I am republishing this post today in honor of what would have been my friend Rosemary’s 60th birthday. May she rest in peace!
“Do thyself no harm, for we are all here” (Acts 16:28). With these words, St. Paul prevented his jailer from committing suicide. We need to unite with St. Paul and raise our voices in prayer and love against the great scourge of suicide.
When my childhood friend Rosemary committed suicide I remember feeling that nothing would ever be alright again. Since her favorite color was yellow, I entitled a poem I wrote in her memory, “Yellow Roses.” For many weeks after her death I continued to mourn for her; finally one of my Superiors in the convent told me to ask Rosemary to intercede with God that He would allow her to let me know that she was okay. So one Palm Sunday as I was sitting in our convent kitchen drinking a cup of coffee I prayed, “Rosemary, if you are either in Purgatory or Heaven, then I want you to send me a sign in one week. I’m not going to tell you what it should be, but I need to know it is from you.”
Exactly one week later on Easter Sunday I was at another convent; I had somewhat forgotten about my prayer. That afternoon I happened to be looking through a drawer filled with free holy cards. Suddenly I saw one that had one of my favorite pictures of our Blessed Mother on it. Happily I took the picture out and realized that it was actually the front of a greeting card. I opened the card. Inside was a picture of yellow roses. Underneath this picture were the words, “Behold, I am alive, and I live forevermore.”
I do not need to tell you how much this card meant to me and also to Rosemary’s mother to whom I sent it. We need to reach out to the families and friends who are grieving suicide to reassure them that their beloved ones are not beyond the reach of God’s Infinite Mercy. In fact the Catechism of the Catholic Church reassures us that, “We should not despair of the eternal salvation of persons who have taken their own lives. By ways known to him alone, God can provide the opportunity for salutary repentance. The Church prays for persons who have taken their own lives” (CCC 2283).
St. Padre Pio said that he could just as easily pray for the happy death of his great grandmother as for someone who was dying that day. This means that our prayers can still help people who have already died by suicide because God is outside of time. At the moment of a person’s death God already sees all the future prayers that will be prayed for that person, and He can apply the graces obtained by those prayers to help the dying person to make the choice to receive His Merciful Love.
In the United States there are nearly 40,000 suicides annually; it is the second leading cause of death for 15-34 year olds.[i] Every suicide, including Brittany Maynard’s recent assisted suicide, is a grievous assault against the dignity of the person. We need to join together and form a chain of loving defense against suicide. We know that love is stronger than death (Song of Songs 8:6). As children we used to play a game called Red Rover. A team would join hands together and try to prevent a person from the other team from breaking through their joined hands. Let’s do this for all the souls who are tempted to commit suicide, and for those who have committed suicide and their families. Together we can form a great chain of prayer and in eternity we will see what was the great power and fruit of our united love for helping souls suffering from this grievous affliction.