Of Unforeseen Tragedies

On the note of suffering, even in the midst of this Easter joy, which in this vale of tears is still mingled with sorrow, at times most poignant and tragic:

Last night, a bus carrying the Humboldt Broncos, a junior hockey team from northern Saskatchewan, was T-boned by a tractor-trailer, killing 14, and injuring many more. I was in the area last summer visiting alumni and others, and the small-town, close-knit community will make this a loss beyond words. May God rest the souls of the deceased, and bring what comfort He may to their families.

The day before that saw the entrance into eternity of the ‘butterfly boy’, Jonathan Pitre, at about the same age as the young hockey players. For all of his brief seventeen years, Jonathan suffered from one of the most painful and debilitating conditions known to medicine, epidermolysis bullosa (a disorder in the connection between the dermis and epidermis) which causes the skin to blister, shear and scar, never healing. Hours of bandage replacement, covering the sores to prevent infection and offer some degree of comfort, were his, and his mother’s, daily routine.

Yet Jonathan remained happy and smiling, making the best of the hand he had been dealt; I read about him a few years ago, and he has come to mind as one of those chosen souls born to suffer. I know not how much he ‘spiritualized’ his condition in the whole Catholic victim-soul theology we read of in various saints (cf., Ludwina of Schiedam for a rather vivid example). The articles in the secular newspapers mention nothing of such. But how much explicit ‘offering up’ does God need in children, to use the salvific power of such pain to redeem many in the world, to make up what Saint Paul describes ‘lacking in the sufferings of Christ’, not the Lord’s own merit (which is infinite), but rather our own participation therein?

From our limited perspective, apparently ‘random’ suffering seems capricious and ‘bad luck’. If either the bus or the truck had been delayed but a few seconds at the last coffee stop…But we know that God’s providence is concrete and immediate, and He has His reasons, which we will only discover fully in eternity, when all things will be made well.

We may hope, Jonathan and all of those who have accepted the grace of Christ will, in God’s own good will, have that resurrected body I discussed yesterday, without spot, wrinkle, blister or scar.