Then, one night in August, on the eve of the Feast of the Assumption, I decided to check my e-mail before going to bed. There was an item in my inbox titled, “I lost one of my students today.” I sat down and took a deep breath. It was from a Catholic teacher in Newark, N.J. One of his pupils, a 15-year-old boy, had been shot and killed that morning while sleeping in his own bedroom. News reports said a neighbor downstairs had been handling a rifle that had gone off accidentally.
The teacher was devastated. He told me that he wrote because he just needed to get it off his chest. “I am stricken with grief at a time when my heart would otherwise be elated—but I know my young student, my child, celebrates this feast in the arms of the Blessed Mother,” he wrote, and asked for prayers for himself, his students and the boy who had been killed.
I did not know what to say. I wrote back to him, offering a few words of consolation, and told him I would pray for him. But something, I felt, had changed.
The flickering words on a computer screen spoke of something greater, and deeper, and sadder than anything else I had encountered in my months of blogging. In the middle of all the bickering in the blogosphere, I had encountered a moment of unexpected grief and profound grace—beautiful, heartbreaking, soul-wrenching grace.
If nothing else, the Internet makes us acutely aware of this: the world is bigger than we realize and smaller than we expect. We are bound together in ways we cannot even imagine. I have learned a lot since I began blogging, but the greatest lesson may be that we are catholic, which means we are universal, and that we are everything and everyone, for better or for worse.
Indeed he is correct. From my time here and my 8 1/2 years at Busted Halo I’ve gotten e-mail from prisoners concerned about homosexuality, women who have had miscarriages and thought their child had lost all hope for salvation, I even had someone write in who was afraid their son was contemplating suicide. While our retreat program is filled with similar experiences, they pale in comparison to what gets revealed in the anonymity of the internet. It is beautiful and sad at the same time. Beautiful that we are all connected and can reach out to one another and that we can provide some kind of virtual ministry to these people who seek us out. At the same time, the world seems like a lonely place where people have to resort to sending a note on the internet to virtual strangers, albeit people with whom they likely respect and maybe even feel some kind of spiritual or emotional resonance.
The rest of the article is downright funny and poingnant in other ways. So check out the whole thing here.