to think about, all of them hitting close to home. People I know, people I went to school with, people who live nearby. Children taken too soon, chronic illness claiming the lives of young mothers and fathers, the sudden reality of parental loss that comes without warning.
This week, I’ve learned of two more stories that plead for your gracious prayers. The first concerns a tragic car accident that took the life of Danny Rooney, a young father of six (with number seven on the way), on January 17th. I didn’t know Danny, but I met his wife Iris when I helped out with freshman orientation at Steubenville in 1998. I was immediately struck by her charm and humor, and we spent an evening going through our entire repertoire of funny, foreign accents outside one of the dorms, trying to see if we could find one the other couldn’t do. We never became close, but we were friendly when we saw each other, and she was the kind of person you almost never saw without a smile on her face.
She remains gracious even in the face of overwhelming personal loss. In a status update posted on her Facebook page last night, she writes:
I am overcome with gratitude for all of the love, support, and prayers you have shown us. Thank you! My darkest hour is lighter from your love.
A fund has been set up to help pay the families upcoming expenses. If you would like to help them, you may do so there. Please also pray for the repose of Danny’s soul, and for the consolation of Iris, the kids, and the many family and friends who are grieving this loss.
Secondly, this morning I saw a tweet from Tommy Tighe, the “Hipster Dad” to whom I responded in these pages about parenting at Mass. Tommy is now facing his own tragedy, one every parent dreads:
Our new baby, coming in June, has been diagnosed with renal agenisis. He is expected to live for just minutes after his birth. Pray for us.
— Tommy Tighe (@theghissilent) January 20, 2016
However much we may have sparred with words, however much we may have disagreed in our approach to things, Tommy is a father, a husband, and a brother in Christ. I am so sorry to hear of what he and his wife must now face, and I implore your prayers for the Tighe family.
We are all asked to bear certain crosses, and I know that often, mine seem to make no sense. I find myself wishing that I had someone else’s problems, since they seem, in my ignorance, easier to bear.
But we are all given what we are given, and the Lord takes what He takes. I have never been less than humbled by watching the faith, the love, and the strength of others as they face the heaviest burdens of their lives and as their hearts are broken by loss. I have often seen these things and been forced to consider how I would react under similar circumstances. Not so well, I fear. For all the countless thousands of words I have written about my faith, I have watched others live it in a way that makes me realize how far I have to go.
May God bless and console the Rooney and Tighe families, and all those who are suffering from loss or overwhelming hardship at this time.
Steve Skojec is the Founding Publisher of OnePeterFive.com. He received his BA in Communications and Theology from Franciscan University of Steubenville in 2001. His commentary has appeared in The New York Times, USA Today, The Washington Post, The Washington Times, Crisis Magazine, EWTN, Huffington Post Live, The Fox News Channel, Foreign Policy, and the BBC. Steve and his wife Jamie have eight children. You can find more of his writing at his Substack, The Skojec File.
It is easier to talk on how to deal with adversity and suffering, but much harder to deal with it when it affects us personally. I have thought the same thing with regards on how my own actions would be in difficult times. Would I walk as I talk? Would I trust in the Lord?
Dear Andrew and Dear Maria (who commented below),
I have been sitting here for well over an hour after reading this article and your two posts, thinking about your questions and how I would reply and IF I should reply at all. I did ask the Lord, but I don’t really know for sure what His guidance is about this, so I will just say that I am giving my personal opinion and sharing my own experience, as I was taught to do in a 12-step group over 30 years ago. My personal opinion is that, if a person is suffering trials and tribulations which go on for a long time or are very intense, in a search for answers and some kind of help, people usually will be very interested in knowing about other human beings who have gone through serious troubles and what happened to them. This was certainly true in my life, and I could always tell from what someone said if they were talking out of real-life experience or just “talking.” I preferred to listen to those who had “been there.”
The way I see life and the way I understand suffering and the things of God have changed greatly over the past 20 years. At the beginning of those years, I had already been surrendering my will and my life to God for 11 previous years. I was not yet a Catholic, but that came to fruition in these last years. A new life had already been given to me in wonderful ways by the grace of God. A good and loving husband..a decent financial situation, which helped give us the ability to adopt two infants in the space of a year, when we were 45 years old. Of course we had some challenges, but in retrospect life was very good, and I gave all the credit to God. We resolved to raise these two babies in a household dedicated to the Lord, to prayer, church, and doing everything we could to be responsible and good, Christian parents. I had been given a great gift in a personal experience of the Holy Spirit, and for over two years I lived in a world that revolved around deep, contemplative prayer (a total grace given to me as I was in no way worthy of it) and a very strong presence of God and His love. Many hours were spent studying and meditating on Scripture, the lives of some of the saints, and historical writings about the early Church. I thought that would go on for the rest of my life, but as you all already know, it was not to be. I had no Catholic understanding of tribulation and chastisement and suffering yet. I was joyful, happy, and had many moments of supernatural peace.
