Eugene Kennedy, Love, Newtown: A Blow to the Heart

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Peggy Noonan, writing in the Wall Street Journal, suggests that we listen to Eugene Kennedy, who spoke about the Newtown tragedy in a much different manner from other commentators: He does not believe that the many “solutions” bandied about will make children (or ourselves) safer. Rather, it is time for us to reflect on this event as a blow to our heart and what this tells us about our own vulnerability. Kennedy was interviewed by Andrew Malcolm and Melissa Clouthier in a podcast at

“Newtown, like 9/11, reminds us of ‘the mystery of being alone in the world as it is and as we are.’ The world is imperfect, broken, ‘with cracks running through it.’ A central fact of our lives, said Mr. Kennedy, is that ‘We are all vulnerable. Anything can happen to anybody at any time.’ We have to understand and recognize our vulnerability ‘as humans on the earth.’ We see and experience it every day, ‘from small disappointments…to blows of the heart.’ And Newtown is a blow of the heart.

“But, again like 9/11, Newtown contained within it ‘the ongoing fact of revelation.’ Both 9/11 and Newtown were marked by a revealing of “the goodness of normal people, which is seldom celebrated” but is central to the balance of the world. When the teachers tried to shield the children; as when on 9/11 people who knew they were about to die called someone to say they loved them; that was ‘a revelation of their goodness.’ It is important in part because ‘by the light of the goodness of others; by that light we can see ourselves.'”

Kennedy, a clinical psychologist and former Maryknoll priest, is well-known for his books on psychology and Catholicism, as well his his political coverage including a biography of Chicago’s Mayor Richard J. Daley that was edited by Jacqueline Onassis. He is Professor Emeritus at Loyola University and also has co-authored well-received books with his wife, psychiatrist Dr. Sara Charles.

In conclusion, Noonan says this about Kennedy’s meditation:

“It is better to suffer pain than to live in a world in which you don’t allow yourself to be close enough to anybody to have the experience that’s bound to give you suffering.” And “love guarantees suffering.”

“We’re all on a hero’s journey,” said Mr. Kennedy, from where we began to where we will end. The hero faces challenges along the way. We are like King Arthur’s knights, entering the forest each day without a cut path, and ‘finding our way through is what we are called to do.’ Here, Mr. Kennedy suggested, faith offers not an explanation but the only reliable guide. ‘Jesus said, ‘I am the way.’ That is not a metaphor.”

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