I just finished reading Paul Johnson’s Murder and Redemption at a Benedictine Abbey, which my cousin Jeremy recommended to me. Johnson is a professor of English and Humanities at Conception Seminary College, where, on June 10, 2002, a troubled man walked in shot four Benedictine monks (two of whom were killed), and then killed himself.
The book describes how the Benedictine community at Conception responded to this tragic event. And that in itself is a powerful tale. But more than one might guess from the first word of the book’s title, it really is the story of the growth of faith and a journey in which the events of June 10 are only a piece. The book raises issues each of us faces in our faith lives and people might see glimpses of their own struggles in the author’s telling of his.
Horrors like the June 10 shooting (or fill in the blank of any of a number of tragedies) challenge our faith in a loving God. I think there is truth in Johnson’s statement that having faith in a loving God in the world of suffering and tragedy in which we live is difficult, and that especially challenged is “the faith of the searcher and pilgrim who is uncomfortable with comforting platitudes, skeptical of quick answers, who trusts God yet feels deeply the alienation and bent wrongness of the world.”
As he struggles through his doubts, Johnson comes to realize that faith “is not a once-for-all choice” as he once believed it was. Instead,
One has to continue leaping, stepping out, every day. Like marriage, it’s about surrendering to someone we trust enough to surrender to, of coming to the end o our knowledge and arguments and evidence and proofs, and, once there, being asked a question: will you walk with me into the unknown?
Every day God asks each of us the same question: Will you walk with me into the unknown? One of the things this book does is remind us that some days the Yes comes more easily than on others.