hope, sun, clouds

The pastor of the Catholic parish a block down the street from my house committed suicide this past weekend. Two members of the staff found his body just before holy Mass was to begin Sunday morning. The priest’s suicide left the entire congregation in shock, and shocked me, too, even though I’m not a member of that parish. 

I heard the ambulance siren that morning as I was dressing for Mass and thinking, “Oh, so sad. Someone is sick on a Sunday morning and might not get to go to church today.” Later, when I heard the news of the suicide, I thought back to the Sunday morning siren and realized, “Holy mackerel, that was him!”

That’s got me doing a lot of thinking, especially since the rectory is on my usual walking route.

The Church teaches that, “Suicide is seriously contrary to justice, hope, and charity. It is forbidden by the fifth commandment.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2325) The fifth commandment is, “You shall not kill.” Killing (with the exception of that which takes place during legitimate defense by military force), is a mortal sin, and mortal sin, if not redeemed by repentance and God’s forgiveness, can lead to eternal damnation.

We cannot and must not judge the state of anyone’s soul – that is for God alone – and so I want to be very clear that I’m not judging this priest; that is not my right.

What struck me about this priest’s suicide is this: In the past, whenever I heard about a suicide, I felt great pity for the person and wondered how in the world things could have gotten to that extreme. I would think, “Well, it must be that that person didn’t know God.” Or, if it was someone in the Catholic Church, I would think, “Well, it must be that they drifted away from the sacraments, since, if one clings to the sacraments one would never be tempted to suicide.”

But here…here was a person, a priest, who daily had the sacraments right at his disposal, who held the Eucharist right in his own hands! How could that suicide have possibly happened? I don’t know, and I never will know. Only the Almighty has the entire scoop on this.

What I DO know is that no one is immune from losing hope, even to the point of taking one’s own life. The priest that committed suicide was actively involved in his parish and known by his parishioners for his kindness and humility. He was loving and lovable. Yet, for whatever reason, he was unable to hang in there. The same could happen to any of us, if we aren’t vigilant. It’s not what we do on the outside; it’s what we do on the inside that makes the difference.

I invite you to join me in praying for the repose of this priest’s soul, and for the souls of all those who have committed suicide. I also invite you to frequently make an Act of Hope, so as to fortify yourself and your loved ones against despair.

Act of Hope

Oh my God, relying on your infinite mercy and promises, I hope to obtain pardon of my sins, the help of your grace, and life everlasting, through the merits of Jesus Christ, my Lord and Redeemer.  Amen.

Prayer for People Who Have Committed Suicide

Almighty God, Our Heavenly Father, we understand that Thy fifth commandment, “Thou shalt do no murder,” includes self murder. But in Thy divine mercy, we beg Thy forgiveness especially for (name), who have been so confounded by the pressures of this life that they felt there was no way they could continue. Grant, we beseech Thee, that they be forgiven their terrible sin and accepted into Thy divine providence, and that they may come to understand Thy ways and Thy nature. We ask this in Jesus Christ’s name. Amen.


sally leroy · July 25, 2013 at 8:54 pm

Storming the heavens for this priest and this is an excellent article MARGE, you are to be commended with how well you have worded suicide and us not judging and our Catholic truths as well as 5th commandment. Your article brought tears to my eyes as I have several family members who have committed suicide and now I have his beautiful prayer to say each day, I always pray for their souls but I love the refresher of the Act of Hope as well as prayer for those who have committed suicide, thanx for your kind words here

Sheila · July 25, 2013 at 8:58 pm

I heard about this in the news, but I am not sure initially they said suicide. He may have been dealing with deep depression. That can be devastating even if everything else in one’s life “seems” perfect and good. Also, as good as someone is, it only takes one act of the will to fall. The vigilance must be constant, as you said, or Satan will wheedle his way in, not to mention attack us in our weaknesses. I believe many people who commit suicide are ill in some way or another, and that God has great mercy on those that are troubled to that degree; yet, I respect and believe what the Church teaches about suicide. Like you said, Marge, we cannot judge that state of a person’s soul.

marge · July 25, 2013 at 9:56 pm

Sally, thank you for your kind words, and for your prayers for this priest. Also, I am very sorry for all of your losses, and will include those intentions in my prayers. Yes, the souls of those who commit suicide must be very troubled indeed, which is why the Church’s teachings are so carefully worded. Only God can judge for certain in those final moments.

marge · July 25, 2013 at 9:59 pm

Sheila, I agree with you completely, and am happy that you appreciate my post. You bring up an excellent point about Satan trying to wheedle his way in. He absolutely will, and from every possible angel. The human body is SO fragile – it takes only a second to stop its life, but we can pray that in that last second, the soul regretted the choice to commit suicide and turned to God.

Debbie · July 26, 2013 at 3:33 am

My brother in law commited suicide about 20 years ago and my parents neighbor about 10 years ago.

Praying that God has mercy on their souls. Thank you for your article.

marge · July 26, 2013 at 4:14 am

Debbie, I am so very sorry for your loss. I have never personally experienced suicide, but I know people who have and, through them, I know it is agonizing. Please be assured of my prayers for you and your family – I know that the loss never truly goes away. God bless you!

Gwen · July 26, 2013 at 1:38 pm

Thank you Marge for taking the time to reflect on Father’s tragedy and reminding us to pray. Our cousin Tim killed himself a little over a year ago and it really rocked our family. I also wanted to stop by here and let you know we include all those who are trying to kill themselves in our Divine Mercy Chaplet each day. God bless you and the local parish in your neighborhood!

    marge · July 26, 2013 at 3:19 pm

    I’m sorry to hear about Tim. There are so many people touched by suicide! I’m proud of you for letting that tragedy impel you to do something to help others through your Divine Mercy chaplet. Thank you!

C.L. Paur · July 26, 2013 at 1:51 pm

Thank you for bringing this article to light. We must keep our priests in our prayers. Also, thank you for explaining the Catholic teaching on suicide. In this era of confusion, your explanation brings clarity to an often misunderstood topic. Finally, thank you for the prayers. They offer hope to those suffering the aftermath of suicide, and to all of us trying to understand this tragic event.

    marge · July 26, 2013 at 3:21 pm

    You are welcome. It was good for me, too, to review the teachings and be sure I had it clear myself.

bill wojo · November 24, 2013 at 7:50 pm

may God forgive all people that are in hopeless despair as no person is immune from this action. all the people that choose this way to leave the earth don’t want to die but they they just want to end their agony and pain be it physical or emotional.
this can happen to the best and smartest people and only God knows how their souls are suffering.

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