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If Asher were to see the "missing child" poster of Bryeon Hunter, I'm sure he'd be excited. After all, Bryeon is wearing Lightning McQueen pajamas, and for little boys of a certain age, Lightning McQueen is pretty exciting. When we go shopping, Asher manages to see his favorite characters all over the place, be it the videos themselves, clothes, party favors, or coloring books, and I always need to keep an eye on the cart to make sure that he doesn't lunge out to grab things like this.

When I see the same poster, I see a dear little child, very close in age to my own son, who already looks apprehensive about life.

And it's no wonder that this little child would, considering what his "mother" and her boyfriend put little Bryeon through. In the end (allegedly), they beat him to death, dumped his little body in the Des Plaines river, and then lied about it, claiming "three Hispanic men" made off with him.

The sheriff's office, along with volunteers, searched the river for Bryeon's body, but with storms and a swelling river, didn't find it.

Enter Robert Larson. Now, he doesn't come into the situation as a complete stranger to search and rescue, being as he trains dogs to be able to search out survivors of catastrophes and bodies (when it comes to that), but as a man, and as the father of a young boy himself, he made it his mission to find the body of Bryeon Hunter. Eventually he did, after pouring hundreds of hours of his own time into the effort. He believed, as decent people do, that even if there was nothing more that could be done to help Bryeon in life, his little body still deserved some form of respect - the same sort of respect his caregivers did not give him in life. As he said, too, there is nothing that this little boy could have done to deserve what happened to him. As much as I've dealt with plenty of frustration as a mother, I also know this to be fundamentally true.

Unfortunately, there are far too many children who live through situations like this, and the problem is only getting worse. One of the biggest factors in child abuse is the lack of an intact family, but particularly in cases where there is a mother and a "boyfriend", the chance of child abuse skyrockets. This is no exception.

Of course, this is an inconvenient fact for many, and even in the article linked to there, one of the women interviewed didn't want people to think that she was saying that people ought to "go back to the past" where there are mores about marriage or sexuality or cohabitation. Yet it seems to escape most people that these mores, whether they came about by religious influences or not, were there, in particular, to help protect who were the most helpless in such situations.

And of course, there seem to always be the people who would like to scream "racism" in every situation. One of the most tired arguments is that had the mother had more "support" things wouldn't have turned out this way. One can't be serious in saying that $50 more a month on her EBT card or "greater access to daycare" would have changed much about the kind of monster of a person she turned out to be.

Yet it was a total stranger, a white man, who spent hours and hours trying to give her son some shred of dignity that she could not afford him. As with people who screech about abortion, that "all pro-life people care about is the baby being born, not the mother or the child growing up", this is patently false. I'm sure that if Bryeon's "mother" had shown up on Mr. Larson's doorstep, out of the blue and asked him to take her son because she couldn't, he wouldn't have turned her away; in fact, the hours it might have taken to help find someplace better for this little boy would be much easier than spending so many hours hunting for a body. But it didn't need to be Mr. Larson either; I don't know anyone who would have turned away a child in such desperate need, and I do know of others who actually have been there to take in kids whose parents, for whatever reason, couldn't take care of them for a time. People do love and care about little children, regardless of race, and it's a shame that we live in a day in age where this is a point that needs to be made in the face of all the race-mongering that goes on in our society.

God bless Mr. Larson, who not only had the ability and the opportunity to do good, but also the will to actually do it. I commend him greatly for it. Mr. Larson's compassion for this little boy also reminds me of a woman - Mary Peck - who made it her mission to claim and bury the remains of 4-year-old Jerrell Willis, whose mother and stepfather beat him to death, and then dumped his body under a bridge in Philadelphia. Nobody knew who this little boy was, and so she waited seven years to be able to do this, burying him with a headstone, something that she would eschew herself. She never knew what his name really was, as she died before the case of this child's death was solved. Even as a widow battling cancer, you can't convince me that she wouldn't have helped that little boy in life, had she been given the chance. (Mrs. Peck also reminds me of Joseph of Arimathea, in her "quiet way" who is celebrated by the Orthodox today.)

At the very least, it is faith that gives us some comfort in knowing that these poor children are with God, where their unbearable pain is no more. In the meantime, let us resolve to also do what we can where we can.
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For most people who observe Christmas, whether in church or just as a holiday with presents, the holiday is a joyous occasion. However, there is one part of the Christmas story which is largely forgotten, and which can be found in Matthew 2. (NIV here)

1After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem 2and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.”

3When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. 4When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Christ was to be born. 5“In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:

6“‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for out of you will come a ruler
who will be the shepherd of my people Israel.’”
7Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. 8He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and make a careful search for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”

9After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 11On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh. 12And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.

13When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.”

14So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, 15where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my son.”

16When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi. 17Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled:

18“A voice is heard in Ramah,
weeping and great mourning,
Rachel weeping for her children
and refusing to be comforted,
because they are no more.”



