April 1, 2005
vol 16, no. 91

On the Passion and Death of Theresa Marie Schiavo

By Father Francis de Rosa
      Editor's Note: The following powerful words were delivered as the Good Friday Homily by Father Francis de Rosa, Parochial Vicar of Saint Louis Church to the Poor Clare Monastery in Arlington, Virginia. That was one week ago. As all know, as of yesterday morning Terri completed her crucifixion and now can reap the glories of the Resurrection through the merits of her Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We provide his full homily here which Father personally sent us yesterday and granted us the gracious permission to republish it for our readers. May Terri's soul and all the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

    "Outside the nursing home where Terri was being slowly murdered there was kept a constant vigil of people praying. These to me represent the women of Jerusalem who wept for Our Lord. But of course Jesus’ words to them apply very well to us:“Weep not for Me but for your children.” These words are particularly applicable, because this murder was not done in secret but in broad daylight with the complicity of our judges and legislators. The evil is now deeply infused into our system. It will haunt us and our children."

    Today as we remember the Passion and death of our Lord Jesus Christ, I feel compelled to place our meditation within the context of the heart-wrenching drama that has unfolded in our nation since last Friday. In fact it has saturated my spirit and has made this Holy Week for me personally the most painful one in my entire life. I know that I am not the only one with these sentiments, as many have asked the question why in the mystery of God’s plan this tragedy has happened this of all weeks.

    If it is true that in Christ we live and move and have our being, and if it is true that by baptism we are made members of His Mystical Body; and if it is true that this new status enables us to make up what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ; if we are to see Christ in other people, especially those who are helpless, then it is absolutely impossible to fail to contemplate what can justly be called the passion of Theresa Marie Schiavo.

    The parallels with the Passion of Our Beloved Lord are striking to consider. It is as if Jesus, present in this poor sister of ours, bore again the opprobrium of the world. It is as if in the mystery of Divine Providence our nation has acted out during this Holy Week its own passion play. It is as if our nation, through its destruction of this innocent life, were crying out for her blood to be upon us and upon our children.

    It is impossible in these events not to detect the spirit that drove Judas to betray Christ: Judas the thief into whose heart the Scriptures tell us Satan entered; Judas the traitor in the person of Terri’s husband Michael, who handed her over to evil men to be killed. In a sense the greatest calamity in all this is the one which has befallen him, for sin resides in and possesses the sinner in a most horrible way. Jesus said: “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin” (John 8:34). So it is a strange irony that Terri’s husband’s last name – Schiavo – means in Italian “slave.” As much as it may go against our emotions at this time we must pray for him as well, for our true enemies are not flesh and blood but principalities and powers (cf. Ephesians 6: 12). And Michael Schiavo is dangling over the precipice of Hell by the frail thread of life.

    If we consider the courts in Florida and Atlanta and even the United States Supreme Court, it is clear that they played the part of the evil judges of the Sanhedrin, Pilate and Herod quite capably. For the sake of the law they confoundeded the very purpose of the law which is to serve and protect us and not to kill us.

    They preserved their law; they argued about it and discussed it. They wrung their hands and pitied the traged (and I find this a particular egregious insult).

    But in the end they upheld the law of man and condemned an innocent child of God the Father to death as the whole world watched.

    They felt very satisfied that they had done the right thing. They talked about respecting her rights even as they stove to end her life. They followed procedure with great skill and knowledge. Professors from important universities – Harvard, Georgetown - concurred that the judges played by the rules. They murdered Terri Schiavo legally.

    And just as our blessed Savior had armed guards sent out to apprehend Him, so too our sister Terri had armed policemen standing guard outside her nursing home to guarantee the decision of the judges who condemned her to death at the request of her adulterous husband.

    I cannot but think also of the parents of Terri and how they stood at the foot of her cross just as Our Lady did watching her Son die. We know that the Passion of Christ is also called the Compassion of Mary. It is as if Mary were crucified with her Divine Son.

    What a terrible sword of pain is piercing the hearts of Terri’s parents this week! The news reported yesterday [Holy Thursday] that Terri’s mother upon entering her dying daughter’s room to visit her reeled in agony upon seeing her desiccated and tortured face and fell sick. Terri’s siblings tell of how the she looks like a victim of Auschwitz.

    Yet Terri’s brother-in-law, who consistently has parroted the pro-euthanasia line, declared on national television that she in fact looks peaceful! Opinion polls show a sizable percentage of Americans calling this mercy and not murder.

    This is unspeakable malice. What morally sane person would say such an outrageous thing about a starving person?

    These indeed are momentous days for America. The demon of the culture of death has bloated and swelled exponentially as it slaked its thirst with this fresh blood. It is appalling to consider that countless Americans have weighed in on the side of Michael as he murdered his wife Terri. They are the frenzied mob that preferred the criminal Barrabas. Just as they said of Jesus, "Crucify Him! Crucify Him!" so they have said of Terri, "Let her die! Let her die!"

    The Holy Father has said that we are in fact faced with what he calls “an objective conspiracy against life.” Was not Terri the subject of a conspiracy – involving elements in the legislature, the executive branch and the judiciary, not to mention her traitorous husband? What about the doctor who removed the tube? They all worked together to block any help from coming to her. They are co-conspirators and agents of the culture of death.

