My experiences of suicide left me devastated.A couple of years ago I taught a young man. I met him in year 9 and taught him every year until he was seventeen. He was popular, funny, kind and thoughtful. He took his own life. No-one saw it coming. I cannot describe the shock,guilt and disbelief it left me with. It took me some time to come to the realisation that his loss would be permanent. He would not return to my class. If I felt his loss so overwhelmingly as a teacher I cannot begin to relate to how his mother and family felt.
His death brought home two things to me. The first was the assumption that is made that young people have no religious belief and the second was the need for hope. We, the Church, could still do as Jesus asked and take part in the redemption of humanity. In this case this boy.
An assumption was made about his lack of religious beliefs.
In relation to the first I was struck by how sad it was that he was never given the opportunity to know his faith more deeply as this could have given him the comfort to overcome his troubles. His mother had been a cradle Catholic and had evidently abandoned her faith some time before; whether out of a lack of belief or effort I do not know. However, this young man felt a connection with Catholicism and thought deeply about what the Church taught.
He had a very simple and what I believed to be a God given faith. I remember him asking me once if I believed that Mary was ever virgin. I have previously spoken about my previous doubts about Mary and as a result I gave a very evasive answer. I think I said something along the lines of 'as far as I'm concerned Mary was a human being and therefore following the birth of Jesus her sex life was none of my business' (yes I know. I can't believe it now either.) He replied very firmly and simply 'I believe she was.' There seemed to be no doubt in him and he was un-swayed by my pathetic reply. He actually caused me to question the doubts I had in the Church's teachings. Like I said, I believe it was God given.
On another occasion he asked me if he was a Catholic because his mother was a Catholic. I replied, truthfully, that he needed to be Baptised. I know that the Church teaches a baptism of intention and pray that this is the case for this young man.
When memorial service was being organised by a teacher within the school I asked if it would have a prayers. Being an RE teacher my colleague may have felt I was trying to impose my views; in any case I felt the reply was guarded. The young man had no religious affiliation so no element would be included. In shock I replied that he may not have an explicit affiliation, but he had spoken about his feelings of belonging to the Catholic Church. Although it obviously gave her pause, no plans were made to include this element in any school memorial. Thank God his uncle, an evangelical, was able to introduce an element of prayer into what would have been a moving, but ultimately barren, service without God's presence.
How many other young people have died with the presumption of their lack of faith? I shudder to think.
Sometime later a the younger sister of one of his close friends approached me to tell me how he had decided to get a rosary tattoo in honour of him. Again, it was poignant that in a society that had been expunged of all religion for these young people they were finding there only way to express grief.
I told her of the conversations he and I had shared and she was struck by how her brother had chosen the rosary, not knowing the connection he had felt with Mary.
But there is hope.
God's divine mercy.
A few months later I remembered him on divine mercy Sunday and took him with me to the alter.
I often think of him. where is he now? In heaven? I do not believe he is cut off from God's mercy. If I loved him so much how could God not. Jesus wept for the loss of Zachariah and raised him up, imperfectly, prior to his sacrficie on the cross. He would weep for the pain that caused my student to take his life and raise him up surely. Still, I believe that God wants us to take part in his plan of salvation and he places prayer upon our heart in this way.
How could this enable us to help Matthew Warren and his family?
I have only recently read about Matthew Warren. Despite this, I think it's still relevant to ask you to pray for his father and mother, that in the inevitable questioning that is to come that they do not 'curse God and die'.
But more importantly pray for Matthew.
Eternal rest, grant unto him oh Lord. And let perpetual light shine upon him. May he rest in peace, amen.