Love One Another

window 6Last week in this blog I wrote about suicide, specifically I recalled my grandfather’s suicide and its lingering effects on my family. I wasn’t prepared for the reaction that my words encouraged. I had struggled with publishing our family story because I didn’t want the legacy of my dad and grandfather to be changed in any way by my writing. But I shouldn’t have worried. Instead I’ve heard many stories of other families whose lives have been altered forever by suicide. Beginning in 2009, suicide surpassed car crashes as the number one cause of accidental death in the United States. Everyone knows someone who has died in a car accident so it follows that we all know someone who has taken their own life. Many of us have loved people who killed themselves. And all of us are left with questions.

Is suicide always a sin? The short Catholic answer us “no.” In order for an action to be a mortal sin, the person must 1) know the action is sinful, 2) deliberately and freely consent to the sin, and 3) the action must be gravely sinful. Most people in most circumstances would know that suicide is a grave sin. But there are reasons that can keep a person from being able to make a clear, informed, rational choice. We can imagine so many situations and life events which can conspire in a person’s soul and can affect their ability to think clearly and mindfully. Their thoughts and emotions may have been very impaired at the time of their death. You may have known they were in difficulty. Or maybe you didn’t. Maybe their suicide came as a complete shock—a moment of unbelievable, unknowable loss. We try and understand how they came to want to end their lives. We may never really know the answers to our questions. We wonder if somehow we missed the signals they might have been giving—of despair or hopelessness, or of the plans they were making to escape their pain.

Yes, we can always take better care of one another. If a friend or family member makes us wonder if they might be considering suicide, we should ask them. This is an act of love. Your care and concern might be the very thing they’ve most hungered for. There are resources in every community that can help someone who’s hurting and desperately sad. We’re connected to each other and the Lord binds us together in His holy communion. That binding isn’t just symbolic but is a true “oneness” that exists in Christ and His Church. It means that we bear with one another through all difficulties and we stand with one another in our pain. We pray for the hurting and the lonely in our midst. Loneliness may be at the heart of so many of our world’s hurting ones. Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta thought so. She said, “The most terrible poverty is loneliness and the feeling of being unloved.”

Who do you know that is lonely?  The widow down the street. The young man living on his own. The retiree diagnosed with a return of his cancer. Our lives are knit together through Christ’s redemptive love and He commands us to love one another (John 13:34-35). This is not a theory or idea. This is how we love: by being Christ to our neighbor. It means taking the time to get to know the people in our lives. It means introducing ourselves to the new faces at Mass and taking an active part in the ministries in our parish that serve others. Stewardship is more than dropping an envelope in the offertory and getting up to lector every month or so. A steward cares for God’s creation and that means caring for the vulnerable. Don’t be afraid to reach out. Ask the young man to your family table. Offer to drive the widow to Mass next Sunday. You may be the light they’ve been searching for. And pray, always pray. A Rosary for their intentions can open the floodgates of grace. And help is out there. The National Suicide Prevention Hotline is a network of more than 150 crisis centers around the country. Calling 1-800-273-8255 can get free, confidential and local help for anyone who’s suffering and depressed. Don’t miss the chance to be the love and the help someone needs when they need you the most. You’ll be sharing the love and the hope of Christ and His Church. And you just might save a life.

“They help each other and say to their companions, ‘Be strong!’                                                                                  —Isaiah 41:6

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