In Brian Doyle’s essay, The Terrible Brilliance, found in the book GRACE NOTES, he talks about his wife who is an art therapist in a children’s hospital where the children are very sick. He describes her work “as a job filled hilarity and pain, a job she loves, a job that makes her shiver and go for long walks in the hills.”
One day Doyle came home to find his wife emotionally drained and questioning how much suffering one little girl could endure. “She’s being crucified said my wife. Everything they do to her hurts her,..she just accepts it. She never complains. She gets crucified every day, why does this happen?”
Any pastoral person knows there is no easy answer to this question. Any time I face a tragic death, I know there is nothing theological that can be said that will lessen the pain. But later at the funeral, and in a homily, I will try and respond. The following words are those of Brian Doyle. I might say something similar, but he does it better than I would.
“A mother watched her son be tortured and crucified and she held him in her arms and there are no words for what she felt. A mother watched her daughter be tortured and crucified and she held her in her arms and there are no words for what she felt. It happens all day, every day, everywhere. All the little crucifixions. All the tiny Christs. The terrible brilliance of our Faith is that there isn’t one Christ, there are billions, and each one suffers and saves the rest, in ways that we will never understand. All we can do is tiptoe into a kid’s room, and spread out all the holy colors on her bed, and make her laugh, and witness her pain and courage, and sing her grace under duress. Somehow she will come alive again, and there will be a light on her mother’s face for which there are no words, and all the things we ever said what we believe will turn out to be true. That will be a good day. That will be the best day ever.“