Youth Accident

Parish Diary

Fr. Peter Daly

September 23, 2006


            We buried a young man in our parish this week. He was 21 years old. His name was Robby. It breaks our hearts. We really loved him.

            Robby died in a terrible wreck, along with three other young men. Their extended cab pick-up truck careened off the road about 2 AM. It was going very fast. The truck rolled over and over. Only the driver was wearing a seat belt. The three passengers were thrown out of the vehicle as the doors popped open.   

            One of the young men was thrown 20 feet up into a tree. The EMT workers did not see him at first. It was only when they heard his moans that they looked up and found him.

            Two boys died. It was a scene from a horror movie. The fog was so thick the helicopters could not land at the site.

            Alcohol was involved. All four had been drinking. None of them should have been driving.

            Robby’s wake and funeral were packed. Hundreds of people came to mourn. Many of them were young people. They cried freely.

            Funerals of the young are an agony. What do you say to a church full of grieving young people?

            At that age, friendship is everything. Many of them said they thought Robby was their best friend. So, I thought, “friendship is the key.”

            “Honor your friendship with Robby,” I told them. “Honor it not just with tears, hugs, flowers and words. Honor it with lives of discipline, sobriety and virtue.”

            “You do not honor his friendship if your leave this church and going drinking. You do not honor his memory if you drink and drive. You do not honor his memory if you seek your happiness in a bottle.”

            I saw one boy wince when I quoted the epistle of St. Peter, “Stay sober and alert, the devil is prowling like a roaring lion, seeking someone to destroy.”

            But I also saw some of them nodding along. They did not disagree.

            There are no shortcuts to virtue. It requires a life of discipline. Discipline comes from the same word as “discipleship.” If we really are His disciples, we live as He taught.

            So we get up every day and say our prayers. We do our work. Care for those we love. Come home early. Pray again. Get to bed. And then get up the next day and do it all over again.

            We do this not just for a week, or a month, or a year, but for lifetime. We do it one day at a time, with the help of God’s grace.

            Nobody gets a pass. Nobody.

            Sometimes young people think that the church and their parents crush the joy out of life with our discipline.  

            Eventually, if they live long enough, we realize that parents and teachers want them to have authentic and long lasting joy, not just momentary pleasure.

            We want them to know the joy of growing up, falling in love, using their talents, contributing to their society, and achieving their goals. We want them to live to see their children’s children and know the joys of old age as well as youth.

            I told them that I know what it is like fail. I’ve seen those flashing blue lights in the rear view mirror. But I’ve taken it as an angel of the Lord. I’ve learned from my sins.

            The disciple does not resist the chastisement of the Lord. It is a kindness. God disciplines us because He loves us.   

            We should listen and learn. No one can make sense out of a tragedy like Robby’s. But we can learn from it.  

            Good disciples take the Lord’s discipline, They learn and live.