Yesterday seems too far away to comprehend today.
Yesterday, I stood with friends and family to speak to God for Aiden Patrick, all of nine months old, round-headed and cherub-cheeked, and to claim for him the promise of everlasting life.
There were six or seven other babies there to receive the holy ointments and water and prayers that signify baptism into the ways of Mother Church, and all of them were “dressed like girls” to the consternation of ten-year-old #2 son. Aiden, and Maizy, and Shamus, and the rest of the new flock cried and wriggled in their sparkling white taffeta and lace as the aging Priest lead the assembled through the ancient rite. All the while their siblings, cousins, aunts and uncles squirmed likewise. As I watched the babes brought to the font I remembered my own sister’s baptism, 47 years ago, and recalled how the whole thing was too long to expect a four year-old to behave himself, and it's still WAY too dull to expect much attention from any fourteen year-old these days – or any days prior.
But the priest was patient to the cacophony and ennui, and reminded each of those assembled of the incredible significance of the instant moment. We speak for this child, he said, who cannot yet speak, in order to claim his or her soul for God And by so speaking, he reminded us, that we professed our own responsibility to ensure that the little brat never wanders too far off the path. This is pretty heady stuff to swear to before God.
With unflagging hope, however, we all agreed to such conditions. And so the sacred questions were proposed – the same as those asked a thousand million times before – and once more, those that could speak answered for the eternal lives of those who could not :
“Do you renounce Satan?”
“And all of his works?”
Today, at Virginia Polytechnic Institute , the university to which I entrusted daughter #3’s future, a human being, without cause or reason, cut short the lives of at least 32 other human beings - the children of other parents - and permanently damaged the lives of uncounted numbers of their classmates. I will mourn this day forever.
There is nothing quite so profound as the shock that follows a news report hinting that your child might be missing, forever, and for nothing. There is no measure of fear, pain, or guilt that can grip you, even for mere moments, until you are SURE that she breathes yet, and that she hears your prayers for her safety. The incredible relief that knowledge instantly provides is then immediately smashed by the thought that other parents, and even your own kid, might still await bad news, or worse news, or no news, but no further good news. For a kid about to graduate to law school, it's a shattering end to innocence.
I thought, like so may of us, that the most unspeakable Evil in our lifetimes unveiled itself at 9/11. Not that unspeakable “evil” did not exist beforehand, but only that following that horror a permissive society might yet be able to gauge how “evil” Evil could be. We even gave that evil a name – al Qeda. That name still stands as my definition of the unspeakable, and it’s one that that I will always despise.
But after today, there exists another, less-organized and more pointless, Evil that rattles my soul and spirit. Forget Osama, Hitler, Mao, Stalin, Pol Pot and the other assorted great despots that we all concur constitute the essence of Evil in our experience. Imagine, now, Evil as simply the unorganized destruction of good. Imagine a force that proposes limitless power to its adherents without ideology, answer, salvation, victory, or peace, and yet unlimited enemies to choose from. Imagine no reason for being Evil, other than being Evil as an end unto itself.
Just a few days ago, Don Imus was evil incarnate. You want to change your bet?
Tonight I will watch with my family and my the nation and my world the horror that was unleashed at Blacksburg, Virginia, this morning, and I will weep at the thought that those that should have stood with my daughter at her graduation this May will be forever silenced by unspeakable, incomprehensible, Evil.
And then I will recall the simple affirmation I spoke not 24 hours ago on behalf of my innocent nephew.
I renounce Satan.
And all of his works.
God bless you, Aiden, for your life in this world.
May you never know Evil.
May you ever vanquish it.