And so it was that with one of the most joyous events in the history of the world, there was also great pain and mourning for all the little children who were slaughtered on the whim of a tyrant. In the aftermath of the Newtown, Connecticut school massacre, many people are trying to reconcile the incredible pain of this horrendous tragedy with the joy of Christmas. However, even from the Bible itself, we see that this has always been so, and that despite the incredible sorrow, we should still continue to live with joy.

(The traditional estimate of the toll of Herod's purge is 14,000. The Eastern Orthodox Churches commemorate this on December 29th - just four days after Christmas. Also, a haunting icon in commemoration. )
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In traditional Christianity, the body itself is not to be worshipped, but is to be respected being made in the "image and likeness of God" and as the container, so to speak, of the soul. Furthermore, at Christ's second coming, there is to be a physical resurrection of the dead. For these reasons, the body, even after death, is to be cared for with respect and the reason for burial rather than cremation.

In 2009, a scandal broke out as it was discovered that in the Burr Oak cemetery, plots were being resold, headstones were being relocated, and bodies were being dumped to random parts of the cemetery. As part of the effort to rectify this mess (to the extent possible), the director of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese's Executive Director of Cemeteries was put in charge of this task, and ultimately, the Catholic cemeteries buried bodies in their own cemeteries, in plots that they donated.

Three years later, we are now embroiled in another scandal involving the dead in Chicago. Apparently, the Cook County morgue was overcrowded to the point of being completely unsanitary, with many more bodies than could be accommodated . Sometimes, there have been reasons for delays, but a lot of it boils down to plain incompetence.

Again, in the city's hour of need, the Catholic Church has offered to them free burial plots. This isn't some slick marketing ploy, or a political move on the part of the Roman Catholic Church. This is plainly in keeping with the Church's mission, that every life is of value and deserves some dignity even in death. However, this time the city is not so quick to accept.

I can only think of one reason that the city is not working with the Catholic Church, and that is that it boils down to politics. In the last few weeks, the Catholic Church has made a stand against the Obama administration's diktat of mandatory contraception coverage by all employers. Rahm Emanuel, the mayor of Chicago, not only is President Obama's former chief of staff, but has a brother, Ezekiel, who is the Head of the Department of Bioethics at The Clinical Center of the National Institutes of Health. The Obama Administration has made it clear that it is hostile to the Church, and as such, it would be very hard for someone this close to President Obama to publicly accept help from such a source.

Some of the people whose bodies at the morgue remain unidentified. Some seem to hav no family. Others can't afford the costs of burying their dead. However, reverting to the "logic" of the contraception fight, it would be terrible for these poor souls to be buried in a Catholic cemetery because undoubtedly not all of these people were Catholic, and as such, a tragedy if they weren't offered free birth control!
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James 4:13-14 (ESV) Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.

From reports on the internet, last night Andrew Breitbart went about his daily business, tucked his kids into bed, took a walk in the neighborhood, stopped by a local bar and talked politics, did some twittering, and on his way back home, collapsed and died. The man was 43 years old. He leaves behind a wife and four children, and thousands of fans as well as many who could not stand the man or anything that he stood for.

I had the chance to see Mr. Breitbart speak in 2010, and he was one of the most engaging speakers I have ever had the chance to listen to. Many have characterized him as a "happy warrior", someone who with all cheer confronted those who worked to shout or tear him down. His favored method of dealing with these people seemed to be holding up a proverbial mirror and letting them make fools of themselves in front of the whole world. At the event I went to, there were people who were bussed in to protest; Mr. Breitbart confronted them and asked them questions about why they were there, and the answers were completely incoherent. I don't feel that he ever had malicious intent toward anybody, yet he had skill in calling out the hate directed at him and making it ridicule. (Strangely enough, I think of a parallel between his methods and the way Boggarts are handled with in the Harry Potter series.)

Life is a gift. Forty-three years on this earth goes by in but the blink of an eye, and yet, by all accounts, Mr. Breitbart used the time he had to live life to the fullest, to make every day count, to actually go out and achieve something grand in the small amount of time allotted his lifespan. How many of us can say the same? I know there have been times in my life when days seemed to plod on, days of falling into despair, days of seemingly being put on this earth for no reason in particular. Mr. Breitbart may have had days like these himself, but in all the praise for him from those who knew him well to those who didn't, it seemed as though he had an indomitable spirit, a joie de vivre, that also served to inspire those around him.

Joy is a concept that is rarely discussed in this day in age; we may be amusing ourselves to death, we may be seeking the road to happiness, but joy is something much deeper, and is something that comes about not with self-esteem, but in the deep conviction that one is living the life that one was designed for and accepting the gift that life is every day and multiplying its blessings. None of us can be certain that we will even see tomorrow and so it is imperative that we take the talent that we have (or which we have been loaned) and really do our best to fulfill our potential in all that we do.

Mr. Breitbart's life shines forth so brightly because he took each day as it came, enjoyed it to its fullest, was bold in his beliefs, and was genuinely kind to others. In that sense, I'm sure he was more "ready" for being called away from this earth than most. Mr. Breitbart's death certainly is a sad event, however, even sadder are the legions of people who see this life as a wasteland, who, if they would die tomorrow, would not have accomplished anything that their lives were meant for.

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