You may be familiar with “the commodore” Pat Campbell. He’s a talk radio host in Tulsa, Oklahoma, father of five, and himself the oldest of 13 children. He’s a staunch Catholic, a big fan of the Vericast Network, and just an all-around really great guy. I am honored to call him my friend.
Yesterday Pat sent me an audio clip (found below) of his show’s opening monologue on the anniversary of Roe vs. Wade. In it he shared with his audience a very personal story about his first grandchild. I hate to spoil it for you, but in order to share my thoughts with you, I have to give you the basics of the story. If you’d like, you can scroll to the bottom of this post and listen to the audio first, then come on back up here to finish reading my thoughts…
So here’s the lowdown of the story. Pat’s daughter got pregnant while in college. She came home, reluctant to tell her father about it. While at home Pat rarely saw his daughter. Their relationship was very strained. After some time Pat and his daughter sat down and talked. Hearing Pat talk about this, it sounds like it must have been a very tense atmosphere. Stern Catholic father, daughter pregnant out of marriage, and the general tension and anxiety that results from a prolonged strained relationship.
Imagine that you’re that father, or mother. You know something is wrong, but you don’t understand what, or why. All you know is that your child seems to be someone else, and for whatever reason you can’t connect with her (or him). You may be frustrated. You may feel disrespected and become a little angry. Of course you’d also be worried and confused. Perhaps you know you’re about to hear something you won’t like. Now imagine that you’re that daughter. You’re afraid; not just about what your father might say to you, or think of you, or do about you, but you’re afraid about how your life is about to change, because you’re pregnant. You may feel helpless or powerless. You may feel alone. The whole world, and your whole life, just seem different. It may feel like the sky is falling down on you. That’s how I think this atmosphere must have seemed for Pat and his daughter as they sat down to talk.
Pat started the dialogue with his daughter from the perspective of mercy
What resulted from that conversation is a demonstration of the power of Christ. Pat started the dialogue with his daughter from the perspective of mercy, and an appeal to the humanity of his child, who he loved. When his daughter opened up, and told her father that she was pregnant, Pat did not respond with wrath—as perhaps might have been expected of him. He responded instead with mercy, and with justice; actions and resolutions that restore what is diminished, heal what is broken, while facing the results of whatever it was that lead to this brokenness (in this case, getting pregnant out of marriage). There was “fallout”, but no war. There was Mercy, but no indifference. There was justice, but no wrath. The result was the relationship between Pat and his daughter was not only restored, but my sense is it’s became better. His daughter was made whole, his grandchild was born into the world surrounded by genuine and sincere love in the model of Jesus, not in the model of the fallen world. His daughter was eventually married to the baby’s father, and they recently had their second child.
“Even in good, strong Catholic families, things happen”
We sometimes think that Justice alone makes things whole.
Here is the reality, brothers and sisters: Failure happens! Even in good, strong Catholic families, things happen. The parents falter, or the children falter. I think this is especially true today, because this war for souls has become more ferocious than I think it ever was, and when war grows in ferocity, it results in more casualties. That’s just a reality. But it’s what we do about that reality that defines us—to God, and to each other. I think many Catholic parents might have been inclined to bring down the wrath of God on their child who came home pregnant, or came out of the closet, or….etc. etc. We sometimes think that Justice alone makes things whole. We sometimes want to apply justice in a spirit of vengeance, not Truth. But what are we really doing when we are imbalanced in how we face tragedy in our families? We are not making things whole, we are deepening wounds, and further tearing things apart.
At the same time, by issuing mercy without justice, we giving license and approval for future failures (and deeper tragedy), because we have not made anything whole, we’ve simply covered up the problem. Pain killers don’t cure cancer, and mercy by itself does not restore the diminished, or heal the broken. That’s just a reality.
Pat and his daughter faced this situation with courage. Pat didn’t bring down the wrath of God, he met the situation with beautiful mercy, and with good justice. Mercy and Justice made things whole, here, and what was made whole progressively grew in beauty. That is the example of Our Blessed Lord. That is the model of God. That is what we should all embody. The audio of Pat’s story is found below.