October 2

 

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2006 Murder of five Amish children

On October 2, 2006, an employed church-going husband and loving father named Charles Carl Roberts IV entered a one-room schoolhouse in West Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania and took the teacher and students hostage. After allowing some of his prisoners to leave, Roberts then lined up the remaining ten students, all girls, and began to shoot them. He killed five and wounded five others before killing himself as police broke in to the building. His suicide notes gave a variety of reasons for his actions, including a history of sexual molestation and anger at God.

What astonished the world after these deaths was the reaction of the local Amish community which reacted not with anger or frustrated calls for vengeance but with compassion for the killer and pity for his family. A spokesman said, “I don’t think there’s anybody here that wants to do anything but forgive and not only reach out to those who have suffered a loss in that way but to reach out to the family of the man who committed these acts.” Amish residents attended Roberts’s’ funeral and embraced his relatives. These extraordinary examples of Christian behaviour helped healing in the lives of all concerned. The killer’s wife, Marie Roberts, said that she and her three young children had been overwhelmed by the community support. “Your love for our family has helped to provide the healing we so desperately need,” she wrote. “Gifts you’ve given have touched our hearts in a way no words can describe. … Your compassion has reached beyond our family, beyond our community, and is changing our world, and for this we sincerely thank you.” Terri Roberts, the killer’s mother, still volunteers to care for one of the victims, confined to a wheel-chair for life.

October 1

 

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St Theresa of Lisieux

There is nothing to say that saints have to live long and arduous lives; hagiographies are full of the tales of young people who have been canonized for flashes of sanctitude or a single action. Few saints of tender years can have had so great an influence as this French woman who died at the age of 24 after a long battle with tuberculosis.

Marie-Françoise-Thérèse Martin (1873-97) was born into a pious middle-class family in northwestern France and decided at an early age she wished to be a nun, a resolve that strengthened when she experienced a vision of the Virgin. At 15 she entered the Discalced (Shoeless or Barefoot) Carmelites, a contemplative order of cloistered women with a house at Lisieux, Normandy which her sisters had already joined. She took the religious name Theresa of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face. The rest of her short life she spent inside the walls of her convent, praying, serving and writing.

Love proves itself by deeds, so how am I to show my love? Great deeds are forbidden me. The only way I can prove my love is by scattering flowers and these flowers are every little sacrifice, every glance and word, and the doing of the least actions for love.

It is through her exposition of “the little way” that made Theresa famous, winning her sainthood after her death and the title Doctor of the Church. In her poetry and her autobiography, The Story of a Soul, Theresa advocated a life of child-like trust and small loving actions. She is the patroness of African missions, those suffering from AIDS or tuberculosis, air crews and florists.