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An Atheist Madman & A Catholic Hero

Larry King, the television talk show host who recently retired from CNN after 25 years of hosting his own show, once commented: “If you want to get on my show, all you need to do is take out a gun and blow your parents away.”  He wasn’t encouraging that type of behavior; he was simply stating a fact.  What he did not say was: “If you want to get on my show, all you need to do is take care of your elderly parents day after day, month after month, and year after year, until they pass away.  After that, I’ll invite you on my show to talk about the heroic sacrifice that you made.”

King knew that when a person does something outrageously immoral or violent, he or she can expect to be richly rewarded with attention, and in some cases, riches.

The madman who recently killed 6 people and wounded 13 others in Tucson, Arizona, knew what Larry King knows: Commit mass murder and you’ll get worldwide media attention (negative attention, but attention nonetheless).  So that’s what happened in Arizona.  After the bloodbath, the 24 hour “news” stations lit up with enthusiasm, and the politicians got busy with advancing their agendas.  Jared Lee Loughner, the 22 year old drug addicted atheist madman who did the killing, got what he wanted: worldwide attention.

In my previous two articles, I outlined my first two (of three) observations about the events surrounding the Arizona killings.  My first observation (All Behavior Originates And Proceeds From Beliefs) was discussed two weeks ago.  My second observation (But For The Grace of God Go I) was covered last week.

Here’s my third and final observation:

OBSERVATION #3:  Bang, Your Time Is Up!

One of the six people who were killed in the shootings was John Roll, a 63 year old Catholic federal judge who had stopped by to say hello to Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.  Video footage from a nearby security camera revealed the details of how Judge Roll was killed.

One of the people Loughner shot was Ron Barber, a man who worked for Giffords.  After Barber was shot, Judge Roll, who was standing next to Barber, immediately grabbed Barber and pushed him down.  He then shielded Barber with his own body while attempting to maneuver Barber away from the gunman.  The video then showed Loughner (who was only about four feet away from Roll at the time), aim his gun at Roll and shoot him in the back.  After Roll was shot, the video showed him look over his right shoulder.  He then laid down on the ground and died.

Ron Barber, the man who Judge Roll saved, was treated at a local hospital for a gunshot wound and was later released.

The shootings took place on a Saturday morning.  Prior to going to the event where Congresswoman Giffords was scheduled to appear, Judge Roll attended morning Mass, returned home for a short time, and then left home at around 9:55 a.m. to go to Giffords’ event.

Judge John Roll was a devout Catholic who was not only devoted to St. Thomas Moore (the patron saint of lawyers), but kept a biography of the saint on a table near his desk.  He was an active member of the local St. Thomas Moore Society for Catholic Lawyers and was also a member of the Knights of Columbus.

Prior to his death, Judge Roll periodically told the story about what happened after he made a controversial ruling in a court case in 2009.  Because of several death threats that were made against him after the ruling, he was subsequently placed under the protection of the United States Marshalls’ Service.  When the protection ended after a month, the federal marshal who had been assigned to protect Judge Roll around the clock told him, “Judge, I’m a Catholic, but I’ve been to Mass more in the last 30 days than in the past 10 years.”

After the shooting, one lawyer reported that he had attended a presentation last summer in which Judge Roll addressed a group of Christian (Evangelical and Catholic) law students.  Some of the topics included “the demands of the legal profession, the benefits of belief in Christ, and the need for practical wisdom in living out one’s faith.”  One story that Judge Roll told at the presentation was about how his family first heard that he had been chosen to be a federal judge.  It happened when his wife, Maureen, answered the telephone at their home on a Saturday morning.  The person who was calling was George H. W. Bush, the President of the United States.  President Bush asked if he could talk to Maureen’s husband.  She had to tell the president that her husband couldn’t come to the phone because he was at Mass.  She then told the president when he could call back.

Judge Roll rarely missed daily Mass.  He was not the typical Catholic that a lot of us see in our day to day lives.  He was a man who put his faith first, his family second, and his career third.  During his presentation to the group of Christian law students last summer, he told them: “God doesn’t bring you to a point in order to abandon you.”

Are you prepared to die right now?

If you stopped at a gas station tomorrow morning and someone gunned you down, would you be ready to meet Almighty God?  Better yet, if the guy next to you got shot, would you reactively (without having time to first stop and think) run for cover, or would you put your life on the line by pushing the wounded man out of the way while using your body to shield him from further harm?

What we know from John Roll’s behavior was that it arose directly out of his strong belief and faith in God.  In fact, his behavior was a reflection of what Jesus Christ did for all of us.  Christ sacrificed His life for each and every one of us.  On that Saturday morning, John Roll sacrificed his life for a fellow human being.  At that moment, the judge revealed his true Christian identity.

Are you prepared to die right now?

For John Roll, going to Mass every day was a behavior that arose out of (and from) his beliefs.  We know from his beliefs and behavior that Roll was prepared to die on that Saturday morning.  In fact, because of his devotion to God (and his ongoing efforts to lead others to God), he was prepared to die at any time and on any day of the week.

Other than to be martyred for the faith, I can’t think of a more heroic way for a Catholic to die – attend Mass, receive our Lord in the Eucharist, and then be killed while saving the life of another person.  “Greater love than this no man hath, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”  John 15:13

It’s too bad that television talk show hosts like Larry King haven’t drawn more attention to this modern day Catholic hero.  But then again, such behavior would be contrary to the beliefs of most television hosts.

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One Response to “An Atheist Madman & A Catholic Hero”

  1. Sister Roberta Houlihan, CSJ Says:

    Once again, Harry, THANK YOU !
    Sister Roberta Houlihan

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