I received news recently of the death of a very nice woman who lived across the street from us when we first moved to the town we now live in, over twenty years ago.  Her name was Karen.  She was very nice, attractive, young, single mother with two children the same age as some of mine. She worked very hard cleaning houses.  

Unfortunately, Karen had many problems.  It became obvious from facts revealed after we moved to another neighborhood, that Karen had been a victim of some kind of abuse in her youth, whether physical or psychological or both.  She could not get herself to look into your eyes when she spoke to you, and would blink continuously on these occasions to cover up this inability at eye contact.  She also was in the habit of beating her children severely for the slightest things, (which one of my children told me later) again, another sign that she might have been abused.  Her original husband was a deadbeat dad, and she had the habit of bringing home “stray cats,” i. e., young drunks/ne’re-do-wells, who would abuse her.  I remember that there was one guy who liked me for some strange reason, but one night in a drunken rage he was arrested and then convicted of chasing her down the street with a chain saw.  Thankfully, Karen ran faster than he. 

Her children did not turn out well, as can be expected under the circumstances.  Her daughter became pregnant out of wedlock almost as soon as she reached puberty, and her son became involved in Satanism.

One night, one her “stray cats” strangled her so severely that it broke a bone in her throat.  That was her final undoing.  One night, Karen was outside, drunk.  She vomited and the broken part of her throat allowed the vomit to pass into her wind pipe suffocating her.  Karen was basically a very nice person who lived a tragic life, from beginning to end.

It’s not just that her death (and life) was a tragedy.  It is the fact that I knew her and never lifted a finger to help her in some way.  In fact, to my knowledge, no one ever helped her.  As for me, I was always concerned about doctrine, as are so many with whom I come into contact in the circles I frequent.  Not that doctrinal issues are not important, but I and so many others whom I know, ignore the very children God created and loves, for mere doctrine.  While I have learned this lesson over the years, Karen’s death shocked me into realizing that even though I no longer ignore God’s other children in favor of doctrinal questions alone, I still never thought of helping Karen whom I knew!

And it is not just me.  Our clergy can be like this as well.  This was brought home to me, confirming my instincts, in a book by the famous Father Raniero Cantalamessa, O.F.M., CAP, official theologian of the papal household:

Presenting people today, who often lack any personal knowledge of Christ, with the entire range of doctrine is like putting one of those heavy broached mantels worn at one time by the clergy on the shoulders of a baby.  We are more prepared by our past to be “shepherds” than to be “fishers” of men; that is, we are better prepared to nourish people who come to church than to bring new people into the church or to bring back home those home who have drifted away and live on its margins. (my emphasis)

How can anyone who has prayerfully read the Epistle of St. James neglect on of these “little ones”:

What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds?  Can such faith save him?  Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food.  If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep; warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it?  In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” (James 2:14-17)

But this seems to be fault of so many “conservative Catholics” who pride themselves about their doctrinal soundness and their love of the Holy Father, but would not lift a finger to care for another poor soul. And the only reason that I have the nerve to write this is that I am as guilty as any!  May God forgive us! 

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