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A Treasury of Arkansas Writers Discussing the Catholic Faith
Official Website of the
Catholic Diocese of Little Rock
Published: January 8, 2022
By Father Jerome Kodell, OSB
News reporting wants to capture attention, so we are constantly alerted to “breaking news” and warned to stay tuned lest we miss something. Unfortunately, the news that gets our attention, shocking or surprising news, is often bad news: a tragedy, a betrayal, a scandal.
The stories about everyday good behavior, which are much more plentiful, are not newsworthy, and even the most shocking good news may not be reported. One of the most newsworthy stories in this latter category happened in the 1990s in South Africa after the fall of the racist apartheid regime.
All of us are making news every day, though it is usually not striking enough for national or international reporting. However, it is often more important than the shockers which get the headlines.
A truth and reconciliation committee was set up to bring justice to criminals and to their victims. A white police officer, Captain Van der Broek, was on trial for coming to the home of a black family, shooting the couple’s only son at point-blank range and burning his body on a woodpile while Van der Broek and his cronies stood by drinking.
Later the same group came back to the home and killed the husband the same way. The widow was in the courtroom, a frail woman in her 70s. A commission member asked her, “How should justice be done for this man?” She asked if she could remain seated and then replied: “I ask three things.
First, I want to be taken to the place where my husband’s body was burned so that I can gather up the dust and give his remains a decent burial. He and my son were my only family.
“Second, I want Mr. Van der Broek to become my son. I would like for him to come twice a month to my ghetto and spend the day with me so that I can pour out on him whatever love I still have.
“Finally, I would kindly ask someone to come to support me and lead me across the courtroom so that I can take Mr. Van der Broek in my arms and embrace him, and let him know that he is truly forgiven, in the name of Christ who has forgiven me.”
As she was walking across the room to meet him, Mr. Van der Broek fainted. Several weeks ago at Sunday Mass, we read the Gospel story of the widow who put two small coins into the collection, which Jesus said was all she had. We may find that story hard to believe until we learn the “shaking news” of a modern widow in South Africa who is equally extravagant with her love.
All of us are making news every day, though it is usually not striking enough for national or international reporting. However, it is often more important than the shockers which get the headlines: people taking care of one another; being faithful to their commitments and honest in their work; volunteering their time to feed the homebound; serve the needs of the sick; “care for widows and orphans in their affliction.” (James 1:27)
The effect of the life of a good person in society has been compared to a sliver of rock that moves out of its place, its comfort zone, deep in the earth and causes an earthquake on the surface.
Just by being and doing good, the saint changes the earth. Using another image, in “New Seeds of Contemplation,” Thomas Merton said, “One or two people may be the ones holding everything together and keeping the universe from falling apart.”