    The situation, my friends, is grave indeed. Pope John Paul II has written of this with pertinence, and I quote from the Encyclical Letter, Evangelium Vitae (March 25, 1995, no. 18:

    “The panorama described needs to be understood not only in terms of the phenomena of death which characterize it but also in the variety of causes which determine it. The Lord's question [to Cain after his murder of Abel]: "What have you done?" (Gen 4:10), seems almost like an invitation addressed to Cain to go beyond the material dimension of his murderous gesture, in order to recognize in it all the gravity of the motives which occasioned it and the consequences which result from it.

        Decisions that go against life sometimes arise from difficult or even tragic situations … But today the problem goes far beyond the necessary recognition of these personal situations. It is a problem which exists at the cultural, social and political level, where it reveals its more sinister and disturbing aspect in the tendency, ever more widely shared, to interpret the above crimes against life as legitimate expressions of individual freedom, to be acknowledged and protected as actual rights.

        In this way, and with tragic consequences, a long historical process is reaching a turning-point. The process which once led to discovering the idea of "human rights" - rights inherent in every person and prior to any Constitution and State legislation-is today marked by a surprising contradiction. Precisely in an age when the inviolable rights of the person are solemnly proclaimed and the value of life is publicly affirmed, the very right to life is being denied or trampled upon, especially at the more significant moments of existence: the moment of birth and the moment of death.”

    In the movie The Passion of The Christ there is a well-done and emotional scene depicting Veronica slipping through the hostile crowd to wipe the face of Jesus. As she holds out a cup of cool water to assuage the burning thirst of Our Lord, a Roman soldier suddenly appears and slaps away the cup from her hands just as it reaches Our Lord’s lips.

    In a scene that will never be effaced from my imagination, I saw on television footage from outside Terri’s nursing home showing police officers arresting people who tried to enter the nursing home with cups of cool water to moisten Terri’s parched lips and mouth.

    Three of those arrested were children. They had driven all the way from Texas with their father to stand heroically at the foot of Terri’s cross. I saw children handcuffed and forced into police cars because they dared to see Christ thirsting in Terri Schiavo. These brave Christian children didn’t need to ask the question posed by Our Lord’s disciples, “Lord when did we see you hungry and feed you or thirsty and give You to drink?”

    Outside the nursing home where Terri was being slowly murdered there was kept a constant vigil of people praying. These to me represent the women of Jerusalem who wept for Our Lord. But of course Jesus’ words to them apply very well to us: “Weep not for Me but for your children.” These words are particularly applicable, because this murder was not done in secret but in broad daylight with the complicity of our judges and legislators. The evil is now deeply infused into our system. It will haunt us and our children.

    Yet Terri Schiavo was not simply being killed, she was being mocked. Just as Jesus was challenged to come down from the Cross if He were truly the Messiah, so too was Terri challenged – by talk show hosts, newscasters, neurologists, politicians, attorneys and judges - to prove herself to be a human if indeed she were human and not a vegetable.

    On Tuesday night, March 22, while watching FOX News' Hannity and Colmes, I sat dumbstruck as a US Congressman (Jim Moran (D) Virginia), one claiming to be a Catholic, declared on national television that when one loses one’s cognitive ability one is no longer a human person. Yet he said it not calmly but in almost in a fit of unprofessional rage that left me wondering why the network didn’t clip him off. It was if her innocence provoked him all the more to the point of losing his own cognitive ability.

    Terri Schiavo has undergone a humiliation before the whole world and with her our entire nation has been degraded and disgraced. Her human dignity has been scourged and mocked and spat upon - not by rough and uncouth Roman soldiers - but by modern civilized people with college degrees and high paying jobs; educated people, intelligent people, but evil people.

    Our Blessed Savior told His disciples that as He was despised, so they would be despised.

    Yet still we are Christians, and ultimately nothing can separate us from the love of Christ. We know what really happened on that Hill of Golgotha 2000 years ago. We know that this was not a true victory for the devil. We know that the crucifixion of Our Lord brought about the great outpouring of grace into the sinful world. We know as only Christians can know that the gibbet of the Cross is in fact the throne of the King of Kings.

    And we know also that in order to be His true disciples we must take up that Cross and follow Him. Placed in this context we understand in a way how the passion of our sister Terri Schiavo was a participation in that of Jesus’ Own passion and death.

    We must not take these events lightly. The powers of darkness are mighty, as was proved by our helplessness before the frightening onslaught of evil this past week. All of our imperial might was confounded and shown impotent to save this one innocent woman who was condemned to death by corrupt judges and lawmakers.

    As Americans we must not be indifferent to what has happened, for a kingdom cannot last under such terms.

    But as Christians and especially as Catholics we know that our true citizenship is in another Kingdom – a Kingdom that will never crumble; a Kingdom against which the gates of Hell will not prevail: the Kingdom of God established by our Lord Jesus Christ, Who reigns victorious from the throne of the Cross whose blessed wood we will kiss today.

POSTSCRIPT from Father de Rosa on the death of Terri:

    My heart was broken over this. But I vow not to let her death be in vain. We are the sons of the Crusaders, we have conquered nations and empires. We will vanquish the culture of death as well. I will be offering the Most August Sacrifice for Terri this week as much as I can. We have to pray her into Heaven if she isn't there already. But I will trust in Divine Providence that we will be able to count on her intercession for our cause. The agents of the culture of death unwittingly only made her more formidable!

For past articles in this series from 2004, see "Father, forgive them..." ARCHIVES

    Easter Friday
    April 1, 2005
    vol 16, no. 91
    "Father, forgive them..."