The Tragedy in Chardon
Fr. George Smiga
March 4, 2012
I believe that all of us have been preoccupied this week because of the tragic events that unfolded at Chardon High School on Monday. There has been a tremendous amount of news coverage. But one comment has stood out for me. I listened to a radio interview with a woman whose daughter was in the cafeteria during the shooting. She first described what happened, and then went on to affirm the competence of the high school teachers, and the technical skill of the police who handled the tragedy. She emphasized the strength of the community of Chardon as people pulled together around the victims and their families. At the end of the interview she said, “If I had to summarize what happened this week, I would say an evil thing happened in a very good place.”
I would like to use her statement as a way for us today to reflect upon this tragedy. It poses two questions: What does this tragedy tell us about evil? and What does it tell us about our faith?
What does this tragedy tell us about evil? One of the most unnerving things about the tragedy is that no one would think that such a violent action could happen in Chardon. Chardon is a good community, a safe community, a community in which people cooperate and work together as neighbors. I am that sure many people consciously chose to live in Chardon and raise their families there because they saw the community as solid and safe. Therefore when this kind of violence happens, there is a fearful whisper in our hearts which says, “If this can happen in Chardon, this can happen anywhere.”
This tragedy shatters our illusion of safety. Sometimes we think, “If I can only be clever enough, responsible enough, or good enough I can keep evil away from myself and from my family.” But this tragedy reminds us that that is not the case. Nor am I simply talking about school shootings. We can work very hard to eat a responsible diet and exercise, and yet at our next Doctor’s appointment discover we have three months to live. We can be very satisfied in our marriage only to find that our spouse is asking us for a divorce. We can be a generous and giving person and find ourselves crippled in an automobile accident. Evil knows no boundaries. In one way or another evil will touch our lives. We are not safe simply because we live in a good place.
Having said that, living in a good place is still important. And I am not talking about real estate. If we have to face evil, we definitely want to face it surrounded by a solid community, by a network of family and friends, and by a belief system that will support us. Here is where our faith comes in. Whatever we have to face, our faith tells us that God is with us. As Paul says today in the second reading, “If God is for us, who can be against us.” Faith assures us that God will be with us as we face the evil and tragedy of our lives.
The sad events this week in Chardon can redefine our relationship to evil. Yes, we should take every step possible to protect ourselves and our family, to make our lives as safe as possible. But there is no protection that is a hundred percent effective. Therefore, as we protect our lives, we should also take steps to deepen our lives. We should make sure that we are living in a good place.
Now is the time to see that the relationships that we have with spouse, family, and friends are honest and true. When evil comes, we will need those relationships to support us. Today is the day that we should pray to God. We should strive to reflect upon what God has done for us and thank God for that relationship. When tragedy strikes, we will need to know the God to whom we call out.
Today is when we should pray. Today is when we should forgive. Today is when we should grow. Because each of those actions makes the place in which we are living better and stronger. Evil can happen in a good place. Today we should make our place as good as possible. So that when evil comes, we will be ready.