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Wrestle & Prevail: No words can fix what happened in Boston, only God’s love

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John Stegeman Wrestle & Prevail

This wasn’t supposed to be my column for this month, but then I’ve got it pretty good.

I wasn’t hurt or killed in the Boston Marathon explosions, and neither was anyone I know. But three people are dead, and more than 140 are hurt as a result of senseless violence. I can’t fix that with a column. Millions of gallons of ink are being spilled on that topic even as you read this, but no words from any columnist, no facts from any reporter are going to make it ok.

Three people are dead.

One was an 8-year-old boy named Martin Richard. A photo in many of the news stories has the young Pope John Paul II Academy student wearing a sparking white suit and holding up a felt banner on what appears to be the steps of a church.

Martin Richard Boston
Martin Richard, the 8-year old who died in the Boston Marathon bombings, is seen in an undated photo in what appears to be his first communion clothes.

The photo is most likely from Richard’s first communion, and judging by the photo, it can’t have been taken too long ago.

My column was going to be a happy jaunt about my days playing youth sports at St. Antoninus and how youth sports in a Catholic setting is good for kids. I recalled in that column my care free days from first grade on when I played soccer, baseball and basketball in the gold and black.

Just thinking about that now, after reading about Martin Richard, fills me with something.

I’m not sure if it’s anger — when I realize that one of the casualties was a Catholic school kid. I don’t know if it’s helplessness — when I see he wore a white suit and smiled big on his first communion day, full of life. I don’t know if it’s overwhelming sadness — when I read that he had parents and a family who loved him and miss him.

I don’t know what it is, but it hurts.

It hurts to know that Richard’s family is suffering. It hurts to know that there are people out there in the world that would murder Richard, and others, for their own agenda. It hurts to know, as someone who will become a parent in July, that Richard’s parents couldn’t have done anything different to save their son.

But through the hurt I realize something. That picture. That boy, smiling toothless and dressed in white, he was one of God’s children too. That picture is from what may be the most important day of his eight years of life. On that day, the day of his first communion, Richard Martin received the body and blood of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist.

In John 6:53 Jesus says “Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.”

But it appears that Richard did eat of that flesh and did drink of that blood. He partook of Christ’s body and blood and I can’t help but trust in God’s mercy that the boy is now with him in paradise.

I’ve been a journalist since all the way back in my senior year of high school in 2002. When you study to be a part of, and later work in, this industry, terrible things often become mundane.

The job of a journalist isn’t to feel the hurt, the confusion, the fear, that wraps up everyone else. Their job is to put the feelings aside and get the story, no matter how horrible. Do that for a few years and headlines like “10 killed in pile up” and “Ferry sinks, countless dead” stop being real. You sometimes stop thinking about the human cost behind the headlines.

And then you see a picture of Richard Martin.

You see he’s wearing a white suit on the steps of a church on the day of his first communion. Then, you remember wearing a white suit and standing on the steps of a church on the day or your own first communion.

John Stegeman
John Stegeman, author of this column, wears a white suit jacket and poses for his first communion photo at St. Antoninus, circa 1992.

Martin Richard isn’t just a name in a headline to me, not anymore. I’m not afraid to admit that it took that particular photo for me to remember that.

I saw that photo and it became real again. It hurts.

No words can fix what happened to Richard, the other dead, or anyone who was hurt, but trusting in the mercy of God’s love, we can find healing.

We can remember no matter how much the person who did this hates the world, that God so loved the world that he sent us his only son.

We can remember that while some out there will murder innocents for their cause, the innocent lamb Jesus Christ willingly let himself be murdered for our sakes.

In that total self-giving love of God for us, we find our only hope.

No words can make a difference to what happened in Boston, but God can.

Jesus, we trust in you.

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