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Tending Your Soul
Sacred Encounters

Wrong Place

Every family has trying times, and this one shocked all of us to the core. One of my nieces married before completing high school to a young man who wouldn’t have been the family’s first choice. Scarcely three years later, he was shot and killed. Piecing facts together, we found out that he liked hanging out with a pretty rough neighborhood group. One evening another group member high on drugs shot him, thinking it was someone who owed him money. The phrase “in the wrong place at the wrong time” began to have new meaning for all of us.

Although he was not associated with any religious denomination, with strong Catholic roots in our family, a funeral without prayer and ritual was hard to imagine. I quickly called a priest friend of mine who agreed to lead some prayers at the funeral home and at the graveside. On the day of the funeral, a motley collection of people swarmed in and out of the funeral home, a mix of those in black leather jackets and others in their Sunday best. Just as I began situating people for the prayer, I heard that one of the young men present intended to make a speech. Having visions of him interrupting the planned service, I sought him out and asked if he would say a few words as soon as the crowd gathered.

At the appropriate time he stood before us and began addressing the group. Truthfully, he sounded like Jesus in the temple. He pointed out the fact that the one in the casket wasn’t the one who should be there at all. Others there were making choices that could easily lead them to the same end if they didn’t change their ways. His voice rang out with passionate admonition. We followed his speech with our simple readings and prayers for healing for all concerned. Following the prayers I made a bee-line across the funeral home and embraced him, uttering words of deep gratitude for his message and courage in speaking out.

God, so many feelings engulfed us that day: sadness, anger, frustration, love, concern. Yet, your Spirit felt so present and alive as we stood together in our grief. Certainly we heard your word in the Scripture, but the “call to conversion” came from a very unexpected source – a young man in our midst.

Reflection/Discussion
What image, feeling, question or memory of yours surfaces as you read this story?

“God is always where we least expect to find Him.” Does your experience match that quote? What were the circumstances?