Those “special” few years gradually came to a close, and the chastisements and suffering began. For the last 18 years, it’s as if my whole world, my body, my brain, my fundamental way of thinking, family life..every aspect, seemingly, of my existence has been attacked (if one believes in the temptations and assaults of Satan), radically taken apart and changed in what I have been told by my spiritual director is part of the purification process…all to a point where in some ways it looks almost like destruction.
And to Maria — I have also seen for the last 5-10 years what you speak of. Almost every person I know and love has begun to have significant “bad” things begin to happen in their lives. Everywhere I see pain and suffering, souls in deep distress. Maybe I am just being influenced to think this way because of my own troubles, but when the phone rings or the email arrives from a friend or family member, 90% of the time it’s not about good news anymore. My personal conclusion – darkness and suffering are increasing in the world, especially among the faithful.
What has happened in my life and my family is not anywhere near the worst that can or has happened to many others, when you take into consideration Christian men, women and children being tortured and murdered and people actually being crucified today. It’s good to try to keep things in perspective, but I found that when I was at my worst point of pain and coming close to death, honestly I didn’t think about other people. I was just so overwhelmed in my own darkness. And I don’t think I have suffered bravely. I understood the whole thing about offering up suffering, joining it to the Cross of Jesus, but I would say I failed in my attempts to consistently practice it. I would have moments in prayer where I could rise above the situation and sincerely offer it all to Christ. That usually happened when I wasn’t in such awful shape at the time. What I have read of the joy of the saints in suffering, asking for more — that was definitely not me. I experienced times of great fear, trying to negotiate with God for a miracle or some relief, feeling abandoned, wishing He would take me. Long years of never-ending pain can, I believe, drive a person to madness.
And it wasn’t just about me. My dear children basically abandoned their home and us after they turned 18, and it was as if we never modeled or taught them one thing. They both went off and got involved with bad people. Absolutely horrible, dreadful things happened to both of them. They had been catechized and confirmed in the Church. They ran from it all into the darkness, and it happened so quickly.
My husband had to carry the burden of a job where he was persecuted, having to get up at 4 a.m. and drive over an hour to his work, stay at work for 10 hours so he could have 1 extra day off in the week to try to take care of me. He wouldn’t get home until 8 p.m. at night, and for years almost every day was a crisis – financial, the children, my illness, superiors going after him at work…on and on and on. It did something to him. Our son would be threatening suicide. We found out when he was 18 that he wasn’t bipolar like the doctors said. His birth mother had physically abused him, banging his head against the walls and other things. She was/is dangerously mentally ill. He has brain damage from Shaken Baby Syndrome. Our daughter had the worst thing you could imagine happening to a very young woman, who had not even dated until she was 18. Our financial state declined and got pretty bad. I couldn’t even get out of bed to fix myself a sandwich. And this was when we were in our 60’s.
I did learn to endure. I had no other choice. I went through something of the dark night of the soul, where there was absolutely nothing, not a sliver of light, of God. It is indescribable. In the end, I was like a blind person in a totally foreign, black howling wilderness, just trying to hang on with my fingertips to an icy rock to keep from falling into an abyss. That I am here today, even able to think or do anything, has to be totally God and absolutely nothing of me. I did come to a point where I made a choice. When I absolutely had not a shred of being able to know that there was a God and my whole being experienced just total nothingness and a complete void of God, with no expectation of that ever changing, I was somehow given the tiniest little bit of ability to keep hanging on to that rock. It wasn’t noble or strong or brave. It was more like: I’m getting ready to completely come apart and fall into that abyss. Maybe there is nothing, but I might as well go down saying I want to believe.
Thanks for sharing your story. I was listening to a bishop today, who stated one of the biggest threats facing us today is a lack of hope. Not the hope in the natural sense, but the supernatural hope in the promises of God. I truly believe we have to put our hope in the Lord, as nothing else will keep us in peace. Do not lose hope in the promises of Jesus Christ, for if we take upon us his yoke, he promised we will find rest for our souls. I will pray a Divine Mercy Chaplet for you and your family. May God bless you.
Dear Andrew, I totally agree and thank you so much for praying for us. I posted above that we are not in the heart of that awful storm anymore, and I pray God I won’t have to go back into it.
