A Treasure Revealed by Tragedy
By Monsignor Dennis Mikulanis
Our North County has seen its share of tragic automobile accidents involving young people. The latest to hit us hard was one that happened on Aug. 9 near Bishop, Calif.
A carload of students from Cathedral Catholic High School was returning to San Diego from a high-altitude cross-country training in Mammoth when the car in which they were traveling was involved in an accident with another vehicle. The driver of the other vehicle — a van carrying athletes going to the training — was killed and several passengers were injured. The vehicle carrying our Cathedral Catholic students burst into flames after the accident, killing two and seriously injuring two others.
Our hearts are breaking at this tragic loss, and certainly our prayers go out for those who lost their lives as well as for recovery and healing for those injured. Nor can we forget to lift up in prayer the families of all those involved who must somehow try to cope with this tragic event.
On Aug. 10, when news of the accident began to spread, hundreds of Cathedral Catholic students went to the school campus despite the fact they are still on summer vacation. They were drawn by a sense of community which they share, to be present to one another, to mourn with one another the loss of their friends and to pray for those who were battling for their lives in the hospital.
One after another, the media reporters who were present told of how the students gathered at the chapel to pray and to comfort one another. Did you get that? The students at Cathedral Catholic spontaneously went to their school, gathered at the chapel to pray and comfort one another. One young man was interviewed about what was happening and what he had to say was words to the effect: “Our faith brings us here. Without our faith, where would we be? We don’t understand this and we’re all sad, but our faith gets us through it. We know there’s more. When we say the rosary, we first say the sorrowful mysteries before the glorious.”
Where did that kid get that? Where did all of those kids find the inspiration, the strength to return to campus to pray together? They got it from the good, solid, Catholic education they are receiving at Cathedral Catholic, from the example of their teachers, from the loving support and dedication of their parents, from the faith that is ours as Catholics.
If we ever question the value of Catholic education or ask why we need Catholic schools at all, just look at how the students of Cathedral Catholic responded to this tragedy. True, when other tragedies have struck our teenagers elsewhere, they have gotten together to comfort and support one another, but how many spontaneously went to the chapel to pray and could understand that though we live the sorrowful mysteries now, the glorious are still to be encountered, that Christ and the Church lifts us up and comforts us in times of such overwhelming sorrow?
The wound is gaping and raw. As the Church, let us lift up our hearts in prayer that the Divine Physician will heal the brokenhearted, the wounded spirit, the injured body, and let us be sure that the treasure we have in Catholic education continues to be provided for and secured for future generations. Our youth are our future and, if the young people of Cathedral Catholic are any indication, the future of our Church is in good hands.
The Southern CrossThis commentary first appeared in the December 2009 issue of The Southern Cross.