The quiet peacemakers

By Michael Humphrey

Oct. 2, 2007, a year after the tragedy, they didn’t make much noise. Mainly they wanted solitude, their usual place away from the modern world that descended upon them one horrible day last year.

But the world had to watch, at least its media did. So MSNBC reported: “Amish families in buggies and wagons, and some on foot, streamed toward a farmhouse Monday to mark the first anniversary of a massacre at a one-room schoolhouse.”

Over the past year they worked to ease the pain. They tore down the school and built another. They donated money that was sent to them, giving some of it to the family of Charlie Roberts, the man who killed five of their children and then himself. They took a comfort quilt to Virginia Tech, when that school endured the most deadly gun rampage in American history.

Their culminating statement: “All that has been done to lift our burden is greatly appreciated and leaves us with a sense of indebtedness to everyone, but also makes us more aware of our gracious God to whom we owe a larger debt.”

Who can understand why Roberts did it? No criminal record, no history of instability. Suicide notes, one phone call, that is all there is. MSNBC: “Roberts indicated he was angry with God for the death of his infant daughter in 1997 and driven by the guilt of having molested two girls 20 years earlier.”

Sometimes it seems too much. June 10, 2007, Conception Abbey quietly marked five years since Lloyd Jeffress walked into their sacred silence and killed two monks before killing himself.

Over the past five years they worked to ease the pain. They built a welcome center, made it clear their doors would remain unlocked. They prayed for Jeffress’ family, offered to bury him if no other means were available.

The Conception Tower Topics quoted Fr. Kenneth, who survived being shot: “Every time I think of that day I have to make a conscious decision to forgive Mr. Jeffress. My advice to anyone who has gone through something like this, is to be ready to forgive for the rest of your life.”

Who can understand why Jeffress did it? He left nothing to tell us, informed no one of what was to come. The Associated Press: “Lloyd Jeffress’ bitterness toward the Roman Catholic Church after his decades-ago divorce is the best lead investigators have to help explain his attack on a northwest Missouri monastery.”

God and church. Blamed for the pain and vacancy that took these lives, honored for the radical forgiveness by those who live on. This is the contradiction of faith, the confrontation with our own fragility.

It is the mystery in which we live. It is the peacemaker’s burden to quietly bear.


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