It’s not the easiest thing to “tell our stories.” I came from what was left of the old South, where the stiff upper lip and keeping “bad” things in the family a secret were the cultural norm. Now today, we see some of the younger generations almost obsessively telling everyone, everywhere, extremely personal things about themselves. I think there’s a middle ground somewhere, where sharing can be important, but it’s always sort of risky because one may seem to be whining or complaining or asking for attention and pity.
What happened to me taught me so much about myself, that although I had believed I had really submitted myself and my life to God, I still had much hidden human pride and self-sufficiency going on. When God allowed my human “abilities” to be basically taken away, piece by piece, I was shocked and dismayed at the roots of pride, stubbornness, and rebellion that were still so busy working away inside me. It’s like my whole life was changing and I had absolutely no control, even where a person would normally be able to reasonably do something.
I think a lot of my hope and faith still had a large part of “me” mixed all in there. I’m sure there’s still a lot of “me” but these days I think much more along the lines of God is All and I am a little nothing, my mind cannot comprehend His, His ways may be something I don’t like at all when they begin to unfold and I may never understand while I’m in this world.
“darkness and suffering are increasing in the world, especially among the faithful.”
This. It really does seem as though there has been an uptick in evil and spiritual warfare of late. Thank you for sharing your story. I will pray for your family.
I met a woman who became a good friend during the years I lived in Alabama. She is one of those outgoing, kind people who are always helping others in need, while she has struggled in poverty all her life. She loves the Lord, and she has a huge family so there’s always something going on. She is a person of strong faith and hope in God and has not had an easy life. But in the last 10 years, I have watched human tragedies, one after the other, slowly deconstruct her earthly life — her husband lost in a freak accident, illnesses coming on her so she can no longer work, her unity of family with her children and grandchildren divided by strife, losing her home and having to live temporarily with her daughter.
To me, it appears that my friend’s faith has been tested to the limits. There is no “normal” in her world anymore, no earthly comfort or security. My personal opinion is that what has been happening to her could be a sign of what may be coming to more of us. St Augustine, in an exposition on Psalm 55, reminds us that we do not battle against only human foes. He liked to talk about us being grapes, going into the winepress to be crushed. He said: “If you suppose yourself not to have troubles, not yet have you begun to be a Christian…But when you have begun godly to live in Christ, you have entered into the winepress; make ready yourself for pressings, but be not thou dry, lest from the pressing nothing go forth.”
Thank you for offering prayers for my family. God is good, and we are in a much better situation than before. I am no longer in that darkness, and that is the most important thing of all! We were able to retire last March and are now living in a rural area, 5 minutes from our parish church. My children have both left the bad situations in which they were living, and in the last 6 weeks both of them have come to our new home to live with us at least temporarily. We have been fervently praying for them for a long, long time, but their decisions to come here were sudden and unexpected. The Lord, moving in His mysterious ways. Of course, they are 23 and don’t want to hear our opinions. It’s a delicate situation, and we pray to Him to make us sensitive to His will, so we don’t mess things up.
I am glad that your situation is better. Don’t forget Our Lady of Good Success for the conversion of your children — the novena starts today!
The Archangel Raphael is the patron saint of healing. I offer this novena to all who do not know it or even know of it. I shall include the link to the website on which this prayer and others are located: http://www.straphaeloil.com/prayers/
Novena to St. Raphael
Most merciful Archangel Raphael, who faithfully accompanied young Tobias
from Nineveh to Media, please accompany me, a wretched sinner, on this
dangerous journey through life on earth to my eternal home in Heaven.
Glory be to the Father. . .
Most wise Archangel Raphael, while walking beside the Tigris River, saved the
young Tobias from death, teaching him how to obtain control of the fish
which threatened his life, save my life also from the attacks of the
evil one who threatens the sanctity of my soul.
Glory be to the Father. . .
Most powerful Archangel Raphael, who by a miracle of God, restored the
precious gift of sight to the blind Tobit, heal me, free me from
spiritual blindness and lift the veil of spiritual blindness of the
world, so that we may come to know and love the divine splendor of
Truth, who is Jesus our Lord, God and Redeemer. Protect me from
deception, and help me to live and honor God’s laws.
Glory be to the Father. . .
Holy Raphael, I have confidence in your intercession. Pray for me during this novena especially for …
(mention silently your special intentions).
Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be . . .
Is there anything good happening anywhere, for anyone? I have just heard bad news from every quarter these days concerning really committed Catholics . . . death, illness, spiritual warfare, persecution small and great. And I am praying as much as I can and will continue to do so. But has anyone heard anything uplifting of late??
Nothing uplifting, although, I did listen to a press conference at the March for Life given by Bishop Fellay of the SSPX, which was refreshing to hear these days. Also, another person responded to my post which was addressed to you as well.