When I was a teenager during the 1970s, the younger sister of a friend of mine died from injuries she sustained when she was hit by a car. Shortly after the accident, the girl’s dad happened to drive past the area where the accident had occurred. As he drove by, he couldn’t see what was going on because there were emergency vehicles that were blocking his view. He said a prayer for anyone who might have been injured in the accident and drove home. He learned later that the person he had prayed for was his daughter.
My friend’s parents were Catholic and their children attended Catholic schools. It wasn’t until several years after the accident that I learned that my friend’s dad had a mistress and had been unfaithful to his wife for several years prior to the accident.
Earlier this year, Mary Tyler Moore, the famous actress who was often referred to as “America’s darling,” died at the age of 80. Moore was born in 1936 in Brooklyn, New York, and was raised Catholic. She attended a Catholic grade school and high school.
Her first of three marriages occurred when she was 18 years old. She had her only child, Richard, the following year. She divorced her first husband when her son was five years old.
In After All, an autobiography that Moore wrote in 1996, she revealed that she had an affair in 1980, while she was married to her second husband. In her book, she wrote, “The Catholic in me was convinced that I was committing a mortal sin. On the other side of the ledger was the undeniable affirmation that I was an appealing woman. I had forgotten.”
Shortly after she had her affair, her 24-year-old son was killed from an accidental gunshot wound to his head. Moore was never the same after the death of her son.
I’m sure you’re aware of the recent criminal sexual abuse case that was filed against Bill Cosby, the famous comedian who for years was referred to as “America’s dad.” Over the past several years, more than 50 women have come forward and accused Cosby of drugging and/or sexually assaulting them. The earliest alleged incident occurred in 1965, a year after Cosby married his wife, Camille, in Pennsylvania, at St. Peter’s Catholic Church. The last alleged incident occurred in 2008 at Hugh Hefner’s Playboy Mansion.
Cosby and his wife had five children, a boy and four girls. On January 16, 1997, Cosby’s only son, 27-year-old Ennis Cosby, was killed after he pulled over on an interstate in Los Angeles, California, because of a flat tire. He was shot in the head by an 18-year-old man who was attempting to rob him.
Ennis’s friends said that he was known for being friendly and outgoing and that he always greeted people with “Hello, friend.” After Ennis was buried, his parents placed a sign next to his grave with that phrase. Ten months after Ennis died, his dad released a jazz collection titled, “Hello, Friend: To Ennis With Love.”
The three tragedies that I just described have two things in common: a married parent who committed adultery without subsequently making amends with God, and a child of that parent who was killed as a result of an accident or intentional act.
The suffering that parents and family members of a loved one go through when their loved one has been killed is indescribable. The void that the death leaves can never be filled. The broken hearts that result from the loss can never be repaired. Any parent who has lost a child in this way would tell you that they would rather suffer and die from cancer than lose a child in this manner.
Married couples who follow the teachings of the Catholic Church and remain in the state of grace always have a shield of protection around them that is maintained by the Holy Spirit. Couples who live in the state of grace and pray a daily rosary always have an additional shield of protection around them that is maintained by the Mother of God.
When a married person knowingly and voluntarily commits adultery (or any other grave sexual sin) and does not immediately confess the sin to a priest and ask God for forgiveness, the shield of protection that the Holy Spirit has maintained for that person’s family is taken away. The loss of the shield makes the person and his or her family much more vulnerable to the temptations and actions of Lucifer and his army of evil spirits.
I’m not saying that the tragic deaths that I described above were a direct punishment from God. Only God knows why they were allowed to die from sudden and tragic events. While the reason for their deaths may have been because the suffering that followed their deaths was necessary to repair the damage that was caused by the sins of one of their parents, there could have been other reasons why God allowed their lives to be taken in such an abrupt and tragic manner.*
Last week, in my article, Repairing The Damage, I wrote:
We know what happens to the soul of a person who dies in the state of mortal sin, but what happens to the person who commits a mortal sin and then lives another 40 years without confessing the sin and receiving absolution?
The answer to that question is that there is an immense amount of suffering that must take place for that person and the members of that person’s family to repair the damage that was caused — and will continue to be caused — by the person’s sin.
While most parents who are in a state of mortal sin may not ever have to go through the suffering that is associated with the sudden loss of a loved one, they will have to go through the long-term suffering that is associated with the spiritual and emotional problems that their children will end up suffering from because of their parent’s sinful behavior.
Over the past 60 years, we’ve seen a complete breakdown of the family unit in our country, primarily because the parents of those families have felt free to engage in one or more of the grave and damaging sexual sins of adultery, fornication, contraception, and homosexuality.
Most people would agree that parents have an obligation to provide a physically safe and secure environment for their children while they are growing up. But our obligation toward our children doesn’t stop there. We also have an obligation to provide a spiritually safe, secure, and shielded environment for our children. That obligation doesn’t end when they become adults. It ends when we die.
How can we provide a spiritually safe, secure, and shielded environment for our children? By leading pure, prayerful, and holy lives. It’s easier said than done.
* Last December, I wrote an article that outlined some of the reasons our loved ones are suddenly taken from us. If you didn’t have a chance to read the article, you can find it here.